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10th September 2015

Dramatic birth: from joy to panic and back

After 54 hours of labour, Jenny Rose Ryan was exhausted. Cradling her baby boy, she began to relax for the first time in more than two days. But this, believe it or not, was just the beginning her epic story.

“Before the room was filled with people saving my life, all I remember is holding my newborn son on my chest as he nursed while the oxytocin flowed through us.…. He was here. He was healthy. We could move on with our lives.”

Then she began bleeding profusely, eventually losing half of her blood. She was feeling dizzy and overwhelmed.  Jenny Rose was going into shock as the scene around her shifted from calm to chaotic:

“Oxygen mask over my head. Another IV in my arm. People running around. Machines beeping. Gloves snapping.”

Post-partum haemorrhage (PPH) – the dramatic loss of blood in the 24 hours of birth – is a life-threatening condition that can strike without warning.

There was, she recalls, blood everywhere: “My husband said the room looked like a metal album cover.”

The cause of the bleeding was placenta accreta – a condition where the placenta attaches abnormally to the inside of the uterus.

Life-saving

Doctors removed the tissue and stemmed the bleeding, saving Jenny Rose’s life. She had six rounds of intravenous antibiotics over the next two days, along with a few rounds of IV iron to help build back up her blood supply.

Recovering from PPH – while simultaneously dealing with the sleepless nights, excitement and worry that accompany the arrival of a newborn – is no mean feat. But recover she did.

However, Jenny Rose is conscious that she had the support of an excellent healthcare team that helped get her through a potentially dangerous emergency.

Apart from foetal heart monitoring and an epidural, her labour and delivery followed the minimally-invasive approach she wanted. And, when her team had to spring into action, they were on hand to do what was necessary.

“When all is said and done, I’m very pleased to be here for my son, who’s now 4.5, named Marty, and a joy in our lives,” she told This Is MedTech. “I always think how much different things could have been if such a birth had happened in a time where women were pretty out of luck.”

It’s an important point. September 10 is International Gynae Awareness Day – an opportunity to put the spotlight on women’s health around the world.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 800 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. 99% of these are in developing countries where access to health services is a challenge.

In developed nations, pregnancy and birth can be closely monitored with regular check-ups and scans, as well as post-partum follow up appointments for new mothers and developmental checks for newborns.

PPH can still be fatal in developed countries but such tragedies are rare. In Africa and Asia, where most maternal deaths occur, PPH accounts for more than 30% of all maternal mortality.

Read more women’s PPH stories