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Saturday 23 December 2017

Second baby - natural birth story

Me and my daughter

I’m back and this time with another natural birth story which will come in two parts, the actual birth and then what happened very soon afterwards…

My last birth experience was so positive and despite what everyone says about not comparing pregnancies and labours as they can be different, you can’t help compare the two experiences.

My last pregnancy at 36 weeks, I was in preterm labour with strong contractions and had my son at 37 weeks (you can read more about this birth experience here) so this time at 35 weeks when the Braxton Hicks I had been experiencing started to become more painful I knew immediately that this was the start of preterm labour.

After an appointment with my midwife and explaining the pain I was in, she advised me if the pain were to become too unbearable to go to the hospital labour ward for monitoring.

And that’s exactly what I did – from 36 weeks, every week, I turned up at hospital to be monitored. However despite the pain I was in, my contractions were never consistent and unlike labour pains, the contractions didn’t grow longer, stronger or closer together. So I was sent home and was told to come back once the contractions become more frequent or painful.  It was incredibly frustrating, I was in so much pain but I had to be patient and let my body go into labour naturally. 

Anyone who has been pregnant knows this isn’t as easy as it sounds and week on week I was becoming more tired and fustrated about the position I was in. History was repeating itself as I was only 2cm dilated and my waters hadn’t broken so my membrane was still intact. 

At my next hospital visit I requested a membrane sweep as a way of trying to bring on the labour and avoiding an induction. A sweep was done at 37 and 38 weeks with no success. By 39 weeks, the pain was unbearable and at 39 weeks 6 days, I woke up at 2am in the morning with contractions lasting longer, stronger and closer together. I knew this was the start of labour and I was ready to have the baby!

My plan was to have a natural birth in the midwife led birth centre at my hospital with no pain relief. We arrived at the birth centre at around 5am and after being examined we discovered I was 3cm dilated and baby’s position was on its side. Now my contractions were more regular but they were not quite frequent enough so the midwife advised me to walk around. She suggested walking up and down the stairs and side stepping, to get baby in the right position. I spent the next few hours walking and drinking more and trying to rest as I knew it would soon be time to birth my baby.

By midday I was very tired and really wanted the labour to get to the next stage but the baby was not ready to arrive just yet. I discussed with the midwife my options and whether she could break my waters, known as rupturing the membranes, the bag of water that surround a baby. I was becoming more tired and anxious that I would be too exhausted by the time I got to the pushing stage. The midwife talked through the risks involved such as the risk of infection however I felt confident that this would be the right decision for me just as it was in my last labour to break my waters to progress my labour.

I agreed with the midwife to wait another few hours to see if I was further dilated before breaking my waters. When the midwife next examined me, my cervix was 7cm and open enough to have the membranes ruptured. Just like my last labour, it didn’t take long for the contractions to become stronger and more intense and within minutes my contractions went from zero to one hundred. I had gone all these hours without pain relief, just using breathing exercises as a way to manage the pain, as I knew I had to save using pain relief for when I really needed it – and this was certainly the time!

I asked for gas and air, known as Entonox, which although didn’t block out the pain, it certainly took the edge off and was a great distraction whilst having the contractions. When it came to the pushing stage, I stopped using the gas and air and transferred from the birth stool to the bed, as I was beginning to get tired, where I found lying on my side much more comfortable. 

The midwives guided me through and in a few pushes my baby daughter was born within 35 minutes – in the end a much faster labour than with my son. For the third stage of labour, I was given Syntocinon an injection in my thigh to birth the placenta. After the placenta was delivered was when the problems began…

Part Two

Once the placenta was delivered, I started to feel feverish, and intense contractions started again. I knew from my last labour that this was not normal. I was in so much pain I couldn’t hold my baby and both my birthing partners (my husband and mother) became concerned. Within minutes, I started heavily bleeding and it wouldn’t stop. The midwives called the doctors and within minutes the room filled with doctors, nurses, anesthetists and other clinicians. 

I was dipping in and out of consciousness as doctors explained to me I had retained placenta tissue which was causing the bleeding. This is when parts of the placenta and membranes are still in the womb. I was rushed to theatre and given a general anesthetic to have an operation to remove the pieces of placenta that were stuck in my womb. I stayed in hospital for a week as I lost over two litres of blood and was given four units of blood transfusion to recover.

I was in hospital for four days recovering from the intensive surgery and the treatment thereafter; a series of antibiotics, iron tablets, daily injections to prevent blood clots and a catheter which I had to wear for 8 days due to the trauma my body had been through.

Despite this traumatic experience, I have been able to reflect over everything that has happened and I am alive and well and so is my baby, so I am most thankful for this. I am so pleased I was able to have the natural birth I had wanted. With the support of the midwives, I was able to have a calm, peaceful and quick birth. I am also grateful and very thankful for the quick-thinking midwives who acted swiftly and professionally when problems started to occur and the doctors who treated me throughout the period I was in hospital.

After a traumatic experience, there are ways to begin the road to healing, here are a few of my favourites: 

Give yourself time to heal – there is no rush, give yourself time to work through your feelings. Talk to your partner, a relative or trusted friend. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Be kind to yourself – if you have been through a traumatic experience, let yourself experience all the rush of feelings you may get including sadness, anger, disappointment and frustration. Remind yourself this is normal and a way of coping with the trauma.

Reclaim your birth story – I find writing therapeutic and writing my birth story is a reflective way of revisiting my birth experience. It may help you discover something other than the trauma, perhaps positive or empowering aspect of the birth that you may have forgotten.

Get the support you need – If you feel that talking to friends and family isn't enough and that you may be experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) it is important you seek help. You can contact:

Your GP
Your Midwife
Your Health Visitor
A counsellor
Family and friends

If you are unsure exactly what the characteristics of PTSD are you can find out more information on NHS Choices here

If you have had a traumatic birth experience contact the Birth Trauma Association who support all women traumatised by childbirth.

If you want to find out more about blood transfusions or to donate blood to save a life visit NHS Blood and Transplant.

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