I recently spoke to Jes, a 3o-year-old mum to Autumn Harriet who was born last December at 34 weeks gestation due to a condition called Placenta Abruption. Shes now a typical newborn and Jes is loving motherhood. She counts herself very lucky, as sadly this is not always the case with this condition.
Hi Jes, thanks for taking the time to talk to me. Please can you explain what placenta abruption is?
Placenta Abruption is when your placenta breaks away from your uterus during your pregnancy.
At what point is this usually detected? Is it something that shows up on a scan or discovered during labour?
For us, it wasn’t detected at all. I went for a growth scan at the beginning of December. All was well apart from the fact Autumn had gained a little too much weight in her stomach (since the last scan 6 weeks before). We were advised that I may have gestational diabetes and was sent home with a kit to test my blood sugar for the rest of the week. This would determine if this was a factor in her rapid weight gain. Other than that she was healthy, my placenta was good and everything looked normal on the scan.
What causes this? Is there a common cause?
Some of the causes can be smoking during pregnancy and pre-eclampsia. Trauma during pregnancy and also illegal drug use. It is not a common pregnancy issue. It occurs in 1 in every 200 pregnancies.
What are the possible complications?
The complications are a stillborn baby, death of the mother or serious internal organ damage caused by the blood loss for the mother.
Is any treatment required?
Depending on if it’s an internal bleed and if it’s detected early enough then it can be treated with bed rest and steroids to prepare the baby for early delivery. If it is an external bleed and is not detected then treatment is getting yourself to hospital as quick as possible.
Can you tell us your story please?
Friday 6th December started off pretty normal for me. I woke at 4am with the usual urge to pee (the joy of pregnancy). I was suffering from a cold that I had had a few days. So I made a lemon green tea and just lay in bed. Autumn was her usual active self and had a party as I lay in bed waiting for either sleep to come or my alarm to go off ready to get up for work, whichever was going to happen first. I got up and went to work. I had felt like I had a stitch or it also felt like the pain I’d get at the start of a period. It had been there for a few days but as the scan, we had earlier in the week showed everything was fine and all Autumn’s movements had been normal, I was not concerned by this. As this was my first pregnancy I just thought the pains were normal as I was coming towards the end of it.
Whilst I was at work, I suddenly felt like I’d weed myself. I put my hand on my crotch to see if it had come through to my jeans and when I removed my hand it was bright red with blood. I headed out the back of the store and rang my partner asking him to send over the number from my notes so I could ring the hospital. I asked him to come and get me from work so that we could head home, I could get changed and grab a bag then head to the hospital. I don’t think I really realised until much later how bad the situation was. I rang the maternity department at my local hospital and they said I was not to wait for him to come and get me. I was told to ring an ambulance. While I was doing this the blood was continuing to pour out of me. My black jeans were now red. I was still calm and unconcerned at this point. This may be quite graphic but while answering the question to the emergency operator I realised that I also had chunks of my placenta in my underwear and coming out of myself. Once the ambulance arrived I was blue lighted and sirened to the hospital. They rang ahead to warn the maternity department and I heard I was described as a cat 1 patient. I had no idea what this meant at that time.
The point where it hit me just how serious this situation was, was when I was wheeled into a delivery room with 20 medical professionals in. I was on the bed whilst they scanned for Autumn. This was the absolute worst part of the whole experience. All these medical professionals staring at a screen the I couldn’t see, they were all in absolute silence with no expression on their faces. It felt like eternity and I did ring my partner to see where he was and I announced to him that she had died. It took two people to scan and find her, as her back was along the front of my stomach and due to the placenta breaking down they couldn’t really see her heartbeat. The moment they did, which in reality was 5 minutes, I was wheeled straight into theatre and placed under a general anaesthetic. The whole process from getting to the hospital to Autumn being born was just 30 minutes. She was rushed straight to the neonatal unit to start her journey to recovery. That in itself is a whole other story.
Where is the best place to find out more information and support for anyone who finds themselves in this situation?
Your midwife can give you information on this condition and any concerns you may have. Also, have a look on the Tommy’s website www.tommys.org and also on the NHS website.
Interview by Danni, Mummy Social Team