postpartum haemorrage
Health,  Postpartum

My Postpartum Hemorrhage Recovery

Trigger warning with this post

Childbirth is painted as a painful yet magical experience.

We’re talking waters breaking, quick dash to the hospital followed by a serene, pain medication-free water birth surrounded by twinkly lights and chilled-out music.

Sure, there’s pain and probably a lot of screaming, but all that dissolves once your little bundle of joy is placed in your arms.

While I didn’t entirely buy into this unrealistic expectation of birth, I rather hoped that amid the chaos would be a moment immediately post-birth that would eclipse all the pain that had gone before.

In reality, I delivered my first born in theatre, surrounded by at least 10 other doctors, nurses and consultants.

Jack was placed onto my chest and I was overwhelmed with relief that he had arrived safely, stroking his head as his little red face looked up at mine.

Before I could even give him a kiss and count his little fingers and toes, I started to feel far-away. The room juddered as I battled to not black-out. I asked my husband to hold Jack as I didn’t think I was going to be conscious for much longer.

I remember asking the doctors at the foot of the bed to stop shaking the room. They didn’t reply, they didn’t even look up. I was going into shock and they were saving my life.

I can’t really remember much after that, except a nurse looking down at me saying that my mum wanted to know if I was alright and if they had permission to fill her in on the details. At that point I didn’t even know if I was alright. I woke up in the high dependency unit, on a number of drips.

My husband was cradling Jack and then a midwife came in to help him take his first breastfeed. She placed him on my chest, helped me pull down my top so he could suckle. I was too weak to hold him at that point and I was pretty detached from the whole experience – I wasn’t even aware of Jack latching on.

Hours later, I slowly started to come around. And I was hungry. So, so hungry.

All I had eaten in the last 36 hours was some chocolate chip shortbread and a banana. The midwife delivered platter after platter of sandwiches, biscuits and sugary tea. As soon as I’d demolish one platter, I’d demand another.

It wasn’t until the next day, when a doctor came to take my bloods that I found out that I’d had a postpartum haemorrhage and lost 1.5 litres of blood.

I couldn’t believe what my body had been through and a little amazed and impressed that I was still standing.

My body had been subjected to a 36 hour labour, an epiostomy, a failed epidural followed by a spinal that left me feeling like I couldn’t breathe. Delivery was via rotational forceps (brutal) and then a major postpartum haemorrhage.

While sat in my cubical, unable to move, all I could focus on was this gorgeous little bundle in my arms. The trauma of birth was eclipsed by the relief that my baby had got through it okay and was healthy.

As I hobbled out of hospital – weary from no sleep, lightheaded from no blood – I had no idea just how long that road to recovery and regaining my strength would be. The hospital packed me off with some iron tablets and a ‘good luck’ without me really understanding the impact a major postpartum haemorrhage has on your general recovery.

The consultant nearly gave me a transfusion, but as my blood level had crept up to 7 (point something) they decided against it. I really wish I’d pushed for one as I believe my recovery would have been a lot quicker.

Breastfeeding

Over the next couple of days, Jack didn’t feed well at all. He lost a lot of weight and nearly had to go back into hospital.

I gave him a bottle in a bid to avoid a hospital trip and luckily this helped him regain his weight.

I don’t know if this is the same with every woman who has had a PPH, but it delayed my milk coming in. Many people said the reason for my breastfeeding failure wasn’t my PPH and that I was probably doing something wrong. But I know my body and I knew that something wasn’t right.

After breaking down in tears at a weigh-in, the midwife finally informed me that my milk had been delayed due to having no blood. My body was too busy trying to make platelets that the milk my son needed wasn’t there. I had not been warned about this at all and was so angry that no one at the hospital told me that this could have been a possibility.

After the birth of my second son, I had a minor haemorrhage of around 900ml and my milk came in straight away and was plentiful so I knew that the first PPH did have an impact.

Regaining Strength

There’s nothing you can do except take it easy, rest and eat plenty of iron rich foods. Spinach, red meat and oats helped me regain my strength again.

I was prescribed iron tablets and even after 6 months, my iron levels were at a poor level. The tablets I’d been prescribed weren’t kind to my stomach so now I use Spatone, a liquid iron that is much gentler and can be mixed in with your morning orange juice.

Talk About It

The trauma of the birth hit me about a week after I got home. I sobbed uncontrollably at the health centre while getting Jack weighed, saying that I was confused about what had gone wrong and what I could have done to stop it.

I was referred to the Birth Matters clinic where I could ask questions about what caused my PPH and how it could have been prevented. Years later, I’m still not convinced I know why everything went so wrong.

There was talk of an undiagnosed partial placenta previa then another midwife suggested it was simply because my uterus was fatigued from such a long labour.

Truth is, PPH can happen to anyone and for a number of reasons. The only way you can prepare beforehand is making sure you take your iron tablets throughout pregnancy if prescribed so that if it should happen, you will hopefully make a quicker recovery.

If it does happen to you, then don’t panic. Midwives see it all the time and know how to respond quickly.

The most important thing is to talk it through, ask for help when needed and allow yourself time to make a full recovery.

 

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Freelance writer and founder of CubKit and McCarthy Copywriting

20 Comments

  • Suzi

    Oh my, the things we have to go through to get our children! My s-i-l suffered this and reading your post has helped me better understand what she went through.
    I’m glad all was well in the end.

  • Nicky

    Gosh what a journey! Women were made with great strength to get us through ‘labour’ but my goodness!

    Such an informative read, especially about PPH. Thank you for sharing x

  • Jemma

    How frightening. Especially when you become so spaced out you don’t know what’s happening. I had a retained placenta with my first, and I’d never even realised that was a thing until it happened.

  • Caroline

    Hi, thank you so much for sharing. I run a blog on birth stories, which I started after my own experience of traumatic birth – it is so important to share these stories and issues so that others don’t feel alone. If you ever felt like sharing your story on my blog you would be most welcome xxx

  • Momoftwolittlegirls

    Wow! That is shocking. I experienced a different kind of birth trauma but I too felt robbed of ‘something’, which I only really realised after my second hold was born.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Jo - Cup of Toast

    Thank you so much for sharing this with #Blogstravaganza . I agree, these things need to be talked about much more to help those who have experienced birth trauma and also to provide a more realistic picture of childbirth. I am glad that you are OK.

  • Marie Blake

    Oh bless you, it’s so similar to my story. I also lost over 1.5 litres of blood after forceps delivery. I remember looking at their faces and knew something was wrong. Everything was spinning. I ended up having two blood transfusions and 3 nights in hospital then packed off with iron tablets. It wasn’t until I got home, like you, it hit me. Eventually I used their reflections service which talks through the birth and what happened and that helped. Well done for getting through it – I completely feel your pain.

  • Amy - All about a Mummy

    Thanks for sharing your story. Sounds like we had incredibly similar labours. I was very lucky that I didn’t haemorrhage but up until that point it is basically exactly the same. Unfortunately I didn’t fare very well afterwards. The forceps did so much damage I had to have an operation a year later to try and help with the pain. I have so much muscle damage it is now considered a chronic pain condition. My daughter’s neck was also damaged by the forceps. We had to 6mths of physio to help fit the ruptured neck muscle. The whole thing was so traumatic I’ve had to have counselling 7yrs later! Feel better about it now – I can write this comment without hyperventilating or crying – but I don’t think i’ll ever properly be over it when the chronic pain is here to keep reminding me.

  • Cath - BattleMum

    Your first birth sounds very similar to me except I didn’t have a PPH. 24 hours of labour, midwife lost my son’s heart beat twice, rushed to theatre, episiotomy and forceps birth. And I had 14 weeks of bleeding afterwards which was never properly explained to me. I also had to go back into hospital 13 days after giving birth to my son for a repair of my episiotomy as the first stitches weren’t done correctly. I am still in the dark about certain things 4 years on. But no one ever tells you of these things do they. I’m glad you’re doing OK and that your second was a better birth x

  • Rachel

    Wow what a scary experience! My friend lost a lot of blood and had to have a blood transfusion after the birth of her child. It has taken well over a year for her Iron levels to steady themselves.

  • Stephanie

    A very scary situation for you to have to go through, and I am angry for you the way you were treated too. I’ve worked in a hospital and I wish you had a little more time and care given to you. Having a baby is scary, let alone having to go through all of that

  • Melanie

    I am not a mother, so I can only begin to imagine how frightining this experience can be. However, it’s great that you are talking opening about your experience which im sure will help other mothers to be x

  • Lisa

    Oh how scary for you. I’m glad that you got help in dealing with this. I’ve had my own struggles post birth but thankfully I was given the support that I needed 🙂

  • MELANIE EDJOURIAN

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I hated the labour and almost did’t survive the first one. I wish there was more magic involved ie. baby coming out at a shake of a wand etc lol. It’s important we talk about our experiences as it helps us deal with the trauma of it all x

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