Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy

Career and life path

For some women and their partners, their obstetric emergency does not have a lasting impact on their lives. They find that the emergency, although frightening when it is happening, is something they can put behind them and does not affect their daily lives greatly.
 
However, obstetric emergencies may trigger major life and work changes. Cara, who had a haemorrhage (heavy uncontrolled bleeding) and hysterectomy when her daughter was born, took a year off work to recover - rather than the six months she had planned. Joanna also took more time off than she had anticipated. Rebecca had a deep vein thrombosis (blood clot) in her leg during her caesarean operation, which has left her with a drop foot and needing a leg brace. It has had a significant impact on her life, she feels she has lost her independence as she can no longer drive. Her husband’s work has also suffered.
After their own emergencies, some women we spoke to were motivated to be more involved in birth support, training to be teachers for the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) or involved in support groups. Deborah who lost her baby in childbirth has become involved in setting up a local branch of the Birth Trauma Association (BTA). She hopes to be able to help others faced with similar situations to her own, “and in itself it helps me. Because it’s cathartic, you do get something from it.” Others decided to change career, for example, Rachel retrained as a psychologist.
Other parents found that their experience had a negative effect on their work choices. Tom had a nervous breakdown after his wife suffered a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the main artery of the lung) and haemorrhage. He talked about the “side effects” of that experience – “one way or another I’d been passed over because of my time off. My line manager lost trust in me, and I in him, to be honest and we’ve never fully regained that.” Anna was just 21 when she had septicaemia (blood poisoning) and a hysterectomy. She was planning to go to college to train as a midwife, but she does not feel she can do that anymore.
 
Some women (who were looking back 5-10 years) described their obstetric emergencies as the beginning of a big life change. After Sarah’s grade 4 placenta praevia (the most serious type of placenta praevia where the placenta completely covers the cervix/birth canal) and hysterectomy, her husband developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and he has been unable to go back to work, which then “left us seriously financially in hard times.” Five years on, Sarah is now the family breadwinner and her husband looks after their three girls. She said that she has had to learn new skills but returning to work has been a positive experience.
Sometimes women made a decision to make a career change during their recovery. Rachel, however, decided she was going to change her career early on while she was still in hospital after losing her second child and having a hysterectomy. Although her plans to move to another country were abandoned, she completely changed her career and she and her husband have gone on to adopt two daughters from abroad.

For more on recovery see ‘How women felt physically’, ‘How women felt emotionally’ and ‘Getting home and trying to get back to normal life

Last reviewed April 2016.

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