Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy

Relationships with partners and family

We asked women and their partners how they felt their life threatening experiences in childbirth had affected their relationships with each other, and other family members. Many said that although it had been a very difficult and traumatic time, their experiences had made them stronger and brought them closer together.
Several people described how the experience of life-threatening illness, though frightening, had made them appreciate each other more. It had enabled them to put more trivial things into perspective and they felt very grateful.
Women often commented how strong and supportive their partners were through the emergency and as they recovered. Often partners were on their own for hours or days while their wife or partner was unconscious, fighting for her life. Alison T had amniotic fluid embolism (AFE), a very rare complication of pregnancy in which amniotic fluid, fetal skin or other cells enter the woman’s blood stream and trigger an allergic reaction, and was in intensive care for several days and felt it was almost worse for her husband than for her. “I didn’t know what was happening. He had to witness it all”. Her husband received invaluable support from her brother and sister in law during the emergency. In many cases the women felt they did not realise how hard it had been on their partners until the emergency was over.
Alison said that her experience of haemorrhage and a hysterectomy had brought her and her husband closer. “We don’t take each other for granted as you sometimes start to do after years together.” Sarah also had a hysterectomy and felt that she and her husband were “just one of the lucky ones that have stayed together” through the “toughness” of having a new baby and all the trauma and upset.
Staying together after such a traumatic event was challenging at times. The first year had been the hardest for some couples. Some reflected on what a toll their emergency had had on them as a couple. Rob, whose wife had a hysterectomy, said “How our family’s here today I don’t know. Because it pulled us apart proper, it did. But we made it… The pain we’ve been through has been horrific, but we’ve come through together…”.
Some relationships did not survive the experience. Instead of drawing them together, for some the stress pulled them apart. Cara had a hysterectomy after her first daughter was born. She and her husband split up when her baby was just a few months old.
The women and men we spoke to also reflected on how their emergency in childbirth had impacted on their relationships with other family members such as parents and siblings. Almost losing a daughter or sister had brought them closer as a family.

Last reviewed April 2016.


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