Women were understandably keen to get home as soon as possible. After days, weeks or even months in hospital, separated from their families, being discharged was a big day.
Alex had been in hospital for several months with placenta praevia (where the placenta is in the wrong position and blocking the birth canal), separated from her husband and toddler. She described the emotions of finally leaving the hospital.
Alex described how hugely emotional it was to finally leave to hospital to go home to her family.
What sort of physical shape the women were in when they got home varied widely depending on what condition they had experienced, how ill they had been, and how long they had been in hospital. (See ‘How women felt emotionally‘).
Women were often physically very weak. Alison, who had had a haemorrhage (heavy uncontrolled bleeding) and hysterectomy described being weak but “desperate to get home”.
Alison was going stir crazy in hospital, but she was also quite scared at the prospect of…
Some women were still bed-bound or using a wheelchair when they were discharged.
Belinda was using a wheelchair when she went home, “not in the best of states”.
Lisa, who had had a hysterectomy and problems with her hips, was bed-bound for months afterwards. She couldn’t manage stairs or look after her newborn baby. Her partner had to look after her as well as do all the care of the baby.
Sarah, who also had a hysterectomy, was in a lot of pain. She couldn’t manage the sofa so her husband, Rob, organised a sun lounger for her, so she could get in and out of it. A common frustration for these women was not being able to look after their children.
Rob described how he and his wife managed in the weeks after she was discharged. He had to nurse…
Belinda discharged herself from hospital. She left hospital in a wheelchair and she was very weak.
After being in intensive care with septicaemia (blood poisoning), Anna needed a zimmer frame and…
Women felt very tired, and several who had had a haemorrhage felt very weak, as they had lost so much blood.
Karen felt weak, sore and constipated because of all the iron infusions she had been given after…
Many of the women we interviewed had had major abdominal surgery to deliver the baby and save their lives. Often, they were in a great deal of pain from those operations when they came home. Debbie had a uterine rupture (a tear opening the womb directly into the abdominal cavity) and said she was in “unbelievable pain” when she got home, and it was 8 or 9 weeks before she felt she could walk normally and do reasonable things. Hannah was discharged with a catheter still in.
Hannah was discharged home with a catheter in. Her husband had to empty the bag for her. She had…
Kerry, who had placenta praevia and a haemorrhage, was in a great deal of discomfort when she got home. She should not have been driving for 6 weeks because of her caesarean operation, but she didn’t have the money for taxis or anyone to give her a lift, so the only way to visit her son in neonatal intensive care (NICU) was by driving.
Although she was unable to straighten herself from the pain, Kerry drove and did the shopping for…
Although most women made a good recovery, a few women did have ongoing health issues as a result of the complications they had experienced. Hannah and Karen were both dismayed by the realisation that they were going to be less fit for the rest of their lives. “It is a very odd thing, you catch yourself thinking, oh now I’ve become someone who is going to be less well for the rest of my life, and that is a weird feeling.”
Scarring can be a problem for some women who have had life-threatening complications. This can occasionally lead to ongoing physical problems. Hannah had long term digestive problems because of the way her internal scar tissue had stuck together. Her husband explained how it affected her.
Simon talked about the difficulties his wife experienced with her digestive system as a result of…
Scarring can also be frightening and emotionally upsetting.
Kerry was really scared by her scar.
Further surgery may help with certain types of scars that women experience. Sarah had scar reassignment surgery on her scar as part of the drain hole wouldn’t heal. Anna had septicaemia and had a hysterectomy. She was 21 years old and very worried about how the scar was going to look. Joanna’s baby was stillborn, and for her the “physical scars are associated with memory, like emotional scarring as well I suppose.”
Anna was grateful that doctors were able to leave her with a horizontal scar that was easier to…
Joanna said that the physical scars she has from the caesarean are associated with an emotional…
Getting back to normal
On the whole women did make a good recovery, although it often took several weeks or months. Alison said she “felt a lot stronger after 3 weeks, than I expected” and Cate was strong enough to look after all three children by the time she went for her 6 week check: “After I passed the 6 week mark I just physically picked up very quickly.”
Kate had HELLP syndrome (a combined liver and blood clotting disorder). When she came out of hospital she was swollen and bruised and had to inject herself with an anticoagulant Clexane (enoxaparin) for 6 weeks. But by 14 weeks she felt “completely back to normal, just settling into mummyhood.” For Rachel, getting strong again after her hysterectomy was very important. She took up running and was focused on getting back to normal.