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Interview 42

Age at interview: 32
Brief Outline: Normal first pregnancy. Gestational diabetes was suspected but ruled out. Had to spend time in hospital late in pregnancy for investigation of bleeding. More of this interview can be seen on the Healthtalkonline antenatal screening site as Interview 01.
Background: Children' first pregnancy. Occupations' Mother- social researcher, Father- visual effects supervisor. Marital status' living with partner. Ethnic background' White British.

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They continued to enjoy sex during pregnancy, and it reassured her she was still attractive. They...

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I was keen to reassure my partner that being pregnant and having a baby didn't mean the end of our life together as it had been, and sex seemed to be a big part of that, so I did want to try to continue to have a good sex life as part of being pregnant. I was lucky that the first six months of my pregnancy were relatively straightforward. The only problem was that I was very tired and often sneaked off to bed very early in the evening. The tiredness only lasted for the first few months and then it felt like getting back to normal. I was concerned that sex might affect the baby, but my pregnancy book ('What to expect when you are expecting') was very reassuring about sex being safe and 'a good thing.' I don't remember much about sex in the first few months of pregnancy. I don't think it was quite as good as the 'getting pregnant' sex - that was especially fun. 

As my body began to change shape I found a continued sex life very important in terms of reassurance. It was good to know that I could still pass as attractive despite the unrecognisable body. There were a lot more logistical issues involved in having sex at 20 weeks. I was getting cramp and it seemed very easy to lose the circulation in my legs. Still, we tried hard and seemed to be able to find positions that worked. The odd time the baby kicked during sex was really odd. It was a reminder that there was someone else there and tended to ruin the moment. One good thing was that my body became increasingly sensitive as time went by which made sex more and more enjoyable. Everything changed at 31 weeks when I lost some blood and ended up in hospital. The bleeding had nothing to do with sex - more to do with a lot of dancing at a party - but the hospital recommended really slowing down and that included not having sex for the remaining period of the pregnancy. It was such a shock ending up in hospital that I don't think we thought much of this at the time. That was the end of sex during pregnancy for us.

 
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She was tested for gestational diabetes, which made her very anxious for a while. The results...

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I got picked up with a slightly raised glucose level, and so I had to go and do the test for whether I had gestational diabetes, which involves fasting for twelve hours and then drinking this disgusting like Lucozade gone mad kind of drink, really, really sweet, sickly drink, and then you wait for two hours and they test your glucose levels again. And that was kind of, you know, one more thing you just thought you could do without. And I was okay, but one of the girls in our antenatal group had had a positive test from that, and so it was quite nice to be able to talk to her about that really... Because these things, once anything goes wrong or there's any kind of problem, they treat it so seriously - which is good - that you go from being this well person, as the GP described being pregnant at the start, to suddenly having a really kind of, something that's taken really seriously, that often leads to you spending time in hospital. And so that transition, I think, for the two or three people in our antenatal class who'd had any kind of problem - and I think all of us have quite minor problems compared to what can go wrong - it was really helpful to hear that that's how it had been for somebody else's minor problem.

So even a minor problem can affect you in quite a major way?

Well, because of how they respond to it, and I'm not criticising how they respond to it, because the problems can be very serious and they, you know, they, so if you go to the doctor's with a headache normally, say, they just send you away, but if you go with persistent headaches in early pregnancy like somebody in our group had you, you know, can end up being in hospital. And so that's quite difficult because it's quite different from your normal experience...

I mean, I do feel with that that I'm not sure I needed to go through that, because I apparently had a very marginal thing that was picked up through just a normal blood screening thing that they do at however many weeks. And that was very worrying, I mean I spent a week worrying about that before I went to have it done, and it really wasn't that bad, but it would've been another thing 

Did you only realise later that actually you were quite marginal or did you know at the time, before you went for the further test that it was very marginal?

It didn't, the number didn't mean anything to me. It had a number on it of 7 point something. And it was only when I was talking to my partner's father who is a diabetic, and he said that his reading when he first became a diabetic was 23 or something, that I thought kind of 7 probably was fairly low. And then I asked the midwife and she said, 'Oh, you know, you've just gone over the edge of what we pick up, but because of the margins of error then we would always test at that kind of level."

So the midwife told you that after you'd already gone through the experience or...?

Before I went for the test because they'd, yeah

But you still felt?

I think because I - no it wasn't actually the midwife, it was the doctor because I - this all happened at the same time, exactly the same day that I had already started having this bleeding. So both things happened together, so when I went to the GP about the bleeding I asked him and he explained to me about what the letter meant and what a 7.1 reading meant. But there was certainly no feeling with that that you had any choice about going to do this test, which wasn't very invasive, but was really nerve-wracking - and was fine.

 
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Bleeding in late pregnancy suggested she might be in preterm labour. She was worried about taking...

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Well the really horrible bit was they were very concerned that this was the beginning of labour, even though I wasn't having any contractions or - I mean I had, I was a bit uncomfortable but I wasn't in pain, but they took that that I was in pain, and I don't, would never call that pain. I was just, I think I was just very anxious about what was going on' So they wanted to give us some hormone injections, not hormone injections - what do you call them - steroid injections, to help the baby's lungs develop, which is something that they apparently standardly do with premature babies. And we were very unhappy about that, partly I think because I really didn't feel like I was going into labour and it felt very unnecessary, and it felt like quite an intervention, having had no interventions at all so far. They hadn't done anything. They'd taken a lot from me, but they hadn't sort of injected me or the baby with anything, and that felt quite serious. 

But we had, I really don't feel we had any choice about having those injections. I mean we, the doctor left us to talk about it, and we talked about it and we really weren't happy with it. And she came back and she said it was our choice but, you know, by the morning baby could be on its way and if it came at any point during the next few weeks then it would need to have had this injection, and the earlier it had it the better. And that they couldn't predict whether I was going into labour or not, which I'm not sure was entirely true because I think they're, they would've known at a slightly later date. And so I really feel like that's something happened to me quite against my will really. But you get into this horrible position where you're thinking, trying to think for the first - well, not the first time, because you're eating well and not drinking and things - but, you know, they very much couch it in terms of, 'You're doing something for the baby', and you're worried that your response to it is about you and what you want, and you should be trying to think about the baby and what's good for the baby. And that's really hard, because they obviously know much more about what's right for the baby than you do. So we did have these injections. And everyone I asked about it in the hospital seemed to think it was entirely routine and fine, and my great book seems to think that it's okay, but still to me it felt like a very extreme reaction to 

What were you worried about?

Well, being given two injections of steroids, twelve hours apart, what else they would be doing. I mean, her essential response was that they wouldn't harm the baby but they might not be great for me which I, is fair enough. I mean, you stop thinking about yourself in the same way. But I suppose I just don't trust them that it might not do something else to the baby'

I still think about the steroids thing because I still feel fairly unhappy about having, having had the injection because I don't really feel like I made a, that we made a choice. I feel we were made to have a choice. I mean the doctor said to us at one point, "You're not taking this seriously enough," and and, you know this, and actually of course you're taking it seriously [laughs] but sometimes you just, you know, you don't, your gut reaction is not to trust something, you know, not to feel something is the right thing to do, and that it's happening very fast. So I still, I don't feel as bad about that as I did at the time, but it still preys on my mind a bit that it was quite a big thing to do.

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