The hospital room was mostly quiet, except for the quiet murmuring of my husband talking to his parents on the phone as he held our third child - a baby girl we named Josephine. My labor was long, and I was tired. I felt the urge to go to the bathroom, and I didn’t want to bother my husband, so I got myself up from the bed.
The minute I got up, I could feel a stream of liquid falling between my legs. I kept walking, thinking it was normal postpartum bleeding. As I got to the bathroom, the room began to sway, and the stream of liquid became stronger. The last thing I remember was clutching the bathroom sink and calling out to my husband in a panicked voice: “CALL THE NURSE” - and then everything went black.
I woke up to a nurse, who seemed very far away, calling my name. I felt hands wrap around my body, moving me. What happened after this I’d like to forget, but let’s just say that there was a lot of pushing, pressing, poking and grabbing happening. It was painful, but I was completely out of it. What seemed like the entire hospital ran into my room, and the doctors were talking with me, trying to keep me awake.
I found out later, after a CT scan and a couple bags of blood, that I had a very bad postpartum hemorrhage. I am so very thankful for the able hands of the doctors, nurses and the medical interventions that saved my life.
While my story is not the only one, it is actually pretty rare to die in childbirth. 1% of all births end in maternal death. However, the fear of dying in childbirth isn’t one to be brushed off. It CAN happen.
NPR wrote a great article on why women in the US are experiencing more complications and death than women in other developed nations. It’s worth the read to understand more of the reasons why women die in childbirth.
With all this said, if you’re struggling with anxiety about dying in childbirth, there are some things you can know and consider to help you be at peace.
- Medical intervention will help: if something happens to you during or after childbirth, there are now many things doctors can do to help you. My story is a great example of this - even though I was having a complication, the hospital I birthed at had a very well-run protocol for knowing how to handle my case. Their quick actions saved my life.
→ Key point: if you don’t trust your hospital or doctor, if you feel like they don’t listen to you or value your voice - it’s time to find a different doctor.
- Achieving a healthy weight will help: many complications happen from the side effects of being overweight. Even when you’re pregnant, there are ways to achieve a healthy weight that will drastically cut your risk of having complications.
→ Key point: Talk to your doctor about ways you can safely lose weight or maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy.
3. Confronting your fears will help: It’s important to deal with your fears or anxiety. This guide offers practical tips to deal with fear in pregnancy. If the fear of dying keeps you up at night or consumes your thoughts, it may be time to find a therapist to talk to. It’s very normal to need to work through fears, and a licensed therapist can really help.
→ Key point: Don’t suffer alone! Find someone to talk to!
Childbirth is meant to be a joyful experience, and even with the risks involved, it can be. I can say that while my postpartum hemorrhage was scary, I still feel lots of joy and happiness about my childbirth experience. I try to focus on the positive, be thankful for the medical interventions available in this day and age, and remember that the birth of my sweet Josephine was worth it in the end.