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Jenny’s Positive Emergency C-Section Under General Anaesthetic

Jenny & Ali joined my online hypnobirthing course in November 2022, and their incredible birth story illustrates how hypnobirthing really can prepare you for any birth! Their beautiful daughter Aurora was born via true emergency caesarean section due to a cord prolapse.

Jenny has kindly written a fantastic account of her birth for us, it details how both her, and Ali, navigated the labour & birth calmly, and confidently, using lots of different hypnobirthing techniques, trusting their instincts and making informed decisions.

I advise all my clients to create multiple birth plans, as we never know how our birth will unfold, this includes considering what you’d like to happen in case of a general anaesthetic. This can seem like a scary conversation but Jenny & Ali’s story illustrates just how important a one it is.

I am so proud of Jenny & Ali and it’s wonderful to see them both absolutely smash parenthood.

What is a cord prolapse?

This is where baby’s umbilical cord slips down in front of the baby after your waters have broken; the cord can then come through the open cervix.

When the umbilical cord prolapses, it can be squeezed by the baby or the womb during a contraction. This is a true emergency situation as it can reduce the amount of blood flowing through the cord and so reduce the oxygen supply to the baby. Immediate delivery is required to prevent any serious harm to baby.

Jenny, Ali & Aurora – A positive Caesarean Birth Story

''Trigger warning: emergency caesarean, general anaesthetic, cord prolapse, pre-rupture of membranes, graphic photo of placenta

I was 35 weeks pregnant and my husband, Ali, had been away for a week skiing in France with the boys. We had many discussions about whether this was a good idea, given how far along I was going to be. We decided that although it’s possible for babies to come 5 or 6 weeks early, it’s not likely, so he should go and enjoy his trip!

Whilst Ali was away I went to stay with my parents and wanted to get all the baby admin done that we hadn’t yet had a chance to do. The pram and car seat were delivered, my mum and I went to buy lots of ‘newborn’ and ‘up to 1 month’ clothes, and I ordered a bunch of recovery/postpartum bits from Amazon! There was certainly a sense of relief that I was getting myself organised.

Ali got back on the Saturday and I felt relieved to have him home. We had a Dominos pizza that evening (my fav) and a fairly relaxed Sunday. I was feeling good. glad to have all the baby bits sorted. and recall saying to my bump “we’re ready for you now, whenever you are”. Well, be careful what you wish for!

On the morning of 13th February at about 6:30am I woke up and felt an increase in vaginal discharge (TMI, sorry!) and wondered what was happening. I got up to go to the toilet and check, and was pretty sure part of my mucus plug had gone. I did a quick Google to see what that meant and read that it is normal for your mucus plug to go a couple of weeks before you start labour. “Great”, I thought, “things are happening as they should”.

Ali and I took our dog, Nala, for a walk that morning and I just felt really positive, full of oxytocin! We came home and I logged on to my laptop in the kitchen to start a day’s work.

I felt that it made sense at this point (at 35 +1 weeks pregnant) to start sitting on my birth ball whilst working. I laid down a towel on the floor to protect it from any grit and dirt that Nala brought in from outside (#dogmumlife) and went about my working day.

For some reason, the week before when I was staying with my parents, I had this desire to know which way round baby was. I know they can shift until pretty much birth.. but I had this niggle that she may be breech at this point. My mum and I spent lots of time analysing my bump and the visible lumps of baby’s body parts to try and decipher it. But given we aren’t midwives we never came to a solid conclusion. All of our scans up until this point showed baby to be head down, so I can’t explain why I had this niggle other than maternal instinct. Remember this part for later on in the story!

I had meetings between 11:30-12:00 and 12:30-13:00 that day and was trying to decide when to have some lunch. Normally it would make sense to have it after 13:00 so I could take a full hour, but for some reason I felt like I wanted it before my 12:30 meeting. So I spoke to Ali and he said he was free too, so we made some sandwiches and I just about finished my last mouthful before joining my 12:30 meeting.

The meeting went well and I was just saying goodbye to my colleagues at 13:00 when I suddenly felt a gush of waters. I left the meeting and stood up to my waters breaking, just like they do in the movies! Waters streaming out of me, through my leggings and on to the towel I’d laid on the floor to protect the birth ball from dirt.. how convenient!

Ali had my phone as he was doing me a favour and transferring my mobile number from my old Vodafone SIM card to my new EE SIM card. I shouted for him at the top of my lungs and he eventually came to the kitchen door and I pointed to my soaking wet leggings. He looked at me in shock and quickly hung up to Vodafone.

He said “what do we do”? And I said, I think I need to call the hospital and let them know. Normally I would have said that we should just stay home and see what happens. But given I was only 35 weeks I knew I had to call and speak to the labour ward. I gave them a call and they wanted me to come in straight away to be assessed. I told them I hadn’t packed my birth bag yet and they said not to worry and to just come in now with my notes and we’d sort the rest later.

We threw a few things in a bag and drove to hospital. I started having light period-like cramps in the car, and at about 13:40 we arrived and headed up to the labour ward. We were put in a triage room and they said they wanted to double check it was my waters that had gone. Had they seen the sight in my kitchen 40 minutes prior, they would have had no doubt. But NHS procedure was they needed to see waters on a pad, or do a vaginal swab to confirm it. My waters were still trickling out every now and then, so thankfully I didn’t need the vaginal swab and they confirmed the fluid on my pad was indeed my waters.. no kidding!

I had a couple of assessments. Firstly I was put on the continuous fetal monitor to check baby was okay and to track her movements as well as any tightenings/cramping I was experiencing. After being on the monitor for a while they said they were happy with the results. They also felt baby to see which way round she was and the midwife confirmed that the lumpy body part near my ribs was a bottom and so baby was head down. She also did a fundal height measurement using the paper tape measure, and she was measuring way above the 95th percentile. She suggested I might need to check baby’s growth with an ultrasound. But the next steps were to wait for the doctor to arrive to assess me, and come up with a plan of action.

We were waiting for a couple of hours because the doctor was in theatre dealing with an emergency and then had to go in to a debrief. We kept asking the staff when we’d be seen, maybe every half hour or so. In the mean time I was channeling my inner calm and practicing my hypnobirthing. Ali had yoga music playing on his phone and I was staying upright, swaying through my cramps, which were getting slightly stronger as time went by. It was all happening as early labour should, only I was 2 weeks pre-term and 5 weeks pre guess date/due date. A small number of times I decided to get on the bed and lie on my right side through the cramps. Looking back it made no sense why I would do this. It made the cramps more painful and goes against all of the hypnobirthing techniques I’d learned around movement and being upright to help manage any discomfort.

15:37 Upright and forward – using my hypnobirthing breathing and movement to get through early labour cramps

Eventually the doctor comes in at around 17:30 and I consented to her doing a cervical check. In my birth preferences I had written that I didn’t want any cervical checks, and just wanted to trust my body’s ability to birth my baby. However, in this moment I felt the need to know what was happening and whether I was dilating.. or whether things weren’t really progressing and I could be sent home. I trusted my instinct and accepted the cervical check, and am thankful I did…

The doctor puts in the speculum and has a look. She immediately says “I’m sorry, this is an emergency situation and I’m going to press the buzzer. You have a cord prolapse and we need to take you to theatre”. About 10 people came rushing in and Ali got pushed to the back of the room. I looked at him and he was looking back at me with his hands together in a prayer. I gave him a thumbs up and knew that this needed to happen.

For anyone who doesn’t know, a cord prolapse is incredibly rare. The NHS describes it as follows: ‘An umbilical cord prolapse usually happens during labour but can occur when the waters break before labour starts. The umbilical cord slips down in front of the baby after the waters have broken; the cord can then come through the open cervix.’ This is a major emergency because the umbilical cord is the baby’s oxygen supply and therefore lifeline.

I was asked to lie on my right side. Looking back, my body must have been telling me to lie on my right side during those early cramps to keep my baby safe. There is no other explanation! I was wheeled straight out of the triage room and towards theatre. I asked whether Ali could come in with me and they said “we’ll see what we can do”. They told me I’d need to be under general anaesthetic as we didn’t have time to wait for a spinal anaesthetic to kick in. I asked if baby was okay and they replied, “at the moment, yes”. I asked how long I would be out for and they said about one hour and a half. I suddenly felt sad because I knew that I wouldn’t get that all important skin to skin with my baby for at least 90 mins after she was born. I feared for what that meant for our bonding and therefore breastfeeding journey. I worried whether baby would have to go in to the NICU since she was only 35 weeks.. and before I could worry any more I was asleep, under the general anaesthetic.

At 17:53 Aurora was born. She was breech, and she came out screaming! What an absolute superstar. They took her to Ali and super dad kicked in to action. He asked whether he could do skin to skin with her (well remembered by him given the circumstances). He also knew I wanted to see my placenta and asked to take a photo of it. He knew how important breastfeeding was to me and asked the doctors and midwives how we could make that happen.

18:20 Ali has skin to skin with his new daughter 🥹 Aurora’s rare placenta – bilobed placenta is a placenta with two roughly equal-sized lobes separated by a membrane. It occurs in 2% to 8% of placentas.

She was weighed and then swaddled up before being put in a cot, waiting for me to come round from the anaesthetic.

18:27 Aurora was weighed at 5lb 3oz – the average weight for a baby at 35 weeks.

I was wheeled in to the recovery room next to the theatre and started to wake from the anaesthetic. When I came to, I felt incredibly sleepy but scanned the room and fixed on Ali holding our daughter. Wow – she was here and safe, and we were suddenly parents!

20:32 Proud mum and dad

20:42 Holding my baby for the first time in the recovery room, I say “she’s grabbing hold of my finger”

20:42 First moments with my daughter

I was wheeled up to the ward where I was going to spend the next couple of days. They found me a bay by the window and we set ourselves up.

22:11 Cuddles on the labour ward

So there you go! The eventful birth of our little princess.

I am very much at peace with what happened. I trusted my instincts and we made informed decisions throughout the day, all of which resulted in the safest outcome for me and my baby. It has taken a while to process and many tears have been shed. But ultimately there was no alternative scenario and I am forever thankful to the NHS for keeping both Aurora and myself safe 🙏🏼💙.

I still don’t know why my waters went at 35 weeks and I probably will never know. A cord prolapse is more likely to happen if your baby is not head down (which she wasn’t), if your waters break early (which they did), if you have more water than usual surrounding your baby (never confirmed, but certainly possible given the fountain that erupted when my waters went 😅), if you have a low lying placenta (I was diagnosed with a low lying placenta at 20 weeks which resolved itself later in pregnancy), and if you are having a small baby (she was on the 50th percentile, so not small but not big either). So clearly it was an accumulation of things that resulted in this extremely rare outcome (0.1% to 0.5% of births).

Aurora clearly wanted to make a grand entrance in to the world, and boy did she succeed.

We love you to the moon and back little lady 💕

How hypnobirthing helped

As you can see from my story, there were a number of hypnobirthing techniques that helped during Aurora’s birth:

Using B.R.A.I.N – an acronym which stands for Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Instinct, Nothing. When making any decision during your birth it is important to consider each of these things. For Aurora’s birth, a lot of decisions were made based on my instinct, given the fact that she was coming a few weeks early! But I also considered the benefits and risks of each of the assessments and interventions offered to us.

Breathing techniques – during labour it is incredibly important to stay calm and relaxed. This encourages the hormone oxytocin which is central to the labour process, encouraging your cervix to open and your uterus to contract, so that your baby can make their way safely through the birth canal and in to the world. Although I never made it to ‘established labour’ with those more intense sensations, the breathing techniques (in for four, out for more) definitely helped me stay calm and relaxed during those early surges.

Birth preferences – it is important to consider what you would prefer at various stages of your labour and birth to ensure you have the best, most oxytocin inducing environment. It is helpful to have a couple of birth plans / preferences, so that you are prepared for every eventuality. Despite the fact that we had planned a home birth, Ali and I had also discussed what should happen in other situations, including an emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic. It is because of this preparation earlier in pregnancy that Ali remembered to ask for skin to skin as soon as Aurora was handed to him!

A big thank you to Kristina at The Birth Base for her incredible hypnobirthing antenatal course which taught us these things along with so much more! Who knows what the outcome would have been without your wisdom, support and resources.’

A huge thanks once again to Jenny for sharing her amazing story. You can follow more of Jenny's journey here on Instagram @thecolemum

You can find more about how to hypnobirth with me in Northampton, Online or Privately on a 1:1 basis :)

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