Pat Ferrari is living proof of the power of mother’s intuition. The Queensland mum was 31 weeks pregnant when she had a gut feeling something wasn’t right. And her instincts saved her own life, and her baby’s.
After a traumatic first birth with her son, Pat was hyperaware during her second pregnancy. And as she tells Mum’s Grapevine, her instincts were lifesaving.
A difficult journey to motherhood
Like 700,000 other Australian women, Pat has battled endometriosis since she was a teenager, later also developing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome as an adult. Both disorders play havoc with periods and conception, and for Pat it meant gaining weight steadily from the age of 21. It also meant difficulty falling pregnant.
Pat and her husband Carlo finally fell pregnant with their baby boy in 2016 after two years of acupuncture, IUI, and eight rounds of IVF. But her pregnancy was anything but smooth sailing.
“I ended up on six weeks bed rest due to a shortened cervix and baby was lying transverse,” Pat told Mum’s Grapevine. “I went into spontaneous labour at 32+2 weeks and had to have an emergency c-section with a classical cut due to the transverse lay of the baby.”
After her pregnancy and birth struggles, Pat decided to focus on her health losing 25kgs after gastric sleeve surgery in March last year. Then in October, the couple discovered they’d fallen pregnant naturally with a baby girl.
But with their joy, came concern. “My first visit with my gynaecologist he had mentioned the possibility of my uterus rupturing due to the previous classical c-section and the shortened cervix. But it was very rare and I didn’t think much into it. My concerns were more on the fact that I would have a shortened cervix and hospital bed rest with a toddler. It was all I could think about during pregnancy.
“My second pregnancy was different to my first. I had about four hospital visits, prior to labour. Due to the short cervix, I was getting irregular contractions, cramping and also had a couple of bleeds. So after my second bleed, my gynaecologist suggested I stay off my feet as much as possible. From 25 weeks I was on bed rest at home.”
‘Something wasn’t right’
At 31 weeks pregnant, Pat noticed she was having irregular cramping and contractions. They began to come more frequently until they were happening daily.
“I had a detailed scan the Monday, three days prior to labour which showed my cervix was 0.8cm with slight funnelling. The day I went into labour I had seen my gynaecologist for my fortnightly check-up and my cervix was the same as the scan three days ago. I started getting cramps at about 5.30pm on the 22nd of April and took some Panadol as I usually would.
“But the pain continued to get worse and I knew something wasn’t right. I was 31+6 days pregnant.”
‘She needs to get to theatre now’
Pat suddenly felt a sharp pain across her whole stomach. Barely able to move, she managed to get up and tell her husband she needed to get to hospital. “I didn’t put on any clothing, all I could manage to put on was my dressing gown as the pain continued to get worse. We rushed by car to the hospital and on top of my pain I starting getting contractions, blurred vision and sweats.
“Every lane change and movement of the car would hurt me and all I could do was try to brace my body from moving. I found it very difficult and painful to move and my body was shaking uncontrollably. We rang the hospital maternity ward to advise them I was on my way in but I could hardly talk as the pain was unbearable so my husband did most of the talking. When we arrived about 25 minutes later my husband grabbed a wheelchair and had to pick me up out of the car, I couldn’t even lift my legs to put them on the foot pedals. I was taken straight to the birthing suite and was hooked up to the monitors.
“About 10 minutes after I arrived my gynaecologist had arrived I am assuming after my phone call he was contacted to come straight in. He felt around my tummy and even the slightest touch was painful, he did a scan from the portable machine in the room but couldn’t see anything. However not too long after the monitors were placed on my tummy they could see that Aurora’s heart rate was dropping and she was in distress. My gynaecologist told me that he thinks I have a uterine rupture and I was to go straight to theater to get baby out. If the rupture was really severe there may be a chance he would have to remove my uterus.
“After that, I had 13 people surrounding me and alarms going off doctors trying to find veins and my gynaecologist says, ‘Guys stop she needs to theater now do that when we are there’. Looking back at it his face and tone of voice it was very concerning. At the time I went with everything and didn’t realise the severity of the situation.
“Once I was in theater I was lifted from one bed to another by staff and I screamed in pain. A gas mask went over my face and I remember the last thing I saw was a lovely nurse telling me everything was going to be okay. I was put under general anesthetic and Aurora was out within 1 minute 30 seconds, she was limp and had a very faint heart rate, however, responded very quickly to the resuscitation team.
“My uterus had a hole about the size of two fists, my placenta had detached from my uterus and I had been bleeding internally. I lost two liters of blood so had three replacement bags and was in surgery for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Thankfully my uterus was able to be repaired and I was taken to ICU for overnight recovery.”
After enduring an emergency birth and surgery, Pat was bedridden for the next two days. The highlight of her recovery was being able to finally see baby Aurora in the special care nursery two days after her birth.
“Nurses had to bed bath me and assist me in the shower until day three. I didn’t get to hold her until the following morning and that wait was so hard. While recovering I started researching uterine rupture and it wasn’t until then that I realised what I went through was very rare, uncommon and that both Aurora and I are lucky to be alive.
“It’s been almost three weeks and the emotional trauma of it all is still very real, I am holding back tears even telling this story. I thank my lucky stars for the immediate response from all the staff and doctors at the hospital. It’s hard to think what could have happened if the timing had been off.”
What is a uterine rupture?
A uterine rupture is when the muscular wall of the uterus tears during pregnancy or childbirth. It’s a very rare birth complication – less than one percent of pregnant women experience it. But when it does happen, it’s really serious.
Uterine ruptures are more likely to happen if you have uterine scars from previous c-sections. Pressure builds as the baby moves through the birth canal, and it’s this pressure that can cause the uterus to tear.
What are uterine rupture symptoms?
According to Healthline, these are possible symptoms of uterine rupture to look out for:
- excessive vaginal bleeding
- sudden pain between contractions
- contractions that become slower or less intense
- abnormal abdominal pain or soreness
- recession of the baby’s head into the birth canal
- bulging under the pubic bone
- sudden pain at the site of a previous uterine scar
- loss of uterine muscle tone
- rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, and shock in the mother
- abnormal heart rate in the baby
- failure of labour to progress naturally
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