Swift actions save mother and son

Date: 11/12/2018

Three weeks before her due date, Christine Dean was touring Cabrini’s birthing suites when she asked a midwife to check her baby. She did not expect to give birth to son Jack within hours.

Ms Dean’s obstetrician, Dr Deirdre Percy, said the first-time mother was concerned because her baby had not moved that day and approached a midwife she recognised from her appointments, asking her to check her baby. “The experienced midwife conducted a CTG (Cardiotocography) and knew within minutes that the baby was stressed,” Dr Percy said. Dr Percy attended immediately. “When I told Christine the baby was showing signs of distress and needed to be delivered, she was very surprised.”

Dr Percy said there wasn’t time to complete a diagnostic ultrasound or an induction. “It wasn’t worth the delay. I explained we wouldn’t bring on labour because we didn’t know if we had 12 hours up our sleeves or how the baby would cope with contractions on top of everything else.”

When Jack was born, via emergency caesarean, it became clear he was anaemic. “He cried when he was delivered but he was very pale, so it was obvious he had lost a lot of blood.” By measuring foetal cells in Ms Dean’s blood, doctors calculated that Jack had lost about two-thirds of his blood supply.

Dr Percy said it remained unclear exactly why an unborn baby’s blood occasionally passed through the placenta to the mother. “Christine had no other symptoms and she wasn’t unwell. It can potentially happen at any stage during pregnancy, even when things appear to be going perfectly well,” Dr Percy said.

Ms Dean’s last appointment was less Mother Christine Dean and her 14-week-old son Jack than a week before the tour and she had an ultrasound booked for the following day. “It is possible it would have been too late [by the time she had the ultrasound the next day].

It was fortuitous that she mentioned she was concerned. The outcome was excellent and that is, in part, because Jack was treated appropriately with blood transfusions,” Dr Percy said.

“Cabrini has rapid access to operating theatres, exceptional anaesthetists and excellent paediatricians, which enables the hospital to respond promptly in emergency situations.” Dr Percy said doctors believed anaemia accounted for about 15 per cent of stillbirths and that movement was the only indicator they had to gauge the baby’s health. “There is usually a pattern of movement over 24 hours and if that changes, pregnant mothers should ask to be assessed,” she said.

“In Jack’s case, there will probably be no adverse effects and he will live a normal life. Babies are amazingly resilient.”

Ms Dean said 14-week-old Jack was putting on weight and doing very well. “My obstetrician was great and the midwives were fantastic but we didn’t know if he was going to make it at first,” she said. “There was a chance of brain damage.

The hardest part was waiting six days for an MRI to find out if he was alright and not knowing what to expect.”

Ms Dean said some popular websites advised that it was normal for babies to move less as their due date approached. “That is simply not true. As a first-time mum, it is difficult to know what to expect and some advice might not be relevant. Trust your instincts.”

To learn more visit Cabrini's maternity service