Helen – double uterus

Helen and George

I have never had a problem with periods, never been too heavy, too light, too painful, irregular – none of that but my gut told me that maybe things weren’t quite as they should be.  After I got married we decided that we would like to have a baby and were elated to fall pregnant six months later.  We went for a scan at seven weeks and the two nurses began talking in filipina and from their actions and mannerisms we could tell something was not right, even though they weren’t talking to me.  I remember them telling us that there was a baby in a sack with no heartbeat and an empty sack.  I was told that I had three options, to let baby pass naturally on its own, to take medication at home that would induce a miscarriage or to have an operation called a d&c to remove the dead foetus (D&C or dilation and curettage is a procedure where the uterus is expanded to remove any abnormal cells). We decided on the tablet option and we went home to await the inevitable.  

Unfortunately I was in so much pain that I ended up back in hospital and had to have a d&c – which as you can imagine was pretty hard especially as I was put on the maternity ward surrounded by pregnant women and their babies! The scan that showed that we had lost the baby had shown there to be a problem so  I was given the chance to have an MRI. Following this I was diagnosed with a uterine septum (this is where the uterus is divided by a fibrous and muscular membrane.  This forms whilst you are still a baby in your mothers womb).  The doctor told me that I could have this removed and it would increase my chances of having more children. Before embarking on any more surgeries my husband Andre and I decided to get a second opinion.  The second doctor gave me a completely different diagnosis of uterine didelphys which also develops en utero so I have two cervixes and two uteruses, one of the uteruses is smaller then the other which is probably the reason for my miscarriage – the baby had formed in that one rather then the larger. It is also possible to fall pregnant in both uterus. Any treatment that exists does have a high risk of impacting your future fertility so we decided to leave things as they were and just monitor any future pregnancies.

Diagram courtesy of Pathology Learning Centre at the University of Cape Town

When we were ready we began to try again and when nothing happened we went back to the same doctor and I was given an injection when I was ovulating to help us along.  That was all it took – I became pregnant with George on the next cycle.  I have to be honest and say I had no morning sickness, it was all pretty easy as I felt really good, even though the worry was always there.  Women with uterine didelphys have a higher risk of stillbirth and miscarriage which is primarily due to the fact that there is not always as much room for the baby to grow.  With that in mind I was given a body builders rate of protein bars to eat to make George gain weight and as well as daily aspirin injections to help boost the blood supply to womb.

A caesarean section is the safest way to deliver a baby in this situation, and as George was  also breech with barely any room to turn that was the only option so on the 22 May, I arrived at the hospital for the birth of our baby boy.  Nobody had told us – we assumed it was all taken care of but we had no recovery room booked, that had to be done separately to the operation booking!  So on a day with a little bit of pressure in it we had to pay for the only available room – a suite! The operation went well, apart from the fact that Andre was not allowed in with me.  For reasons that were never really explained to us I was sedated after his birth and did not come round for about three hours.  I had asked for skin to skin as I knew it was important to establish breastfeeding but instead my son was whisked away (my mum and Andre saw him as the nurses went past with him but that was it!) My son spent the first three hours of his life on his own in an incubator with no one to cuddle him – three hours all alone in this new world.  When I was woken up from the sedation, I already felt a disconnect from my son.  He wasn’t there. He wasn’t with me. He wasn’t in the room when I got there from recovery. 

I tried with the breastfeeding but I had had no support beforehand and did not have a clue what to do, I also think the fact I had had no immediate skin to skin after birth or seen him for three hours impacted our success hugely. Despite the fact that he was latching on, he was getting too tired so he was not getting enough milk which meant that his blood sugars started to dip.  The nurses asked if they could supplement him with formula which I agreed to, not knowing that it would then impact my supply.  The doctor who came to help me feed him was not very happy with for doing this and when she was showing me what to do – she grabbed my breast and tried to shove it in my babys mouth.  The whole thing left me with the distinct impression that none of the hospital staff had been properly trained in breastfeeding support. I decided to express and was able to feed George my breast milk for a few months through a bottle.

The thing that I want everyone reading this to take away is the message to please get yourself checked out.  I had no real symptoms (some women can have really heavy periods, some can have two periods a month) so any checks will identify the problem.  If you have a gut feeling that something is not what it should be then get it looked at – even if the books, internet, friends, family all say its normal.  If one person reads this, gets themselves checked out and is then saved themselves the  pain of a miscarriage then this has been worth it.