It's Amazing We Lived! A Century Ago, These Women Would Almost Certainly Have Died. but Thanks to Great Strides in Health Care and Medical Research, More and More Women Are Conquering Diseases and Illnesses Which Would Have Proved Fatal for Their Grandmothers

Article excerpt

Katie... Toxic shock syndrome

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) was first recognised 32 years ago. It's caused by common bacteria living on skin and in the noses, armpits, groins and vaginas of a third of all people. There are 40 cases a year in the UK - half of which occur as a result of tampon use. But anyone can get TSS following a burn, boil, bite or infection.

Two to three people each year die from TSS but thanks to medical advances, Katie Gotham, 16, from Guildford, Surrey, survived.

"Had I fallen ill with TSS 32 years ago, no one would have known what was wrong with me. I'd have suffered bloodpoisoning, my organs would have shut down and I'd have died. That's scary.

"I developed TSS in December 2008 on holiday in Spain. I had my period and was using tampons. I started being sick, had flu-like symptoms, a rash and I kept fainting.

"I was rushed to intensive care because my kidneys and liver were shutting down. I recovered, but was ill again with my next two periods. My temperature shot up, I was sick, my legs ached and my blood pressure dropped.

"I was sent to hospital where doctors asked if I was using tampons.

They diagnosed TSS and gave me antibiotics.

"I didn't use tampons incorrectly and no one really knows why they can lead to TSS in some women.

"I often wonder how many people have died from TSS without even knowing what it is. I know I'm lucky not to be one of them."

Una... Pre-eclampsia

Years ago, as many as 40% of women died from complications during pregnancy or childbirth in the days of more primitive health care. Now, just eight in 100,000 women die in childbirth.

Una Garratt, 43, a mental health trainer from Turvey, Bedfordshire, would have died without antenatal care while expecting daughter Charlotte, nine years ago. Una, who has two other children - Emily, 15 and Sophie, seven - developed preeclampsia.

The condition affects a tenth of pregnancies and claims three to five lives a year. Its causes were discovered in the 60s.

"Everything was fine in my early pregnancy. But at 28 weeks my blood pressure had risen. A urine test detected protein which is an indicator of preeclampsia and I was admitted to hospital. At 35 weeks I started to feel sick and I had a Caesarean.

"Charlotte was taken to the special care baby unit. Had I not been given steroids while pregnant to mature her lungs, she'd have been in an even worse state. I was gravely ill and at risk of stroke or heart failure. I feel forever grateful I survived.

"In a the past, pre-eclampsia would have killed me. Leaving Charlotte, Sophie and Emily without a mum is just too hideous to contemplate. Just 50 years ago, without the benefit of such detailed antenatal care, women would have had no idea they even had high blood pressure until it was too late. How far we've come."

Fabienne... Ectopic pregnancy

Five women die every year from ectopic pregnancy, a condition that occurs when an embryo implants outside the womb. But the number of deaths used to be far higher. Without early pregnancy testing kits, women wouldn't realise they were expecting. The use of modern scanning machines means the problem can be diagnosed easily.

Teacher Fabienne Burns, 39, who lives in Barnet, Hertfordshire, with partner, Mehmet Hasan, 49, three-yearold daughter Ciella and stepson, Kaya, 17, received life-saving treatment.

"I woke early one morning in July 2005 with a pain in my stomach that got steadily worse until I was sweating, sick and almost passing out. I was just over eight weeks' pregnant.

"At the hospital they suspected ectopic pregnancy and I was given a scan that revealed the embryo had implanted in one of my Fallopian tubes.

"They needed to operate to remove the embryo and my Fallopian tube. I was hysterical with fear. …