I Could Have Died While Giving Birth. That Scare Has Given My Life New Focus; Former Supermodel Christy Turlington on the Terrifying Complication That Struck after Her First Baby Was Born -- and Why She's Now Fighting to Save the Thousands of Women It Kills Every Year; I Know I Was Lucky Not to Become a Maternal Mortality Statistic
Byline: BONNIE ESTRIDGE
SETTLING back into plump pillows to feed her newborn baby, with actor husband edward Burns at her side, supermodel Christy turlington was in a state of elation after the birth of her first child, grace.
She had delivered naturally, without even the need for pain relief. everything had gone according to plan -- or so she thought. in fact, Christy was quickly developing a lifethreatening complication that affects an estimated one in 20 irish births.
The placenta had become embedded into her uterus wall, causing her to bleed heavily, and this potential tragedy, which happened to Christy seven years ago in a new York birthing centre, effectively reshaped the rest of her life. thanks to swift medical intervention, she survived, but many women are not so fortunate. About 1,000 deaths each day worldwide are attributed to bleeding after birth, also known as postpartum haemorrhage (PPH).
Realising just how lucky she was to have narrowly missed becoming a maternal mortality statistic, Christy -- who has been the face of Calvin Klein, Maybelline and Versace -- immersed herself in humanitarian issues, campaigning to get the best care for pregnant women in poverty-stricken circumstances who do not have the quality of care she received.
'I had a perfect pregnancy with Grace,' says Christy, 41. 'Your first child is unknown territory. You don't know how your body will deal with what's going on, so I was very careful to look after myself.
'But I was lucky because everything was straightforward. I had some cravings, mainly for avocados and lemonade. I can't rem ember how much weight I put on but it was not too much or too little, and I was lucky enough not to suffer any morning sickness. I thoroughly enjoyed the pregnancy.
'Ed and I agreed that we wanted to have our baby in a birthing centre attached to St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital near our home in New York City.
'We talked to the obstetrician there who would be with us in the event of an emergency. After giving us a tour of the centre, he said, "Don't worry -- you'll most likely never see me again." Famous last words.'
Christy had considered having a water birth but the birthing centre did not offer this because of pos sible hygiene problems. The couple were told that if they were set on this type of birth, they would have to hire a birthing pool at home. They decided against it -- which, as it turned out, was just as well.
The baby was due on October 8, 2003, four months after Christy and Ed, 42, were married. But the baby did not arrive on time. 'I was not in the least bit worried because I know everyone's different and doesn't deliver to order in the 40th week,' she says.
'You can be ready to go from 38 to 42 weeks -- the due date you are given by the doctor or midwife is only an approximation. The only thing that worried me was that if I went over 42 weeks, I may have been sent from the birthing centre to a regular medical hospital to be induced.
OR, as doctors in the U.S. are so very fond of C-sections [a Caesarean, when the baby is born via incisions in the abdomen], there was a good chance that I could be told I needed one -- and I didn't want to go down that route, either.'
But Christy's contractions began at exactly 42 weeks. The couple stayed at their New York apartment for ten hours until her waters broke and then went to the birthing centre.
After two more hours, Christy gave birth without wanting or needing any pain relief, gas or air.
Grace weighed in at 8lb 7oz and her mother says: 'She was absolutely perfect. The whole experience was perfect. I thought I could happily do it over and over again. The staff looking after me came in and checked on us every so often but I hardly noticed what was going on around me as I was totally preoccupied with my new daughter and my husband.'
It was only 45 minutes after the birth, when Christy had not delivered the placenta -- the organ that attaches the growing foetus to the uterine wall delivering blood containing nutrients and oxygen -- that her midwife became concerned. …