Mum forced to try and 'slow down labour' to save premature son's life
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A woman who says her premature baby was almost denied medical support has spoken out about the 'postcode lottery' of premature treatment on the NHS.
The mum, who is now a hypnotherapist, said she thought she was experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, but it soon became apparent that she was in labour.
Prior to this, Asha had already had a traumatic pregnancy after an earlier miscarriage and 'appalling' treatment by the NHS, where she claims she 'wasn't really treated like a human'.
"I don't think I told my colleagues I was pregnant until I was about five and a half months and really starting to show," she admitted.
Asha said that when she arrived at hospital, she discovered the NHS guidance in her borough was to not give Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) support to babies born before 27 weeks gestation.
According to a 2016 analysis, babies born at 26 weeks have an 89 percent chance of survival.
News of this guidance came as a complete shock to Asha, who said she 'had no reason to look or check' as she didn't expect her son to be born premature.
"I went into the hospital on week 26, day six," Asha revealed. "I pretty much just [laid] on my back and stayed stationary, as a way of slowing down my labour.
"I was able to hold on to my son for an extra four and a bit days."
She said she had steroid injections during this time and had to lie on her back for so long because 'every time I got up, my contractions started.'
When Michael was eventually born, he weighed just 1 kilo and 55 grams.
Asha said that at this point her focus turned entirely to her tiny newborn, but the immediate aftermath of Michael's birth was not an easy time.
While he did get the care he needed, just two weeks later her husband had to go back to work, which meant that she had to spend the majority of time alone with her son.
The new mum could not have any other visitors because of Michael's condition.
She recalled: "I was alone from 8am to 6pm when my husband would be back, we'd then head home for dinner and come back to the hospital at 8pm until 11pm."
Even though this was difficult, Asha said she wouldn't change it for the world as she got to see Michael growing in strength each day.
The mum explained that even when Michael got out of hospital, his tricky start to life was not over, and the new parents were advised to isolate because of the norovirus.
"Michael ended up back in hospital a week later with respiratory issues," she said. "We were so cautious, we didn't let family visit us at all until the May 2015, nearly a whole six months later."
Asha credits hypnotherapy with her ability to slow down her labour, which was arguably key to her son's survival.
She said of her hypnobirthing sessions: "One of the things that we looked at was traumas that we can carry into the labour, and that [they] can have an impact on the way that we birth.
"I found that process extremely helpful because I began to understand the relationship between the mind and the body and what we think and how that influences the way we experience things."
She explained that each NHS trust in England sets its own rules when it comes to the care of premature babies, which has created a postcode lottery when it comes to treatment.
This was confirmed by the 2016 National Neonatal Audit Programme report (NNAP), which noted that when it comes to administration of premature babies, the rates at which hospitals recorded information varied between 26 percent to 70 percent.
"It was heartbreaking really," Asha added. "I remember the consultant coming down from Cebu, which is [the] special care baby unit.
"[He] said to me that, you know, had we had seen you yesterday, we may have been having a different conversation.
"But now because I had technically gone 27 weeks, they would provide the baby with the medical support he needed."
Thankfully, Asha's son is now thriving and the proud mum described Michael as 'absolutely magic' and a 'beautiful soul'.
She added: "We try to, where possible, go back once a year on his birthday to the [premature] unit to see the staff.
"If I can't do that, I always send a donation in once a year in his name.
"Because I want [Michael] to know the journey that he has had and how special he is for that. But also for him to appreciate that his life started in not such a great place."
Explaining such a premature birth differed from a normal pregnancy, Asha, who went on to have a daughter at full term, said the second time around she was able to have the support of her family.
"Sadly and ironically, I had postnatal depression with my daughter which us what prompted me to retrain as a hypnotherapist," she said.
However, this decision was also inspired by Asha's experience using hypnotherapy to delay her labour with Michael.
"[My son] knows now that I'm a hypnotherapist, and he knows now that I do what I do because of my experience of my birth with him," Asha, who runs her own practice, Mindability Hypnotherapy, said.
"I not had that hypnotherapy, I don't think I've coped because I'd had so many life events leading up to it - I didn't feel mentally strong.
"I was able to very much be in that mindset and mind frame of, 'This baby is coming.' [Hypnotherapy] allowed me to make the best of the situation."
Tyla has reached out to Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust for comment.