Sheila first noticed damp patches in her underwear when she was just four months pregnant. Her GP put this down to a weak bladder when in fact Sheila had suffered PPROM (pre-term premature rupture of membranes) just 16 weeks into her pregnancy.
“At first it was just tiny amounts, but a few days later I woke up in the night to find my pyjama bottoms were wet through.”
It wasn’t until her 20 week scan at Hillingdon Hospital in Uxbridge, Middlesex that her condition was first picked up.
“They asked me if I had noticed any waters leaking and I told them about the damp patches. I was told I had suffered PPROM – pre-term premature rupture of membranes – which I'd never even heard of.”
Sheila’s condition made it likely that her baby might not survive. In the following weeks she was monitored closely by doctors and received special care including steroid injections to boost her baby’s growth.
It was at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea hospital’s specially equipped neonatal unit that baby Rayann was born at just 28 weeks old. He was delivered by Caesarean section and weighed just 2lb.
He was born with chronic lung disease and needed several blood transfusions as well as surgery. After 5 months in hospital baby Rayann was finally well enough to go home.
If you think your waters are breaking early it is important that you seek medical advice immediately as you may be at risk of premature labour or infection
If your waters break early the risks and treatment will depend on the stage of pregnancy you are at. If you are at risk of going into labour prematurely – then the health risks for the baby are greater the younger they are. If you waters break early but you do not go into labour then the risk of infection is high. Your health professional will asses your situation and explain the various risks and treatment options available to you.
Our midwife Kate explains:
"When waters break early in pregnancy it can prove a really emotionally challenging time for parents and often choices that need to be made are extremely difficult. In this situation it is so important for health professionals to ensure parents have access to, and understand all the information available as well as being given sufficient support.”
Women whose waters break early are at higher risk of premature birth. Over 80% of women who have PPROM deliver their baby with seven days of their waters breaking. Both infection in the vagina and heavy smoking have been linked to PPROM. Tommy’s funds research into finding ways to prevent or delay early labour and premature birth. Tommy's clinic in St Thomas' Hospital in London is for women who are at high risk of having a premature baby. The majority of them go on to have a full term pregnancy under our care.
This unique Preterm Surveillance Clinic – funded by Tommy's as part of our research in St Thomas' Hospital, London, has won an NHS Innovation Challenge Prize, for its success in reducing the number of premature births in South East London.
Tommy’s prematurity research centre in London is based at St Thomas’ Hospital, where the charity first began. Opened in 1995, it is the first Maternal and Fetal Research Unit in the UK.
We've kept the eye mask he wore, to remind us of everything he made it through.
"I hope our story gives couples some reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel because after 9 miscarriages we have our miracle on the way"
Born weighing less than a bag of sugar over twenty-one years ago, Harriet has come a long way to today, in her final year of University, writing her dissertation on premature infants.