This experience made us and our son stronger

Shivani Vyas, 33, delivered her son at 29 weeks after a traumatic pregnancy. Shivani now lives in the UAE with husband Kiran, 36, and son Devyan, 3.

After a procedure to remove abnormal cervical cells, I was told to start trying for a family early. We did but nothing happened, so were referred for IVF and when the first round was successful I was overjoyed.

Early bleeding

At 8 weeks I went to the toilet at work and there was blood everywhere. I freaked out and assumed I was having a miscarriage. I went straight to Barnet Hospital where a pregnancy test still showed positive. The EPU was closed so I waited 5 hours for a scan which was horrible but I tried to keep positive and kept talking to my baby.

My husband saw the heartbeat before me and we were overjoyed. They said a haematoma, blood between the womb and lining, was causing the bleeding but baby was fine and I could go home where I put myself on bed rest.

On Mother’s Day, at 14 weeks, I went to the toilet and a big blood clot came out the size of a tennis ball, I was terrified.

At hospital they checked my cervix which was closed but when she removed the speculum another big clot came away. Still, I was cleaned up and sent home again.

Every time I went to the toilet through my pregnancy there was spotting but it was the big bleeds that were frightening. I had another at 16 weeks when I’d called into a shop to use the toilet and found blood everywhere. At Barnet an internal showed a low-lying placenta which could be the cause but I was told to go home and take it easy.

Hospital admission

At 20 weeks, on 1 July, I bled again and was admitted to hospital on complete bed rest. My head was all over the place, I just remember the NICU team explaining that, if I delivered, it wouldn’t be a viable pregnancy, they would not resuscitate under 24 weeks. I had to keep my baby inside for at least 4 more weeks, I started praying.

At 22 weeks I went to the toilet, felt a big gush of blood and screamed. Nurses got me on to the bed and called the emergency labour unit but I was freaking out – it was too early. It just happened that another woman expecting twins was more of an emergency, so I had to wait and by the next morning when a doctor checked the bleeding had stopped.

The next major bleed was at 23+5. I was so close to that 24 weeks, and the doctor started getting me ready for delivery.

My tummy was getting tighter and baby wasn’t moving much so they got me ready for a C-section but, all of a sudden, my little hero started kicking so they waited… The bleeding stopped and the panic was over but they decided to send me to Queen Charlotte’s which had a higher level of neonatal intensive care.

It was a horrible experience. I was taken to the delivery unit that night then moved to the labour ward in the morning because I was feeling better but, as I walked back from the toilet, blood started pouring. They couldn’t take me to the delivery unit on the bed but I couldn’t walk so they found a wheelchair. 

I was in and out of consciousness, but I remember they struggled to get the cannula in and I ended up with 11 of them in my arms and legs. They wouldn’t let me eat for 2 days in case I needed an emergency C-section but I was so weak. The doctor told my husband they couldn’t deliver because they didn’t have a NICU bed. On the second evening an amazing midwife came to see me and, when my husband explained our situation, she got me some glucose water and removed all the cannulas and put me on a single drip.

The next morning the doctor told me I was being transferred to UCLH because I was not in Queen Charlotte’s catchment area. When I got there I wasn’t bleeding and they checked everything and found baby was fine but later I had another bleed so they prepared me again for a C-section before changing their mind when the bleeding stopped.

Being discharged

I had no bleeds from week 25 to week 27 so they said they were discharging me, but I was worried and refused to leave until they’d done all the tests possible.

At 27+3 I went to a cousin’s wedding reception, she works at Barnet so we joked that if I went into labour there was a whole team there to deliver. I did start bleeding but they took me to Northwick Park which was nearer. The bleeding stopped so I discharged myself and went to Barnet the following day where they checked me and sent me home.

On 5 August I had a bad bleed in the early hours of the morning so called for an ambulance to Barnet where they said baby was coming but, again, the bleeding stopped.

On 11 August baby wasn’t moving much and I started bleeding badly again. I was put on a monitor and given magnesium and steroids for baby’s development then, the next morning at 9.45am, I delivered our baby boy.

In the NICU

He was taken straight to NICU and I went to recovery where a midwife told me to start expressing milk. I didn’t expect there to be any but I produced 10ml so quickly they froze some.

At 3pm they took me to see him. He was gorgeous but it was scary, so many wires and so tiny that I could see his veins through his skin.

The first 10 days were critical and, unfortunately, they didn’t manage to get a line into his foot until day 9 so, until then, he was fed through his umbilical cord.

We did a lot of kangaroo care (skin-to-skin), and I’d spend most days with him with my husband and in-laws taking shifts. This meant that between us, we did every single feed and nappy change.

I started to get post-natal depression because I wasn’t with him all the time but, by the end of August, we could be in a room together. Although he suffered reflux he was putting on weight until one week he lost 5g, a lot when you’re only 975g at birth, but a week later he’d put it on again. It was like that, good days and bad days, but on 26 September we finally took him home.

Bringing him home

That first night without the nurses and machines was scary and I didn’t sleep at all, but we settled in and had regular checks and appointments at the hospital to monitor his development, weight, Vitamin D levels and eyes.

If I could go back, if I could’ve had the perfect pregnancy, I don’t know that I would because it’s made us and our son stronger. He’s such a character, such a determined little boy.

The experience has meant I don’t want more children but I feel very blessed with the one we have. Not everyone has that happy ending. I prayed when we had IVF and God gave me a miracle.

Vyas family bathing baby Devyan
Shivani and Kiran caring for Devyan in hospital

More support and information

Premature birth is when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Most of the time, premature births happen on their own and often doctors will not be able to find out why. 

If you have any concerns about premature labour or birth, you can talk to the Tommy's midwives on our pregnancy line. Call 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email [email protected].

Find out more about premature birth.

Your pregnancy symptoms

In many cases, pregnancy symptoms can be treated easily and will not lead to a serious complication. But sometimes they are signs of something more serious. 

Tell your midwife or doctor if you have any symptoms that you're worried about. Do not worry if you've talked about it before and don't be concerned about whether you're wasting anyone's time. This is your pregnancy and it's important to trust your own instincts.

Maternity care is still essential during the coronavirus pandemic and services are still running. If you have any concerns about your pregnancy call your GP, midwife, nearest early pregnancy unit or maternity unit.