I’m reaching out to all parents-to-be to highlight the dangers of a procedure called External Cephalic Version (ECV), ECV is a procedure whereby a doctor gently manipulates your baby, anytime from 36 weeks of pregnancy, externally by hand round into a head down (cephalic) position.
When I found out my darling daughter was breech I was given a choice to either book in for a C-section or try ECV. After days and weeks of research and discussing our options with my husband, we agreed to opt for ECV, to see if our daughter would turn to aid a natural delivery.
In our minds we wanted to give her a chance.
We were informed of the risks involved by a leaflet we were given and also by the doctor who performed the ECV. Risks being that I could go into labour, placenta abruption or cord compression. All these risks I was assured were very, very small and that I would be monitored for 30 minutes after procedure, if anything went wrong they would see a dip in my daughters heart rate straight away within this time. Nothing would go wrong after the 30 minutes.
At 36+4 weeks into my perfectly healthy pregnancy I attended for ECV.
This procedure was uncomfortable – as expected – but the process seemed reasonably controlled.
After 10-15 minutes the doctor confirmed my daughter was head down and I was hooked up to the monitor – as expected – for 30 minutes.
My daughter seemed very happy on the monitor and I was discharged for home to ‘await events’.
I was so excited to be on my way to having my third natural delivery and meeting my second daughter. I had a celebratory lunch out with my best friend, a little sore, but so relieved and happy.
That night I had realised I had not felt my daughter move since the procedure.
To cut a painful heart breaking story short, our daughters death was confirmed to me at 11pm – 12 hours after being discharged earlier that day. Life as I knew it had now changed forever, my dreams, hopes and wishes for my families future had been shattered. I had to tell my poor husband by phone that our daughter had gone. Memories of that whole day forever haunt my dreams, the flash backs are like living nightmares attacking me during each day.
The next hours were a blur, a blur of tears, screams, shock, bewilderment and sounds coming from me that will forever haunt me. I couldn’t help but automatically link her death to the ECV. At the end of the day just that morning I awoke to her happy hiccupping away and moving around inside of me, how could she now be dead?
Despite my obvious reactions all the midwives and doctors assured us that Rebecca’s heart tracing was 100% normal and there were no signs of distress. Rebeccas death was just a tragic coincidence.
Our beautiful daughter Rebecca Florence was born into the world silently on the 5th March 2015 , just 2 days after arriving to attend ECV- a healthy 7lb 8oz perfect girl to add to our family. I cannot thank the two midwives (one being a friend of mine already of whom I shared my pregnancy with) for enabling me to have the most perfect, relaxing birth. The birth I planned for.
For the next 28 hours my husband and I made precious memories with Rebecca, we dressed, cuddled, kissed and rocked her. Rebecca’s grandparents and brother came to meet and hold her. Time was so important and we had to make every minute count. Many photos were taken, we also had hand/foot prints and casts taken with the help of our bereavement midwife.
There are no words to describe saying goodbye to Rebecca, leaving the hospital without her whilst other parents proudly walked out with their newborns in a carseat. We walked out with a box of memories, an empty heart and aching arms.
There are no words to describe having to come home to the house we planned to raise Rebecca in, the nursery so carefully and lovingly made ready for her. Walls still smelling of fresh paint holds a memory of decorating as a family, my children helping to paint and decorate. The draws filled with her pretty pink clothes I so carefully folded on my bump, the crisp pink sheets ready laid on her cot and moses basket, the pushchair painstakingly chosen sat waiting to be filled, teddies that will never be cuddled. All now just a painful reminder of what should’ve been.
On the 21st May we attended the same hospital for the results of Rebecca’s post mortem. The fear I had that our consultant would say it was my fault filled me with so much anxiety. I was shaking and crying, I couldn’t stop. I knew the statistics, I had done my research. I knew that around 50% of stillbirths leave no answers for the parents – tests come back inconclusive. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to hear. But to our utter shock we heard something we never thought was possible. We learnt our daughter died from an acute brain haemorrhage. The consultant looked at me and admitted this was solely caused by too much pressure applied by the doctor whilst performing ECV – The doctor pushed so hard on my daughters head that a blood vessel burst causing a bleed across her whole brain – killing her within an hour. A risk that had never been mentioned – A death that has never occurred before.
So, after all those weeks I battled with the guilt that ECV caused our baby to die, but being promised that this was not so. Yet now, confirmed by Rebecca’s post mortem, my fears were made into a reality. Our daughter did die as a result of ECV, but not from a risk we were told about, but by the pure incompetence of the doctor in charge of her care. She didn’t just die, she was killed.
I tell our story, not to scare parents, as I know from all my own research that ECV can be and in most cases are, successful. I tell our story to make all mothers-to-be aware of ALL the dangers.
Too much pressure to the head was not detailed on the leaflet or on any website we found. God only knows had we have known this we would not have even entertained the thought of ECV.
To make matters even worse, our daughter was monitored under the NHS guidelines of 30 minutes after ECV. She was indeed alive, but unknown to us all she was already unconscious. Our daughter died 1 hour after the procedure – 30 minutes after coming off the monitor.
Unbelievably it has been confirmed by our consultant that should our daughter have been monitored for an extra 30 minutes, her heart rate would have dipped, I would have had emergency c-section, pressure on her brain would have been relieved and not only would she have lived, she is likely to not have been brain damaged at all.
The extra 30 minutes would have saved my daughter.
I tell our story and share my blog to inform you all we will soon be campaigning to send a petition to Parliament, to in turn be directed to The Department Of Health to review current practices in ECVs, to extend the monitoring time before and more importantly after an ECV procedure to at least an hour. We will also be requesting a review into the data on risks of ECV and to make sure our daughters death is acknowledged in data and statistics.
We are hoping our campaign can be reach as many parents possible to make them aware of ALL dangers of ECV. So they can make a sound decision on whether they choose this procedure for their baby.
There should be more monitoring and protection for these babies whose lives are literally turned upside down.
In time we want our daughters story heard by everyone and everyone who has been given the chance for ECV.
We wish we had known the risk.
We need her story heard. Rebecca deserves justice and acknowledgment.
*Please help if you can by donating in Rebecca’s memory to Sands, Stillbirth And Neonatal Death Charity HERE
Text JustGiving FREE – RFLO50 to 70070 with your amount £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10.