My upside-down baby: Mother spends ten weeks, 24 hours a day, in a tilted bed to avoid miscarriage
After suffering two miscarriages Donna Kelly was desperately worried that her next pregnancy would end the same way.
So when doctors told her five months into the pregnancy that she was at high risk of losing another baby, she readily agreed to their radical solution.
For ten weeks, 24 hours a day, she lay “upside down” in a hospital bed until she gave birth to a healthy daughter, Amelia.
Defying gravity: Donna Kelly demonstrates how she spent three months lying with her feet above her head while pregnant
Ultrasound scans had shown that damage to the neck of her womb, or cervix, meant the baby had dropped too far down.
To alter the force of gravity on her cervix, the 29-year-old lay in a bed tilted at a 45 degree angle with her feet pointing upwards.
She had to eat, read and watch television in the bed at University Hospital in Coventry, only getting out of it to go to the toilet.
Mrs Kelly, who gave up work as a gynaecology nurse following the birth of her son Joshua four years ago, said: “I was surprised when she told me to lie in bed at a tilt but I was ready to give anything a try.
“It made me feel sick at first but after a couple of days my body adjusted and I soon got used to it.
“I propped myself up with pillows and the barrier round the bed kept me from falling out.
“I”d even have to stay in the bed to eat by rolling on to my side, but I”d always have a dead arm by the end. It could be boring at times but I knew it wouldn’t be as painful as losing my baby.”
Thriving: Mrs Kelly with her daughter Amelia now aged 17 weeks
Doctors told Mrs Kelly and husband Mark, 32, a Sky television installation engineer, that Joshua”s natural birth may have permanently weakened her cervix. They think this caused her to miscarry in January 2009 at 23 weeks and again in May 2010 at 19 weeks.
This time Mrs Kelly was given cream containing the hormone progesterone to help strengthen the cervix and prevent infection.
She also underwent a cervical stitch at 14 weeks to strengthen the neck of the womb but by 23 weeks the cervix had re-opened.
Professor Siobhan Quenby, an expert in recurrent miscarriages, told the couple the only chance of preventing another miscarriage was to reduce the pressure on Mrs Kelly”s cervix by making her lie at a tilt.
While his mother was in hospital, Joshua went to nursery but visited her each evening with his father. Mrs Kelly gave birth to 4lb 15oz Amelia by emergency caesarean in August after her waters broke six weeks early.
Amelia spent two weeks in an incubator in intensive care before the couple were allowed to take her to their Coventry home, where she is now thriving.
Mrs Kelly added: “The other day Joshua said to me, “Mummy, I love being a big brother.” For me that makes it all worthwhile.”
Professor Quenby said there were several causes of cervical weakness, including damage from previous births and miscarriages, smear tests and treatment for pre-cancerous cells. “Donna”s cervical weakness was bad as you can get,” she added. “It”s the weakest I”ve ever dealt with.
“The concept of keeping a woman at a tilt is relatively simple – it”s basic physics – and while it may sound strange, it is very effective.”
Professor Quenby said it costs around 300 per day to keep a patient in hospital, but the cost of caring for a premature baby in hospital is around 2,000 per day.