Showing posts tagged with: 'childbed fever'


Long delivery

Fri 30th May 2008 by Ben Palmer.

They've been a long time in the making, but the poster and leaflet that we've been working on are now ready.

They have been reviewed and amended by our new panel of medical advisors, to whom I am extremely grateful, and I hope that they will help to spread the awareness message about childbed fever.

The downloads are on the Poster & Leaflet page, or individually here:

Poster PDF (0.9MB)

Leaflet PDF (1.16MB)

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Misconception that matters

Mon 12th May 2008 by Ben Palmer.

When I picked Emily up from school this afternoon (and I can hear what she'd say to me here, "It's not school, Daddy, it's NURSERY school") I said hello to the head teacher as Emily came rushing out.

"I saved this for you," she said, "It's missing a bit but I thought you'd be interested." She handed me a pulled out spread from a newspaper.

When I got home I started reading it. It was an article from Times2 last week, Save the independent midwife, along with a personal tale, right at the end in the on-line version, written by a mother, Alex O'Connell, who had had a horrific first delivery, and had opted for a home birth the next time, assisted by an independent midwife.

I finished reading it on-line and something jumped out at me. It was the reference to Alex's post-puerperal fever after discharge from hospital first time. How lucky she was that it only took two doses of antibiotics to shift it, and how wrong she was to assume that the lack of infection second time around was because she was far from a maternity ward.

Yes you can acquire an infection in hospital - MRSA, C diff etc - but puerperal/childbed fever is not a hospital acquired infection - it is caused by community bacteria, and nobody is safe. I'm going to go on and on saying it. I'm even going to shout it. NOBODY IS SAFE FROM THIS HORRIFIC DISEASE, whether they deliver in hospital, a birthing centre, their own bedroom or the back of a taxi.

It doesn't matter whether they are young, old, fat or thin. It  doesn't matter if the midwife is independent or NHS employed, it just matters that the symptoms are spotted in time to give you your antibiotics.

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Headed paper

Sat 10th May 2008 by Ben Palmer.

I had a letter from my MP yesterday. I'd had a meeting with her a while ago, and we've exchanged several letters and emails. She, along with other parliamentarians, is committed to helping Jessica's Trust, and wrote to Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary to ask for a meeting. His reply was attached to the letter.

Although he didn't say yes or no to the meeting, his letter was encouraging: pointing out that I had already met with the National Clinical Lead for Maternal Health and Maternity Services, had had a productive meeting and have an open line of dialogue.

What was really encouraging to hear, on headed paper, was that "We value highly the work of Jessica's Trust" and that he hopes that the Trust will "play an even greater role in reducing the number of deaths from [childbed fever]" based on the existing relationship with the Department of Health.

I'm encouraged as this is a much more positive governmental acceptance of the need to do something about childbed fever than I have had to date. I believe that there is the desire for change, even if it is taking Jessica's name to achieve.

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Don't test, tell

Thu 1st May 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Back in January, I wrote in the blog about Screening for Group A Strep (GAS). Since then I have thought about it a lot, and discussed it with various medical professionals.

I am convinced it is a worthless exercise. Worse than that, it could be dangerous. Why?

A woman can be colonised with GAS at any point in her life*, let alone in her pregnancy or puerperum, so all a test would do is say that she does or does not carry the bacteria at this very point in time.

What if she was colonised the day after the test? She would have been given a false sense of security by a negative result. If GAS was only introduced some time after delivery, and it caused a genital tract sepsis, the last thing on her mind would be childbed fever, because she was 'clear'.

It is of far more value to skip the testing and instead take every woman's temperature and pulse regularly in the days after delivery. Then tell her about the condition and how to recognise that she might have it. She must also be told of the vital importance of being seen, swabbed and treated if infection is suspected, before her health and her life are in danger.

* up to 30% of us may be carrying Group A Strep in our throats or on our skin

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A chilling hot lunch

Tue 22nd Apr 2008 by Ben Palmer.

I had lunch with two of Jessica's girlfriends today. Soup and garlic bread in the glorious sunshine, and really nice to see them both.

We were talking about Jessica and her trust, and in the course of the conversation I fetched a copy of Saving Mother's Lives 2003-2005 to illustrate a point. Then something I had looked at again and again jumped out and smacked me in the face.

In those three years, the leading direct cause of maternal death was thrombosis/thromboembolism with 41 deaths. The second highest place was tied, 18 deaths apiece, between pre-eclampsia/eclampsia and Genital Tract Sepsis. (=childbed fever/puerperal fever/puerperal sepsis)

Why is it that pregnant mothers are told about, warned about and aware of pre-eclampsia (some antenatal classes are especially good at letting you know it's a danger, even if you're not totally sure what it is) but nobody tells you about childbed fever, even though it is just as much of a danger?

After an involuntary shiver, they agreed to join me in trying to change that.

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Inquiry into deaths of three new mothers - Telegraph

Mon 14th Apr 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Inquiry into deaths of three new mothers - Telegraph

Necrotising Fasciitis is most commonly caused by Group A Streptococcus, which is also the most common cause of Childbed Fever. It's a pity the article doesn't make the link and say that's what it is, but 'flesh-eating bacteria' sounds nastier, doesn't it?

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NICE delivery?

Thu 20th Mar 2008 by Ben Palmer.

I've just read a good post on Mother at Large's blog about childbirth, pain and expectations about delivery.

It does sometimes seem as though birth has become a bit too competitive, and often I also hear talk of how quickly a mother was discharged, as though speed of discharge is a measure of success. What we shouldn't forget is that, while now comparitively safe, childbirth is a trauma and the historical and natural risks are still as present as ever they were.

While an extended hospital stay is not on anybody's wish list or birth plan, there is merit of staying in for days, rather than hours - as used to be the case. How better to pick up on the warning signs of a complication such as infection than by regular observations by a midwife?

But on that subject, all too often I hear that regular postpartum observations are no longer routine, unless infection is suspected - indeed the NICE guideline on Routine postnatal care of women and their babies [PDF] even says as much for some reason.

This is madness: how on earth is an infection going to be suspected early enough unless it's being checked for?

Another postnatal phrase I hear a lot of is: 'Mother and babe both doing well'. It's what everyone wants to hear and illustrates the feeling of joy and euphoria of a new and safe delivery, but a caveat: Childbed Fever can hit anybody at anytime - even weeks after a trouble free delivery.

I wouldn't want to cast a cloud over anybody's happiness, but never be complacent - please keep an eye on the symptoms, even if your midwife isn't.

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Why, Daddy?

Sun 16th Mar 2008 by Ben Palmer.

We just had a lovely weekend away, and drove back to London, in heavy traffic, in time for tea. The trouble was, Emily and Harry were so worn out from all the fun that they slept most of the way back.

Roll on to bedtime, and Harry can't sleep. An hour of requests for a cup of milk, a footstep here etc etc, and suddenly it became a little sob from the top of the stairs, so I went up.

There he was, sitting on the step with his two photographs of Jessica laid neatly side by side; the ones that travel with him, and always sit beside his bed.

'I just want to talk about Mummy.'

'OK darling, of course we can. What would you like to talk about?'

'Why did Mummy die? What is an infection anyway? Why do people die too early? How did the doctors know she was dead?'

I tried to field the questions as best I could, in suitable language, without causing extra alarm, worry or distress, but still they came.

'What medicine did they give Mummy? How did she actually die? What other question would be a good one to ask, Daddy?'

I can't lie to Harry about what happened, he has a right to know. But not at six years old, surely? I can't even tell him that all of the answers lie in four lever arch files, each three inches or so thick, full of medical notes, charts, statements, legal and medical analysis and argument - he'll want to read it, and then he'll get angry when I don't let him.

All I can do is promise him that the doctors did everything they could to save his Mummy, after she was admitted to A&E and once in Intensive Care. This reassures him, even if his curiousity isn't satisfied.

One day he's going to ask about before she went to hospital, and he's going to be so angry.

'There's nothing we can do to bring Mummy back, Harry, but that doesn't mean we have to like it.'

'What's Jessica's trust, Daddy?'

'It's Daddy's work - trying to stop other Mummy's dying like yours did.'

'What is child fever, anyway?'

'Childbed Fever? It's what Mummy died of. It's an infection that can kill you after you have a baby.'

'Why Daddy? Why did God want Mummy to die? He controls everything, so he shouldn't have let her die.'

I wish I knew all the answers, like Harry expects me to.

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An Inspector Calls

Thu 28th Feb 2008 by Ben Palmer.

poster_thumbnail.pngI had a visit from the VAT Inspector this morning. I got a bit behind with my VAT Returns and they wanted to make sure I wasn't up to no good.

Business has been slow to non existant for the past few years, so it didn't take long and we soon started to talk about what I was doing now. I showed her the first proof of Friday's Child, explained Jessica's trust and gave her a card.

"Oh, I heard about childbed fever on Woman's Hour," she told me, both shocked to hear that Jessica was a victim, fully understanding about my change of direction, and also impressed by my home printed business card.

"Can I have another card, to give to my friend? And do you have a poster? I could ask in the office if I can put one up on the notice board."

I don't have a current poster, the only one I've ever designed was promoting the now closed petition to the Prime Minister, so I've spent the rest of the day designing a new one.

I think it's clear what the message is, I hope it's suitably targetted at Mums, but before I press print, I'd love to know what you think of it. Please leave your thoughts, good or not-so-good, and suggestions in the comments below.

If you have somewhere that you can pin one up I'd love to hear from you as well. When it's fully refined I can make a hi res download available. If anyone knows a friendly (read 'low cost') printer as well, I might get some properly done.

Download the new poster [Link removed  7/3/08 pending redesign]
Update 30/05/08: The new poster and leaflet are now on-line

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Friday's Child is nearly ready

Wed 23rd Jan 2008 by Ben Palmer.

Thanks to Virgin Books and my hard-working editor, Friday's Child is almost finished. It'll be ready to print in a few weeks, in time for the June launch. It's got an updated cover as well, and for the first time I've seen the full book jacket - now I can imagine it on the bookshelves. I hope the reviewers are kind, though - it's my life, my inner thoughts and feelings. I also hope that it changes people's understanding of this cruel, painful killer.

From the jacket:

fridays_child_final_cover.jpg'In the summer of 2004, Ben Palmer was overjoyed when his wife Jessica gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Emily was their first daughter and a little sister for their three-year-old son Harry. They had everything they had ever wanted.

Six days later, Jessica died of childbed fever, an archaic illness that causes blood poisoning, a condition that can be easily detected and prevented.

This is Ben’s raw, moving account of dealing with his grief while raising two small children as a single parent, and of how he successfully sued the NHS for negligence. As he struggles to comprehend his loss and to care for their two young children, he is overwhelmed by shock, anger, despair and guilt, before finally finding hope in the future, thanks to the love and support of his friends and family.

A story of living with a cruel and needless loss, this is also a story of two people who loved each other for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; till death tragically parted them.'

Friday's Child is now available to order from Amazon

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What is childbed fever?

Childbed fever is an infection of the womb in new mothers which can lead to septicaemia. If left untreated infection will cause organ failure and death - even in young, fit mothers.
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What are the symptoms? »
Childbed fever: the facts »

What's the aim?

We would like every parent and every midwife and doctor to know that childbed fever is still a very real threat to a mother's life.
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Can I help? »

Who is Jessica?

Jessica Palmer was a Mum. She died in June 2004, at 34 years old, of childbed fever caused by Group A streptococcus.
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This website contains general information about childbed fever. The information is not complete or comprehensive. You should not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about childbed fever (or any other medical condition) you should consult your doctor or other healthcare provider; and if you think you may be suffering from childbed fever (or any other medical condition) you should seek immediately medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.
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