Warning: This article contains graphic imagery
A pregnant woman narrowly avoided death last week after her unborn child “kicked” through her uterine wall. Fortunately, the mother and newborn baby both survived this exceptional mishap.
The woman, known under the pseudonym Zhang, was in her 35th week of pregnancy. She was sent to Peking University Shenzhen Hospital in China on the morning of October 2 after suffering from severe stomach pain, the hospital reported in a statement on its official Weixin social media page. Along with her intensifying abdominal pain, Zhang's doctors also noted problems with her blood pressure, pulse, and breathing.
Zhang had undergone a surgery in 2016, just a few months before becoming pregnant, to remove fibroids from her uterus. These are non-cancerous growths that can grow along the wall of the uterus. After finding this in her medical history, the doctors promptly carried out an ultrasound scan where they diagnosed a “high degree of suspected scar rupture of the uterus”.
After making this diagnosis, it took doctors just 5 minutes to rush Zhang into the operating theatre. On operating, they found the fetus’ legs poking into her abdominal cavity through a 7-centimeter (2.7-inch) tear in her uterus.
The doctors said the woman's previous surgery left scar tissue in her womb, leaving the uterus wall more at risk of breaking. This is known as a rupture pregnancy. These are thought to affect less than 5 in 1,000 pregnant women who have previously had a Caesarean section, with that risk being notably lower for first-time pregnancies and for women who haven't previously had a Caesarean section. It’s even rare to experience this after having surgery for uterine fibroids.
In this case, both mother and child were at a huge risk of infection. Thankfully, doctors managed to deliver the baby with complete success. Zhang and her baby are now said to be happy and recovering well.
This phenomenon is exceptionally rare but not totally unheard of. Last year, a case study told a similar story about a 33-year old woman in the US whose unborn child's legs poked through a 2.5-centimeter (1-inch) long rupture in her uterine wall. Six months after the surgery, her doctors reported that she and her baby boy were perfectly fit and healthy, despite his unusual start to life.