Sepsis can strike at any time – and can be at its most dangerous during pregnancy. Samantha Sinclair became pregnant in the summer of 2016 and, at six weeks, started suffering from severe nausea and vomiting, a condition known as hyperemesis gravadarum. Shortly afterwards she was diagnosed with sepsis.
Samantha, from Hogganfield, Glasgow, was 25 when she learned she was pregnant. Because of the condition she had to make repeated visits to the city’s Princess Royal Maternity Hospital, was bed-bound for about two months and was sick up to 20 times a day.
Adding to her stress was the discovery that she had a heart shaped womb which can cause complications during pregnancy such as premature labour, a miscarriage or the need for a Caesarean section.
Samantha moved back into her mum’s house so she could look after her while her fiancé was at work. But despite the medical care she was receiving, she became ill with sepsis.
She said: “I suffered from urine infections from the very beginning of pregnancy. By the time I was 30 weeks pregnant I’d had six urine infections and the sixth one caused the sepsis. I had become resistant to all the antibiotics the doctors had given me over the seven months of being pregnant.”
Like many people, Samantha had heard of sepsis but didn’t know its symptoms or how dangerous it was. She remembers exactly the days leading up to the diagnosis.
“It was the morning of Monday, 18th December, and my fiancé had stayed over with me. I woke up not feeling right – I had not felt right for a few days, just felt really strange, had achy legs and was not urinating much so was convinced I still had a urine infection and maybe needed another course of antibiotics.”
“I managed to have a sandwich that morning and almost immediately had to vomit. I thought my hyperemesis gravadarum was making its way back even though it never totally left me as I still had the nausea and indigestion most days.”
“I was wrong. I started feeling hot then cold and as I went back to bed felt a little disoriented and felt myself going into a sleep. I think I was asleep for about 10 minutes when my mum then came into the room and I told her how I felt. She was worried and said my skin looked a little red and mottled on my face. My fiancé and mum said that I should go to hospital to get checked out, but I didn’t want to make a fuss.”
Samantha checked her blood pressure and urine with equipment she had at home and was surprised to find her blood pressure was low. She was going to delay going to hospital but, thankfully, didn’t.
“My dad drove me to the hospital where they took bloods and discovered the baby’s heartbeat was sky high. The hospital staff were worried in case it didn’t go down and I was given a steroid injection in case I had to get an emergency C-section at 30 weeks pregnant.”
Then followed the sepsis diagnosis which was first revealed to her when she overheard a nurse through the curtain at her bed. Thankfully, the baby’s heartbeat returned to normal and after three nights in hospital, hooked up to drips, Samantha got home on December 21. However, she started to feel unwell again on Christmas Day and had to go back to hospital on Boxing Day for more checks.
After a scan at 32 weeks, Samantha was advised it had shown her baby had stopped growing which worried her both because of her womb shape and because of the sepsis. The baby started growing again but at 38 weeks Samantha had to have a C-section and Mason, weighing five pounds seven ounces, was born. Though he had a difficult start and initially had to be tube fed, he’s now almost three and a healthy little boy.
Samantha said: “Nearly three years have gone by but I feel that mentally and even physically I’ve not quite got over my ordeal of being pregnant and having sepsis.”
She has an important message for anyone who doesn’t know the symptoms of sepsis and the key to surviving the illness: “What I now know is that I will always go to the hospital straight away and if something doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. I’m glad that I now know the signs and symptoms of sepsis as I still get urine infections regularly. I have survived sepsis.”