Sunshine Coast mum Shannon Hubbard will forever remember the Easter of 2018 as the weekend she came terrifyingly close to bleeding to death in hospital.
On the morning before Good Friday, the 25-year-old mother-of-three had a Mirena – a popular hormone-releasing IUD – inserted by a GP. She’d been excited about getting it, having tossed up the idea for many years due to the poor side-effects she’d suffered from the contraceptive pill.
Now, after the birth of her third child Harry, who was eight weeks old at the time, she thought it was the perfect moment.
The procedure went smoothly. But about 30 minutes later, as she sat down at home and poured herself a coffee, she realised she was bleeding profusely. She found herself having to change maternity pads every half hour. She knew something was wrong, but she tried to just push on with her day. It was 11am on a weekday. She had errands to run, a newborn to tend to, children to feed, and pick-ups to do for her two eldest, Aidan, five, and Sydney, three.
She had no idea that the bleeding wouldn’t stop for three entire days.
That night, at 9pm, she went to emergency with her mother. Ms Hubbard said doctors had an “aha” moment when they did a scan and saw the Mirena had been placed in the wrong position because she had a retroverted uterus – an common condition affecting a quarter of women, but one Ms Hubbard didn’t know she had. Women with a tilted uterus can safely get a Mirena inserted if angled appropriately.
Medical staff removed the Mirena, and she hoped that would be the end of it. But she said the bleeding worsened and the clots were “enormous”.
“One clot was about 8cm, bigger than my hand,” Ms Hubbard said.
“When all that was happening, I started to worry. You start thinking, ‘how much more blood can I lose’? But it was still yet to get a lot worse.”
Still, she said she wasn't feeling any pain.
"It's scary how you can be bleeding to death, and not feel any pain," she said.
Ms Hubbard went onto have three surgeries. The first was on Good Friday, a keyhole surgery to insert a balloon catheter in her uterus and put pressure on the bleed.
It appeared to have worked, until she woke up in the middle of the night saturated in blood.
"There was so much blood. It was pouring out of me in large clots and I was soaked in blood up to my bra," she said.
"I buzzed the nurse and within minutes my room was filled with doctors and nursing staff."
Blood transfusions were quickly applied and doctors were trying their best to keep Ms Hubbard from losing consciousness. Her husband Corrie arrived at the hospital, right before she went into surgery.
"I felt really cold, I didn't realise what was happening. I was struggling to breathe because I was so scared. It didn't occur to me until later how close to dying I was," she said.
"So much blood had left my body and I had this really strong urge to just go to sleep. In hindsight, I realise the urge was because I was dying."
Ms Hubbard said the second surgery was to lodge in a larger catheter balloon, with doctors hopeful this would finally stem the blood loss.
Unfortunately, back in ICU and being pumped with more than 17 bags of donated blood, she still wasn't stabilising. She was told she'd need to head yet again into the operating theatre.
"When they properly opened me up, they saw the tear in my uterus was 4cm," she said.
After the four-hour surgery to close the rupture and quell the bleeding, she was finally on the road to recovery.
What it's like to get a Mirena. Post continues after audio.
However more crushing news was still to come. One of the first things Ms Hubbard asked when she woke up was whether she would be able to have another child. She and her husband had spoken about wanting to keep growing their young family.
Her surgeon told her it was uncertain, but that even if she could fall pregnant again, it wouldn't be recommended because the chance of her uterus rupturing again was very high.
She said having that decision ripped away, all because of a botched contraceptive device, was devastating.
"I have three kids, I can't go through a high-risk pregnancy and go through a bleed like that," Ms Hubbard said.
"No one wants that choice taken away from them... Being a mum is my whole identity. It's so upsetting."
Ms Hubbard stressed that her message to women was not to never get a Mirena. She said all she wanted was for people to empower themselves to be informed on the risks.
She said that since her experience, she'd discovered the risk of perforation was higher in women who had a retroverted uterus, and in women who were breastfeeding or postpartum. She ticked all three of these boxes. The Mirena website and leaflet also draws on this.
"I'm not saying not to get the Mirena. I just wish I had all the information before I did," she said.
High-profile Sydney doctor Ginni Mansberg told Mamamia she felt nothing but "heartwrenching sadness" for Ms Hubbard.
"Nothing can undo the pain or hurt she's gone though," Dr Mansberg said.
While she lauded Ms Hubbard for wanting to share her story out of altruism, she urged women not to be too afraid to get a Mirena.
"I would hate for any woman to miss out on what is a really good contraceptive option because they got freaked out."
Watch Mamamia founder Mia Freedman go through the process of getting a Mirena in the video below.
Dr Mansberg said she had her first Mirena inserted six weeks after the birth of her daughter 21 years ago. Since then, she has had another three inserted.
"It's an incredible innovation for woman. As a doctor, it was my absolute first choice," she said.
She said with many women finding other contraceptive options unsuitable, this was "an amazing option for couples".
"It's as effective as having your tubes tied except it's fully reversible.
"It's the cheapest contraceptive, it doesn't require you to remember anything and it has the side effect of reducing periods... For most women, this is an awesome choice."
For every woman thinking they shouldn't get one, Dr Mansberg urged them to raise their concerns with their doctor and chat it through because the risks are so low - even when you are postpartum and have a tilted uterus.
Shannon Hubbard is also urging Australians to donate blood - which she credits with having helped save her. To donate, click here.