pregnancy

To the men of Australia: Pregnant women need you to do one important thing.

Australian Red Cross Blood Service
Thanks to our brand partner, Australian Red Cross Blood Service

This may surprise you. One in five women will need blood or blood-related products throughout birth or pregnancy.

This is the alarming statistic at the heart of a new campaign from the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. As a mother myself, I was shocked to learn that the number was so high. But, the message behind She Gives Birth, You Give Blood is that we can do something about it.

Magdalena Roze, journalist, author and presenter, is the ambassador for the campaign, which encourages partners, families and friends of pregnant women to donate blood to assist with pregnancy conditions.

I remember so clearly how helpless my husband felt during my pregnancy, wanting to be able to help in some way. Roze, a mum of one and currently pregnant with her second child, agrees.

“The pregnancy experience can be quite isolating and confusing for a lot of partners as they can’t know what a woman is going through,” Roze tells Mamamia.

“While they want to do something, they can feel quite helpless. While pregnancy is the most magical, surreal and beautiful thing, they also see us suffering through nausea, discomfort, sleeplessness, anxiety, hormonal imbalances…the list goes on!”

According to the most recent ABS data, there were 311,104 births in 2016. Out of that total, 17 percent – or 52,877 women – received Anti-D injections. In addition, 1.7 percent of these women received transfusions during birth, equating to 5288 women.

With the number at one in five, there’s every chance that you, a partner or friend needed blood during pregnancy. It’s far more common than you may think.

And, often there’s no way of knowing when it will be needed. For as much as a woman and her partner can prepare and read, there’s no way of anticipating each step of the process.

As Roze says, “It’s about surrendering to whatever your journey may be. I have friends who have had amazing home births and others with war stories, thankfully all with happy, healthy babies. But I know my mum and some of my friends needed blood during birth.”

Roze chose to become an ambassador for the program because it’s a cause close to her heart.

“Blood loss is the leading cause of pregnancy-related death, so I want to do what I can to help raise awareness around this, and the fact that a lot of people can help,” Roze adds.

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“There’s a really powerful message in this campaign about what other people, especially the men in our lives, can contribute to birth in not just a meaningful but life-changing way.”

The Mamamia team recently gave blood for one of our colleagues. Watch the video below. Post continues after.

After visiting a Red Cross Blood Service, Roze saw just how easy it can be to give blood.

“No-one likes to get needles, but if you liken the pain to a mozzie bite it makes it much easier,” Roze says. “Once you do that part, you get to relax and read a book while your blood is taken, knowing that your donation can save three lives and potentially even one of your loved ones. A lot of people may associate the need for blood with trauma and accidents, but the need for blood for mothers in maternity wards is double that.

“When I visited the Red Cross Blood Service I was so inspired and humbled by the volunteers that do it. I hope that this campaign can encourage even more people because one in three of us will need blood in our lifetime, but only one in 30 are donating so we have a gap to fill and this can be done by our husbands, partners, brothers, friends and dads.”

Father of three Adam Terrill is one man who knows the importance of blood during pregnancy. His wife Meg experienced a life-threatening postpartum haemorrhage during the birth of their daughter, Mabel and needed 10 litres of donated blood to save her life. He shares his harrowing, yet ultimately hopeful story here.

"Thank you to the selfless individuals who donate blood and save lives, like that of a now happy mother of three, Meg." Image: Supplied

A widower? Like everyone, I’d heard about widows but, until now, hadn’t known that a man is known as a widower if his wife dies. This was the first of many revelations in a life-changing journey that began when I discovered my 20 weeks pregnant wife had been diagnosed with Placenta Accreta.

It’s a life-threatening condition where the placenta ‘goes rogue’, growing through the uterus and into other organs. Removing it during childbirth can cause catastrophic and uncontrollable bleeding that can result in death. I thought maternal death was something that happened centuries ago and surely with modern medicine this didn’t happen anymore. But the death rate is as high seven percent – a number that haunted us throughout the pregnancy.

I spent most nights Googling the condition whilst wondering if we were in the unlucky seven percent. What would life be like as a widower with three young children? What would I tell the kids? Would the baby grow up feeling responsible? I felt the self-imposed pressure to remain stoic, feeling a trickle of anguish would turn into a flood. Meg was deeply anxious, writing last letters to the kids and updating her will.

We faced a wicked dilemma – deliver the baby prematurely and enhance Meg’s chances or deliver full term but threaten Meg’s life. Helping us through such decisions was an excellent team at the Royal Women’s Hospital who were experienced, skilful and, best of all, prepared.

The day had arrived, extra blood supplies had been secured and, as we said our farewells, we both knew – but didn’t say – that this might be the final one.

After a short 30 minutes, I had a beautiful baby girl - Mabel - in my arms. But the joy was blunted because Meg’s fate remained unknown. Hours passed and each time the nursery door opened, I leapt to my feet in anticipation of news. Eventually it came – ‘Meg is OK’.

She had lost 10 litres of blood in what the surgeons described as the worst case in years. After a few nights in ICU, it took weeks before she was able to care for Mabel, let alone return home. Had this been another era, another location, or had the hospital been ill-prepared, the result could have been starkly different.

I posted on Facebook announcing the safe arrival of Mabel and of Meg’s good health, and asked friends and family to donate blood in place of gifts and flowers. It took months, including additional surgery and some complications for Mabel arising from her prematurity, for Meg to return to normal. Without blood – and lots of it – I would have discovered what a widower was. Thank you to the selfless individuals who donate blood and save lives, like that of a now happy mother of three, Meg.

Fellas, friends and families, you know what to do. Show your support for your pregnant loved ones. Book an appointment to donate blood at your local Australian Red Cross Blood Service centre.

There are rules around eligibility to donate blood. If you’re unsure about whether you can donate blood, or have any concerns or questions, it’s always best to talk to a professional or your doctor.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner, Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

Have you given blood or even needed it? Tell us your story below.

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