'After giving birth, I lost 15 litres of blood and was in ICU due to this unknown pregnancy condition.'

Talitha Jensen had been through the births of her two daughters, Mila and Arleigh, by the time she was pregnant with her third baby in 2018. While her first two pregnancies and births were not without some complications, she could never have expected the complex challenges she would face the third time she neared her due date.

"After my second c-section in 2014 for Arleigh, the specialist told my husband Brendon and I that if we wanted more kids, we should give my body a proper break to recover," Talitha tells Mamamia.

"We took the advice seriously and were so happy in 2018 to be pregnant again."

Watch: Bec Judd on c-sections. Post continues below. 

Video via Instagram @becjudd

At eight weeks, along Talitha began experiencing some bleeding. But a scan of her baby's heartbeat put her mind to rest. By 13 weeks, and again at 20 weeks, the scans were showing some blood flow issues that had doctors concerned.

"This was the first time anyone mentioned that I might have a rare condition called placenta accreta where the placenta is not working as it should be. I was referred for an MRI where they discovered it was actually placenta increta."

Pregnant Talitha. Image: Supplied.


What are placenta accreta, placenta increta and placenta percreta?

Placenta accreta is a condition that happens during pregnancy when the placenta sticks too firmly to the wall of the uterus. Placenta increta is a more advanced version of this rare and serious pregnancy complication, with placenta percreta being the most advanced. This is associated with various risks such as excessive bleeding, the need for blood transfusions, the requirement for an emergency hysterectomy, and other maternal and baby health issues. The condition occurs in about 3 in 1000 deliveries and in very rare cases, can cause death.

The life-threatening diagnosis meant that Talitha had to relocate to Brisbane to be close to the specialist team at the Royal Brisbane Hospital. At 32 weeks pregnant; she moved to the city to stay with relatives.


"I had to be monitored very closely and was back and forth to the hospital several times each week for scans, blood tests and steroid injections," she said.

"The night before my last injection and the day before I was due in for my c-section,  I went into labour naturally. My body just decided it was time and things moved fast from that point."

Because of Talitha's condition of placenta percreta , she required a whole team of specialists on hand to ensure the birth went well.

"I was worried about dying but also about blood loss and how dangerous it was for my newborn baby. They put me under general anaesthetic and told me later that when she came out she made a small squeak but was thankfully fine. Whereas for me, things did not go so well."

Baby Georgie's birth.

Baby Georgie was safely delivered by c-section at 6.35 pm.

"She came out, made a squeak and then had trouble breathing, which we were told is not uncommon for a preterm baby. After that, she was taken off to the NICU."

By 6.38 pm, Talitha had started bleeding heavily.

"My placenta was trying to do what it was supposed to which is self-detach after the baby is born and as it did. So it began tearing at my insides because its 'roots' were connected to my bladder and uterus. Surgeons had to remove part of my bladder, my left ovary and I also had a hysterectomy. It was a whole big mess."

After the complex surgery, Talitha was taken to ICU and her husband couldn't see her until 1am. She remained under sedation until the next morning when she was brought around so doctors could speak with her and she could meet her new daughter.


"Once I was out of ICU and made it to the maternity ward, the doctors came and spoke with Brendon and I and explained everything that had happened and stated that the condition had progressed and my final diagnosis was actually placenta percreta."

"I was only awake for 10 minutes and my eyes were barely open. They put her on my chest for a few minutes and then I was put back to sleep for a second round of surgery to check that the bleeding had stopped and everything was where it should be.

"I think it was all a bit of a shock for Brendon and me. From the moment we got the confirmed diagnosis of placenta percreta, I felt like I was holding my breath the whole time until she was born and then I had the surgery. It was such a lot to process."

Talitha and her family. Image: Supplied.


Talitha's recovery.

The second time Talitha woke up in the ICU, she remained awake but required one-on-one care with a nurse to manage her pain and keep an eye on her after such intense surgery. 

"I remember when I made it to the maternity ward, I was sitting there and looking at my baby, asking if I could hold her. I didn't quite know the right thing to do because I was hooked up to so many machines," she said.

"My husband picked her up and put her in my arms and I just felt so relieved to finally make it there. Everything else that was going on with me just didn't really matter because I had her."

Talitha said that prior to her surgery, she had been worried about how it would affect her bonding with the baby. 

"Before I had my surgery, we had lots of conversations around my wishes and as soon as she was well enough and capable, I wanted [our baby] to be with my husband and do skin-to-skin so she absorbed our smell and knew us as soon as possible. That's why they brought me out of sedation and put her on me, even just for a few minutes, so that we had that little shared moment together."

In spite of all the challenges around baby Georgie's birth, it was important to Talitha to try and breastfeed.


"We were told that the chances of me breastfeeding even after a minimal blood loss, were not good — but I was pretty determined. The medical staff were happy to support me so while I was in intensive care they were expressing milk for me until I could do it myself."

Giving blood and raising awareness for placenta accreta, placenta increta and placenta percreta.

After 15 days in hospital, Talitha went home with baby Georgie to rejoin her family. 

"I feel like my body healed better than it did from the first two c-sections. Perhaps because I was resting for two weeks and also because the level of care that I received at the Royal Brisbane Hospital was phenomenal."

It was while at home that she realised she wanted to raise awareness, not just about placenta accreta, placenta increta and placenta percreta, but about the importance of giving blood.

"I wanted to highlight the importance of blood donors because without them I wouldn't be here with my family now. I started an Instagram account called 'Arms out for Accreta' to explain what I had been through, to help other women dealing with the condition and to encourage more people to become blood donors.


"I've since had heaps of mums reach out to me. Either they're at the beginning of diagnosis, or they're on the other side of major surgery struggling to see the light and wondering how they will ever get over it. 

"I know placenta accreta, increta and percreta is a scary thing to go through and it can feel very isolating as people don't always understand. By posting about the experience, it has really helped my recovery. I've found comfort in being able to just explain how my situation evolved, how I feel now and the little tactics that I used to help me recover and get through it. I just hope I can help other families to feel the same."

October is Accreta Awareness Month (AAM) and focuses attention on placenta accreta spectrum, one of the fastest growing life-threatening complications of pregnancy. To find out more about the condition, visit the National Accreta Foundation website.

To find out more about becoming a blood or plasma donor, visit the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood website.

Featured Image: Supplied.