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Sunday 17 December 2017

Miracle babies who survived procedures to remove them from their mothers' wombs

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

OF all the miracle babies identified in yesterday's report, four in particular can count themselves luckier than the rest.

But there are still two mothers who will never know if errors led to them losing their unborn children.

All of the 24 women were wrongly told that they had suffered miscarriages.

In most of the 24 cases outlined in the report, surgery was scheduled or discussed, as medical professionals assumed the foetus was dead.

But six expectant mothers took the furthest step -- they went on the operating table to have their foetuses removed.

The women had to go through procedures that remove the foetus from the womb, which are called ERPC (evacuation of retained products of conception) or a D&C (dilation and curettage).

These procedures are invasive, involving a scraping tool which is used to directly remove tissue from the uterus.

They may also involve local or general anaesthetic, before forceps and a vacuum is used to remove the foetus.

Before these surgical procedures, a scan was done, no heartbeat was detected, and surgery was later carried out.

But incredibly all six of the mothers -- none of whom have been identified -- later saw their babies' hearts beat in scans after the operations.

Heartbreak

Their foetuses had amazingly survived the invasive surgery, despite being written off as dead. Four mothers went on to give birth to healthy children, but the trauma and heartbreak continued for another two.

While tests showed that their unborn babies were still alive after the surgery, they both went on to suffer miscarriages.

The team reviewing the scandal could not specify how much time had passed between the surgical procedures and the miscarriages.

The identity of the mothers and the locations where the incidents occurred were not disclosed for confidentiality reasons.

Professor William Ledger, who headed up the HSE review which published the report yesterday, said the miscarriages could not be definitely linked to the surgery -- but he said it couldn't be ruled out as a factor either.

Prof Ledger, head of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Sheffield, said he was "shocked" when he encountered the cases.

"They were viable pregnancies because they both had ultrasounds after the procedure which showed there was still a heartbeat," Prof Ledger said.

"It seems to me that if the procedure was likely to have caused the miscarriage, it would likely have happened immediately. And these were cases where time passed, the pregnancy was viable, and the pregnancy was lost later. I hope and I believe the two events were not related but we cannot be sure. It's impossible to be certain."

The report outlined that in seven of the cases, surgery was booked, with a plan to rescan before the procedure.

In a further five cases, procedures were discussed between medical staff and parents and there were also the six where surgery was carried out.

Irish Independent

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