C-sections have risk unknown to many women

HOUSTON Twenty-seven-year-old Georgia Barraza was 29 weeks pregnant with her third child when something went wrong on a family fishing trip.

"I stood up because we had a bite on both lines and I just started bleeding," Barraza said. "My husband starts walking me down the pier and every step it's just blood, blood, blood."

It's called placenta previa, a dangerous complication where the placenta tears and bleeds.

"Everyone is telling you stay calm, stay calm, but I mean it's my wife and that's my daughter, and you really can't stay calm," her husband, Mario Hernandez, said.

And what happened to Barraza is happening to thousands of women. In 1980, one in 2,500 deliveries involved a placenta previa. In 2006, it was one in 210 deliveries.

Blame it on C-sections, say obstetricians. One in three births is by C-section, and doctors say that's causing the increase in placenta previa.

"You can bleed to death in 5 to 10 minutes," said Dr. Pamela Promecere, an OB/GYN at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Women are being saved through emergency surgery, sometimes hysterectomy. But many pregnant women don't realize they're at risk.

"Your chance increases with the number of Cesarean sections," Promecere said. "So if you really, really want a big family -- four, five, six children -- you may want to avoid your Cesarean sections from the beginning."

And you must get prenatal care. Barraza, who had two previous C-sections, says she feels lucky.

"The ambulance was there within four minutes," she said. "Everybody was trying to help, and lo and behold, an L&D nurse at John Sealy Hospital happened to be out there fishing with her family."

Doctors were able to delay Tatiana's birth until 33 weeks and she's doing well.

"It's just a miracle and it's a blessing," Hernandez said.

But it's not a day that the family wants to relive.

Placenta previa shows up in prenatal care and doctors and women can plan for any problems. Doctors also say at any sign of bleeding, see your obstetrician.

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