14/08/2014 16:48 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Mum Wrongly Blamed Unborn Baby's Death On Having Sex While Pregnant

Mum wrongly blamed unborn baby's death on having sex while pregnant

A mother spent years blaming herself for the death of her baby because she had sex when she was pregnant.

Karen Smith had made love with her husband Mark when she was 31 weeks pregnant. Hours later, she suffered bleeding and cramps.

Doctors initially dismissed her symptoms as normal, but hours later, she woke from emergency surgery to be told her baby had died and her womb had been removed during a hysterectomy to save her life.

Karen told the Daily Mail: "I tormented myself with the thought that making love had ended my baby's life.

"When I got to hospital bleeding they assured me all was well and it was normal to bleed after love making.

"The next thing I knew I woke to be told my son was dead and our lives torn apart. Of course I blamed myself. My husband and I were utterly distraught.

"My friends said I'd feel better after the funeral, but I didn't. Yes, life carried on, Mark went back to work and I took the kids to school, but then I'd spent the rest of the day just staring into space.

"I couldn't stop blaming myself. I tortured myself with the thought our love making had ended Robert's life. Everything had been fine until then. Why hadn't we just abstained?"

Her son, Robert, weighed 4lb, 8oz when he died on 4th September 2008. But making love was not the cause of his death. In fact, Karen had suffered a placental abruption, which experts say should have been spotted earlier.

Karen, 30, from Plymouth, has recently accepted an undisclosed settlement from the hospital after it was proven her son could have survived if she'd been operated on sooner.

Medical notes confirmed baby Robert had died due to lack of oxygen and placental abruption, which happens when there is bleeding behind the placenta, between the placenta and the wall of the uterus.

"I started to get angry that it hadn't been spotted sooner," Karen said.

"Everyone had been too quick to blame sex and missed the symptoms of something much more serious. I felt if they hadn't been preoccupied with me having had sex, my son might have been saved."

She was also relieved to learn that placental abruption was not caused by sex.

"I'd been blaming myself but now I realise actually it hadn't been my fault," she said. "Making love in pregnancy is perfectly safe and most couples do it.

"I'd been torturing myself with the idea that we had caused our baby's death and I felt I needed to prove to myself that I was not responsible at all to be able to grieve."

Karen, who has three other children - Jessica, 14, Jordan, 11 and Chelsea, 7, contacted a solicitor that dealt with mishandled births and began a case.

The expert who examined the evidence concluded that staff should have recognised the signs of a placental abruption earlier and delivered her baby sooner.

Karen added: "To know he may have survived if they had acted quicker was heartbreaking. But I knew I would keep blaming myself until I got justice."

The hospital offered a settlement for the loss of her son and her womb, which she initially rejected. But after a four-year battle they have now made another offer without liability, which Karen has accepted.

She said: "I wanted a day in court to finally prove that I was not responsible for my son's death. I needed to see in black and white that it wasn't my fault and making love had not harmed my baby."

Karen now wants to raise awareness of placental abruption so parents know the signs to look for. She also wants to assure mothers there is nothing wrong with having sex while pregnant.

"I spent a long time blaming myself. Of course I regretted it because soon after my son died," she said.

"But I know through my research the placental abruption would have happened anyway. It was an awful coincidence and tragic that the signs were not detected when I first got to hospital."

More on Parentdish: Our guide to sex in pregnancy