Health & Lifestyle

I thought my appendix was bursting – but I was actually giving birth! Mother, 40, reveals how she went into labour with a baby she didn’t even know she was having

  • The mum didn’t know she could conceive after going through four rounds of IVF
  • She didn’t show and even lost weight during pregnancy due to a gastric balloon 

A mother has told how she thought her appendix had burst — only to discover she was pregnant when she was rushed to hospital with stomach pains.

Natalie Austin, of Ash, Kent, had no idea she was expecting and actually lost weight while she was carrying her ‘little miracle’, Darcy, who has Down’s syndrome.

She convinced herself that the random stomach movements she experienced were down to gas, not a child kicking in her womb.  

The 40-year-old product manager did not even know she could conceive, given the difficulties she and husband Rob, 39, faced. 

The pair already had Eloise, born 15 months earlier after four cycles of IVF following a decade of trying. 

Natalie Austin, 40, (pictured left holding baby Darcy) who lives in Ash in Kent, with her husband Rob, 39, (pictured right) didn’t know she could conceive - her first child, Eloise, (pictured centre) was born after four cycles of IVF

Natalie Austin, 40, (pictured left holding baby Darcy) who lives in Ash in Kent, with her husband Rob, 39, (pictured right) didn’t know she could conceive – her first child, Eloise, (pictured centre) was born after four cycles of IVF 

With Mrs Austin fearing she had suddenly developed an issue with her appendix, Mr Austin drove her to the Kent and Cantebury Hospital.

As a matter of routine, staff did a pregnancy test which was positive.

Medics feared it was an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilised egg implants outside of the womb. It can be life-threatening condition.

Mrs Austin was taken by ambulance to the emergency department at nearby William Harvey Hospital.

Staff there found she was in labour and almost ready to give birth.

Mrs Austin had no idea she was pregnant and put her pregnancy symptoms down to her gastric balloon, but says Darcy is a 'miracle'

Mrs Austin had no idea she was pregnant and put her pregnancy symptoms down to her gastric balloon, but says Darcy is a ‘miracle’ 

Around one in 2,500 pregnant women in do not know they are pregnant until they’re nearly ready to give birth.

This equates to around 300 ‘cryptic pregnancies’, as they are called, in the UK every year.

Cryptic pregnancies typically affect young women, who have never been pregnant before, or women who believe they’ve already gone through the menopause

Darcy was born through C-section because she was in a difficult position.

She was also eight weeks premature, and taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Darcy was found to have Down’s syndrome, and had to battle infections, including pneumonia and MRSA, during her time in hospital.

She finally came home to her parents and big sister last week after almost 130 days in hospital.

Darcy was diagnosed with the genetic condition trisomy 21, or Down Syndrome, and also had to battle infections including pneumonia and MRSA and stayed in hospital for months

Darcy was diagnosed with the genetic condition trisomy 21, or Down Syndrome, and also had to battle infections including pneumonia and MRSA and stayed in hospital for months

Discussing her ordeal, Mrs Austin said: ‘It all happened so quickly, there was no time to process it.

‘Darcy is like a little miracle.

‘I don’t like to say that, and when we were going through IVF we were so determined not to be cliched and say it was a miracle, but it feels right for her.

‘She needed resuscitating and took her first breath after more than a minute. When I looked at her it was instant, that magical moment.

‘She was so vulnerable and so tiny…

‘It was very up and down and at times we thought she was never coming home.’

Within a few weeks all the equipment was turned off and she was able to move units. But Darcy was straight back to NICU was she developed pneumonia.

Darcy is now four months old and adjusting to life at home after spending months in hospital

Darcy is now four months old and adjusting to life at home after spending months in hospital

Mrs Austin said: ‘If I look back it was a lot to deal with but we tend to just get on with whatever is thrown at us so we just dealt with what was in front of us.

Mrs Austin had a gastric balloon, which meant she actually lost weight while she was pregnant.

It is not clear when the temporary device — which works for up to six months — was fitted, however. 

The NHS advises women given a gastric balloon don’t get pregnant for at least a year after surgery. ‘If you do become pregnant, additional nutritional supplements are required and you must therefore contact your bariatric team immediately,’ its advice page says.

She said: ‘I had done so much in those seven months, including moving house and lifting heavy furniture.

‘I remember one day we went to get pizza and I hadn’t eaten carbs for six months, and I actually lifted my top to show Rob and said my body didn’t seem to like the pizza, as my belly was moving but we thought it was gas.

‘I didn’t dream for one second I could be pregnant as it had taken so long for us to have Eloise — we tried for almost 10 years.’

Darcy is now four months old and adjusting to life at home with her sister Eloise.  

Mrs Austin said: ‘We are so glad Darcy is here and it’s amazing to finally have her home with us.’

How common are cryptic pregnancies? 

One in 2,500 women are oblivious to the fact they are pregnant until they go into labour.

It’s a phenomenon known as cryptic pregnancy — also referred to as ‘pregnancy denial’.

Cryptic pregnancies typically affect either young women, who have never experienced a pregnancy, or women who believe they’ve gone through the menopause and who choose not to use contraception.

Women with erratic menstrual cycles are also more likely to miss signs they are expecting. This is especially true among women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), where small cysts grow on the ovaries; the hormone imbalance often leads to irregular or non-existent periods.

Yet there are some women who will continue to have monthly bleeds throughout their pregnancy. In this case, a scan at the local GP may be the only method of confirmation.

Women may simply not expect to find they are pregnant if they are taking the contraceptive pill — but then those taking it religiously can still become pregnant.

Fewer than one in 100 women who take the pill get pregnant every year if they are ‘perfect’ users.

But nine in 100 ‘typical’ users — who miss a pill or take it irregularly — will fall pregnant annually. 


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