Laura Kilduff

“When the baby’s heart rate was dropping I wasn’t worried about me, it was purely about the baby and howRead more →


Dr Ronke Desalu

“Safe surgery is tied up with the socio-economic status, political participation and education of women.” Ronke is an Associate ProfessorRead more →


Laura Kilduff

“When the baby’s heart rate was dropping I wasn’t worried about me, it was purely about the baby and how we were going to get him out safely.”

Laura Kilduff is 33 years old and lives in Oxfordshire, U.K. She is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and runs her own business from home. Her first child, Charlie, was born by emergency caesarean section last year.

What were your concerns going in to your pregnancy?

The main thing – which must be similar to every woman around the world having their first child – was fear of the unknown. You can ask what a contraction feels like, but no one can properly describe it. Everyone seems to have a different experience. So at night, when you can’t sleep, you’re on your iPhone Googling questions – and the answers are always the worst.

You wind yourself into this ball of tension and worry about what is going to happen.

How did you prepare? Was the possibility of C-section discussed?

I took an antenatal course. That environment of women together, sharing fears and experiences, it was so important. But the option of caesarean section was mostly glossed over – we focused on that ‘ideal’ natural birth.

It’s something cultural we seem to be going through in the U.K. at the moment – births have to be natural and if it’s not natural the sense is that it’s unnatural.

So I went into it not really thinking a C-section would happen. Everyone talks about the candles, the birthing room, the pool! All this lovely stuff. Although in the end – with nine in the group – only one had that ‘ideal’, everyone else had a lot of intervention.

What happened at the hospital?

I went into labour the night before I was scheduled to be induced, two weeks past my due date. They put me in a room at the hospital and I said, “I don’t think I need an induction, I think labour is on its way!” They put a monitor on my tummy to check the baby’s heart rate – it kept dropping suddenly, and he was obviously in a bit of distress.

I was there three hours, four hours, contractions getting painful and stronger. But whenever I had a contraction the baby’s heart rate dropped, and they didn’t know why. At this point the consultant looked at all the print outs and said there’s a possibility you may need a C-section.

We’re lucky in this country in that we have some fantastic anaesthetists, great surgeons and nurses, and you have to trust that they know when it’s needed, necessary. I’m not medical, but I could see and hear the beeps of when the baby’s heart rated dropped – I knew something was wrong.

And then…

I was on a gurney and on the way to theatre in less than five minutes. It turns out the baby’s head was pressing on the cord, so during contractions he wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

You have to be strong. You’re in tears because of the pain, so you look to the people around you, to reassure you.

Although what you’re not really prepared for is the number of them. At least two anesthetists, two surgeons, the midwife, a couple of nurses, my husband. You’re in pain and surrounded by all these people, most of whom you’ve never met before – you just have to trust them. Half an hour max and he’ll be with you.

What was it like after the operation?

You don’t realize how debilitating it is; the first night you can’t really move at all. I couldn’t pick up the baby, and I was only just about ready to walk by the time we left the hospital. The recovery is much longer than you think as well. You stumble down the road and turn back after five minutes, exhausted. You can’t push the pram because it puts pressure on the stitches. And you need a lot of time for your muscles to recover.

Then there’s that question of a second baby – because of the incision there’s more of a risk, so do you have to have another C-section?

Has this experience changed the way you think about the issue of women’s health worldwide?

You hear stories in the media of women who haven’t survived, or had stillbirths. You can’t imagine it. And thank god I didn’t have to. When the baby’s heart rate was dropping I wasn’t worried about me, it was purely about the baby and how we were going to get him out safely. And whether he would be ok when he came out.

After the birth a lot of people said ‘oh, you had an emergency C-section – it must have been awful’ – but childbirth is pretty horrific generally, for the child and the mum! You need that awareness that it isn’t an easy thing to do – there’s going to be pain and upheaval whether or not you have an operation.

It was the right thing for me. The baby came out in 10 minutes. He was fine, cried quickly. They stiched me up and then we went back to the delivery room to bond with him.

Actually, nine months later it’s almost hard recalling it – you mentally block out a lot of what happens, that’s nature’s way.

You can’t forget if you don’t have the baby there.


Dr Ronke Desalu

“Safe surgery is tied up with the socio-economic status, political participation and education of women.”

Ronke is an Associate Professor and Consultant in Anaesthesia at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. Her sub-specialty interests are paediatric anaesthesia and Training in CPR. She is happily married with 2 grown-up children.

Why is access to surgery essential for women’s health?

A third of the 4500 surgeries performed at my hospital in Lagos last year were related to women’s reproductive health. This is a substantial percentage for one ‘special group,’ and emphasizes the importance of ready access to safe surgery for women.

Yet not all women are lucky to get this professional treatment; the maternal mortality rate in Nigeria is approximately 585 per 100,000 live births.

Why did you become an anaesthetist?
I always wanted to be a doctor, even as a young girl growing up in Lagos in the 1960s. With two aunties showing that women were just as capable as men, and could be doctors, my mind was made up.

I’m passionate about helping the vulnerable and the sick, and it gives me great satisfaction to see the outcome and the value one person’s actions can have on another person.

Can you tell us about one of your most memorable cases?
I’m in a profession that has its fair share of risks, but I like to look on the positive side of my work, the good we do and the relief we bring.

Many years ago we treated a 5-year-old child with a large cystic hygroma [a growth that appears on a baby’s neck]. The surgery was difficult, and afterwards she was unable to breathe on her own. We admitted her to our intensive care unit, which didn’t have a functioning ventilator at the time.

The trainees and technicians took turns to manually ventilate her for 100 days.

The case emphasizes the importance of teamwork, perseverance – and above all, commitment to your patient.

What is the government doing to reduce maternal mortality?

In the last six years, the Lagos State Government opened six specialized maternal and child health hospitals, with full surgical facilities. This means more theatres, more surgeries, more training and better health service delivery.

What is the role of women in the surgical ecosystem?

Safe surgery is tied up with the socio-economic status, political participation and education of women. We need to support groups that advocate for women’s health issues – women shouldn’t have to travel such long distances for basic care.

I take as one of my critical roles in life, to uplift and raise the bar for young women. To show them that it is indeed possible to have both a happy home front and a sky that is the limit in their career.

 What is your goal for women in the medical profession?

I want them to realize that they’re part of a unique team. Many organisations assume that women can’t cope with the top positions and we need to change that mindset. We need to be amongst the counted when it comes to doing our job well.

Women need to be fully involved in the implementation and management of healthcare, as well as in the policy and mapping of future health plans for their community – and indeed the world.