- Mother-of-one did not know she was four weeks pregnant when she had operation
A mother told yesterday how her gastric bypass killed her unborn baby by starving it of nutrition in the womb.
Holly Emms, 25, had stomach surgery on the health service after doctors warned that her 18stone frame was damaging her health.
She was unaware that she was in the early stages of pregnancy. She lost nine stone in just four months following the procedure – while her unborn daughter was slowly starving.
The child, who she called Juli, and was born 15 weeks premature, weighing only 1.9lbs and too weak to survive.
Yesterday Miss Emms – who now weighs under nine stone and wears a dress size eight – said: ‘I heard her cry when she was born, which was wonderful, but then she was taken away and put in a incubator.
‘She was so tiny and perfect, like an angel.
‘When the doctors told me they would have to turn her life-support machine off, they let me hold her.
‘She died in my arms. I was devastated.
‘The doctors told me Juli had died because of my extreme weight loss. It was a terrible thing to hear and something I have to live with.
‘I believe that all women should be given pregnancy tests before any operation and I want to warn women to do it themselves.’
Miss Emms, who also has a seven-year-old daughter Tammi, ballooned to 18st and a dress size 18 after years of overeating.
She was on the Pill and had no plans to try for another child when she was advised to go for the weight-loss operation on the health service.
She was given pre-surgery medication before the procedure. This made her sick and she fears it may have made her contraception ineffective.
Doctors operated at Charing Cross Hospital in Central London without knowing she was four weeks pregnant.
In a gastric bypass, the size of the stomach is drastically reduced and food is rerouted around to the first part of the small intestine.
‘This cuts the amount of nutrients and calories the body can absorb. The health of a growing baby can be ensured using vitamin and protein supplements.
Miss Emms’ unborn baby survived the operation still undetected, despite a general anaesthetic and the key-hole surgery on the mother’s stomach. After six weeks, Miss Emms became concerned when she was still being sick.
She had already lost three stone by the time she went to hospital for tests and doctors discovered she was pregnant. They said she was not taking in the right nutrients for her baby but she was too weak for the operation to be reversed.
Miss Emms, a recruitment consultant, spent the next few months in and out of hospital. After a difficult labour, she gave birth at 25 weeks at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on May 13. Juli died two days later.
Miss Emms, of Uxbridge, West London said: ‘I am angry at the doctors and myself for not thinking of doing a pregnancy test,’ she said.
‘I wish with all my heart that I had because I wouldn’t have gone ahead with the operation. I still think about Juli all the time.’
Dr Ian Campbell, a GP and obesity expert, said it was likely Juli ‘died from micro-nutrient deficiency’.
Imperial College Healthcare NHS, which runs Charing Cross Hospital, said patients who have a gastric bypass should avoid pregnancy for two years.
‘This is to minimise complications like maternal malnutrition, miscarriage and premature, or underweight, birth,’ a spokesman said.