In 2012, Rachael Babirye joined Makerere University to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. Like many other new students, she looked forward to passing her examinations and walking away with a qualification at the end of the course.
Life, however, turned out differently from what she expected. It all started after meeting and falling in love with a man she later came to call a caring and loving boyfriend. The duo met during her first year at campus.
The first miscarriage
While concluding her second year of study in 2014, Babirye, 25, noticed something unusual about her health. Occasionally, she vomited and had mood swings. This went on for about two months, which forced her to undergo a medical check-up. The results showed she was pregnant.
“To say I was scared is an understatement. But rather than do anything stupid, I decided to notify my boyfriend and we agreed to have the baby,” she says. The discovery was a heavily guarded secret between the two and no one else was informed.
Then one day, at about 10am, as Babirye was preparing to leave her hostel room in Kikoni, a city suburb, to attend lectures, blood suddenly started coming from her vagina. The flow was accompanied with intense stomach pain.
“I got anxious and quickly rushed to Kibuli Muslim Hospital,” she says.
While at the facility, a doctor told her she had miscarried. “I burst into tears and my heart broke into a million little pieces,” she says.
Her boyfriend too was devastated. “He was looking forward to becoming a father. Sadly, our plans did not go as expected,” she says.
Babirye was left with no other option but to pick up the broken pieces and move on with her life.
Two more miscarriages
Towards the end of 2014, Babirye started feeling sick again. Like before, she was vomiting, had mood swings and other signs of pregnancy. She decided to go for a test which confirmed that she was pregnant again. Sadly, she had a miscarriage barely a month into the pregnancy.
In 2015, Babirye conceived for the third time. However, around March (the same year), she suffered a miscarriage. It was at this point that a devastated Babirye decided to seek professional help from a doctor at Mulago Hospital.
“He asked me a rather interesting question of why I was trying so hard to have a baby and yet I was still in school,” she says. Although Babirye did not give a response at the time, she now says it was her choice and there was nothing wrong with it.
The doctor carried out a number of tests, and all the results came back negative. However, the doctor insisted that she gets a scan and recommended Kampala Imaging Centre, a radiology practice healthcare organisation in Kampala.
“I did the scan, which cost me about Shs100,000. Upon receiving the results, I took them to the doctor in Mulago,” she says, adding, “He said scars had been discovered in my uterus. He also said I had a suspicious abnormal growth.”
Since there was no final conclusion of what exactly the abnormal growth was, the doctor referred Babirye to LifeLink Medical Centre in Ntinda, a city suburb.
A doctor from the health facility looked into Babirye’s past medical history, including the results from the scan and suspected the abnormal growth was a fibroid ( a non-cancerous tumour that grows from the muscle layers of the uterus).
Probably because of the nature of the case, the doctor referred Babirye to Bethany Women’s Hospital in Luzira. The facility offers gynaecology services to women, infertility and reproductive surgery and family planning options, among other services.
A gynaecologist at the facility requested her to undergo another scan at the Kampala Imaging Centre. “I repeated the test and brought the results back to the gynaecologist to analyse. He revealed that it was a fibroid accompanied with a scar,” she says. He recommended an operation to remove the fibroid at a cost of Shs3.7m.
“I did not have the money and was barely surviving at university. This is because my university pocket money was what I was using to move from one health facility to another carrying out different tests,” she says.
Getting the money
Because she did not want to burden her boyfriend, Babirye sought assistance from a close friend.
“I did not tell her why I needed the money. I just told her that I was in a fix and needed assistance immediately. I promised to pay back as soon as possible,” she says. The friend gave her the money and even allowed her to pay back in instalments.
Empowered, Babirye rushed and deposited the money and the surgery was performed in June 2015.
“The operation was done around the lower part of my abdomen and I was discharged a day later,” she says.
The successful surgical procedure was done shortly after Babirye’s final year at university.
“My sister (twin) was the only person I informed about the operation as I did not want to bother other people with my problems,” she says, adding, “It was a secret we agreed to keep between the two of us.”
About two weeks after the operation, Babirye went back for review at the same facility.
“The gynaecologist confirmed that a “ginger-”like tumour had been removed from my uterus. He, however, assured me that I was now okay,” she says.
The fourth miscarriage
At the beginning of 2016, Babirye conceived but had a miscarriage, a month into the pregnancy. After this fourth lapse, a distressed Babirye went back to the gynaecologist at Bethany Women’s Hospital. “He mentioned that I had rushed to conceive when my body had barely healed. He advised that I give it some time to rebuild,” she says.
The baby finally comes
Around June 2016, Babirye learnt she was pregnant and immediately rushed back to inform her gynaecologist.
“He prescribed medication to swallow from time to time for the baby’s welfare,” she says, adding, “And over the next months, he closely monitored my pregnancy.”
Finally, Babirye delivered a baby boy in March 2017 after undergoing a Caesarean section.
“He is my miracle after all that I went through,” she says, adding, “I am so happy that I have him in my life.”
The father to her son is the same man she started dating during her first year at campus. She hopes to have more children with her partner in the near future.
To other women who have suffered miscarriages, Babirye advises them not to lose hope and to continuously pray. Also, she encourages women to always find time to do thorough medical-checkups as a way of finding out whether they have any ailments that can be diagnosed and treated early.
In the medical jargon, miscarriages are known as abortions. Individuals only prefer to term them as miscarriages because it is a less sensitive term.
There are two categories of miscarriages. There are spontaneous miscarriages caused by a number of issues, including genetic disorders, infections, hormonal imbalances, diseases such as malaria, among other reasons. Treatment often involves medically dealing with the suspected cause of the abortion. For instance if it is stress, a woman is encouraged to slow things down and have a lot of bed rest.
Then, there are induced miscarriages that are done medically, for instance, if the pregnancy is as a result of incest or when the growing foetus imposes a health risk on a mother.
The exact cause of fibroids also known as uterine tumours is not known. However, there are particular risk factors suspected to cause fibroids. These include smoking, obesity, use of contraceptives, family history, high levels of oestrogen, among other reasons.
Also, if a woman has never given birth, it gives room for the fibroids to grow bigger and faster. The most definitive treatment for fibroids is having them removed through surgery.
Source: Dr Herman Ssewagudde, a gynecologist at 7 Hills Medical Centre, Ntinda.