For 75 days a Polish mother was in labour lying upside down to save the lives of her two premature babies after the first of three foetuses growing in her was prematurely born and died.
Joanna Krzysztonek was pregnant with triplets when she went into labour at 21 weeks. Her first baby was born prematurely and, tragically, was too weak to survive.
AdvertisementThe other two were in danger of suffering the same fate until doctors stepped in to try to delay their delivery.
They gave the 31-year-old medication to stop her contractions and got her to lie on a bed tilted at a 30 degree angle, with her feet pointing upwards, to reduce the risk of contractions starting again. The umbilical cord was tied and put back inside her uterus.
She remained in the upside down position 24 hours a day for two and a half months. After 75 days, and what is believed to be the longest labour ever recorded, she gave birth to a healthy girl, Iga, and boy, Ignacy, at a neo-natal clinic in the Polish town of Wroclaw.
Krzysztonek revealed that she had not been put off by the prospect of lying in such an awkward position for months.
"I was relieved that there was a chance to keep the pregnancy and to give the babies a chance to be born successfully," the Daily Mail quoted her as saying.
"I am feeling so elated that words can't describe it. They are such good babies, they are really calm and sometimes they even have the gentlest little smile.
"I've been told the labour was a world record. I am amazed by what happened but all I want to do is express my gratitude to the staff of this hospital for their wisdom and helpfulness. I would never have been able to get through this without them," she said.
Mariusz Zimmer, head of the Wroclaw obstetrics and neo-natal clinic, said that Krzysztonek's labour is considered to have begun when the first baby was born because that was when "the birth had started".
He said that Krzysztonek was kept at the 30 degree angle to "take pressure off her body".
Her contractions were suppressed by the drug Tokoliza throughout most of the 75 days, to prevent her giving birth to the babies too early.
One of the biggest dangers was her picking up an infection, which could have killed her or the babies.
"It would be fair to say that this situation, throughout the 75 days, was like trying to not jog a live bomb," Zimmer said.
"This labour started with the premature birth of Mrs Krzysztonek's first triplet, who had no chance of survival, and ended with the birth of third triplet. The whole process was very risky," he said.
Krzysztonek was not allowed to move from the bed until the birth, and was fed and bathed while tilted in the same position.
"I had to be very disciplined as I was not allowed to move out of the bed for the whole 75 days. This was very uncomfortable, but the staff kept me going," she said.
"We had to arrange for everything to be done at the bed, and I mean everything - I couldn't even visit the toilet," Krzysztonek said.
At 32 weeks into the pregnancy, the doctors decided to deliver Iga and Ignacy by Caesarean on February 15. Each weighed just under 4lb.
After leaving her hospital bed, she had trouble with her balance, but now visits and holds her two babies every day. They remain in incubators but are expected to leave hospital soon.