'A week after I brought my daughter into the world, I almost left it': Mom opens up about horrifying post-pregnancy sepsis

Elizabeth Di Filippo
·Editor
Image via Love What Matters/Courtesy of Autumn Benjamin.
Image via Love What Matters/Courtesy of Autumn Benjamin.

A young mother is opening up about her experience after being diagnosed with a near-fatal case of postpartum sepsis.

“A week after I brought my daughter into the world, I almost left it,” Autumn Benjamin told PEOPLE magazine.

The 22-year-old was in her last week of pregnancy when she began experiencing flu-like symptoms and a fever.

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When doctors determined that she didn’t have the flu, the Tennessee native says she didn’t think much more of her symptoms and focused on welcoming her first child, daughter Layla Vance.

However, shortly after delivering Layla, Benjamin’s symptoms worsened, and she developed a severe fever, experienced fainting and found a blood clot while in the shower.

Although concerned, Benjamin listened to the advice of her family who assured her that her symptoms were common after having a baby.

Benjamin shared a photo of her bruised abdomen. A week after giving birth, doctors diagnosed Benjamin with postpartum sepsis – a near fatal condition. Image via Love What Matters/Courtesy of Autumn Benjamin.
Benjamin shared a photo of her bruised abdomen. A week after giving birth, doctors diagnosed Benjamin with postpartum sepsis – a near fatal condition. Image via Love What Matters/Courtesy of Autumn Benjamin.

“The reason I didn’t go to the hospital initially is because I had people in my ear telling me I was over-exaggerating how I was feeling,” the young mother told the magazine. “I had anxiety about leaving my daughter, because I knew if I went to the ER I wouldn’t have her with me. I didn’t want to go, and be away from her.”

A week later, Benjamin finally sought help from her obstetrician, who informed her that she had severe sepsis — and that had she waited any longer to receive help, the results could have been fatal.

“She was upset with me for not coming in,” Benjamin said. “She told me, ‘If you would’ve waited, you could be dead right now.'”

The thought of leaving behind her daughter was too much for the new mother too handle.

“It was a very scary thought,” she said. “I don’t want that for her. I wanted to be there for her every waking moment. I knew I had to get better.”

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While receiving treatment, Benjamin’s doctor revealed that her pelvis had become “congested” with blood clots, due to pressure during pregnancy.

She told me, ‘With how sick you were, you could’ve been dead within a couple of days. This is serious,'” Benjamin recalled.

Although uncommon in developed countries, the Center for Disease Control reports that postpartum sepsis caused 12.7 per cent of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States between the years 2011 and 2013.

Benjamin is now healthy and sharing her experience to warn other mothers of the warning signs of postpartum sepsis. Image via Facebook.
Benjamin is now healthy and sharing her experience to warn other mothers of the warning signs of postpartum sepsis. Image via Facebook.

Sepsis is the body’s inflammatory response to infections such as pneumonia or urinary tract infection and can develop at any point during pregnancy. Women often develop sepsis or septic shock as a result of complications such as miscarriage, cesarian sections, prolonged labour and mastitis (infection in the breasts).

After her diagnosis, Benjamin underwent two months of treatment that included taking blood thinners and medication and slowly but surely began to heal.

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The first couple weeks were so rough. Is this the price you pay? I was like, ‘I’d do it a thousand times over, but this sucks,’” she admitted. “I was miserable for those first few weeks. When I started feeling better, I really started to get to enjoy [motherhood].”

Now, Benjamin is sharing her story through an essay on Love What Matters, and says she is finally feeling healthy enough to enjoy life with her daughter and boyfriend, Kevin Vance.

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