As rare as it is catastrophic, the rupture, or tear, is due to a weakness in the wall of the uterus. It occurs during labor, expelling the baby into the mother’s abdominal cavity. Deprived of blood flow, the baby quickly suffocates.
After Laney Hayes’ emergency cesarean section on June 6, the attending obstetrician described the damage as looking like “just an explosion,” says Laney. Resuscitation efforts on the baby failed.
The most common cause of a uterine rupture is surgical scarring, usually from a previous c-section. But even then, the incidence of rupture is just one in 200, or 0.5 percent, according to Dr. Aaron Caughey, the chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University. Of that tiny number, 10 percent result in the injury or death of the baby.
“That’s a pretty low risk,” says Caughey. “To get a sense of a comparable risk, if you’re having your first baby in the hospital, the risk of something happening to that baby is probably in the same ballpark.”
For more about Walker and Laney Hayes’ heartbreaking story, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
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Many women who have had c-sections weigh this low risk as they plan for a subsequent pregnancy, and they decide they want to attempt what is commonly known as a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). If they are successful, their risk for additional vaginal deliveries drops even lower: up to one in 500, or 0.2 percent.
The birth of Laney Hayes’ first child was by c-section, but her five subsequent births were all healthy vaginal deliveries.
“Five hundred women like her could have had this glowing experience,” says Caughey, “but the one bad outcome is someone’s worst day of their life.”