Orem mother known for kind heart dies during childbirth

Published: Wednesday, May 8 2013 4:10 p.m. MDT

Justus and Katrina Lawrence with their five children.

Lawrence Family

OREM — What was supposed to be a day of joy turned into a day of grieving for a Utah County family.

Katrina Lawrence, a mother of six, died during childbirth Monday.

Katrina and Justus Lawrence were eagerly anticipating the arrival of their sixth child. A few weeks ago, Katrina was placed on hospital bed rest after doctors discovered a potentially dangerous condition called placenta previa.

Doctors were standing by to treat the 36-year-old woman the moment the baby was delivered, but they were unable to save her life.

“We have … a brand new baby,” Justus said, unable to hold back the tears. “I will miss her so much.”

The couple's sixth child, Jet Lee, was due June 15. He arrived early, joining his five siblings — 14-year-old Kai, 12-year-old Te, 11-year-old Maya, 8-year-old Dax and 3-year-old Koa.

Five months into her pregnancy, Katrina began to experience complications associated with placenta previa — a condition where the baby’s placenta partially or totally covers the mother’s cervix, which can cause severe bleeding before or during delivery — and placenta accreta.

“There’s a risk of the placenta growing into the uterus and not detaching normally during the time of delivery,” said Dr. Glenn Schemmer, a perinatologist at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. “It's certainly more common in undeveloped countries and less common in developed countries like the United States. ”

Schemmer said women who have had multiple cesarean section births are at higher risk for placenta previa and accreta. All of Katrina's previous births had been delivered by C-section.

Three weeks ago, as her condition became more serious, doctors began monitoring her in the hospital. About 2:30 p.m. Monday, Katrina began hemorrhaging and was rushed into surgery.

“They went in, they took the baby fairly well,” Justus said. “Then they started doing surgery, (and) her heart stopped. It didn’t slow down. It just stopped.”

Doctors did everything they could to save her, he said. They were able to restart her heart, but it stopped again.

“She was giving birth, gave her life for the little guy,” Justus said.

The Utah Department of Health reports roughly 200 to 250 noted cases of placenta previa each year.

In 2010, 17 Utah women died from childbirth complications. The three leading causes of pregnancy-related deaths in Utah are embolism, heart conditions and hemorrhage.

"It's still relatively uncommon in the United States. Maternal deaths (in the U.S.) occur 10 to 20 per 100,000 live births," Schemmer said. "In underdeveloped countries, that number could be as many as 250 per 100,000 live births."

Schemmer said other underlying health problems can complicate pregnancy and lead to more serious complications, "such as diabetes, high blood pressure, certain conditions to the heart."

For now, the Lawrence family is coping with the loss surrounded by friends and neighbors.

Te said he has been overwhelmed with the support his family has received from friends, family and the community.

"They all came over and made sure we were OK," he said.

Katrina's family called her an angel on Earth and said they believe it was just her time to go. The family had gathered at the hospital. When Maya saw relatives crying, she knew they were not crying tears of joy.

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