Your experiences Tough times

Laura Lawrence was seven months pregnant with her son Stanley when she was struck with Bell’s palsy, causing facial paralysis. Here, she talks about how it affected her pregnancy and how it continues to dent her confidence.

It started on Friday 13 October when I had a terrible earache. I saw a doctor who said that although she could not find an infection she would give me antibiotics.

They didn’t help and by the next evening when I went out for a meal with my husband, Sid, I was in a lot of pain. When I took a sip of my drink it dribbled down my front and peas rolled out of my mouth.

By Sunday morning my face had started to droop. Sid was worried I’d had a stroke and took me to the out-of-hours doctor who prescribed painkillers.

Later that day my mother-in-law, a retired nurse, visited. The minute she saw me she knew it was Bell’s palsy.

What is Bell's palsy?

Bell’s palsy causes paralysis to the face, usually temporary and normally on one side. And, unknown to me at the time, it is quite common in pregnancy for reasons that are not yet understood.

It is thought to occur when the nerve that controls the facial muscles is compressed or becomes inflamed, possibly because of a virus.

Concern for my baby

I was scared and concerned for my unborn baby. The doctor I saw next was fantastic.

A course of steroids was discussed as this is recommended for the best chance of recovery. However, they need to be taken within a 72-hour window from the onset of the palsy to have any effect and it was thought this might pose a risk to my baby, so I ended up with more painkillers.

This time they did take the edge off my discomfort but I worried what they might do to my baby.

Visible effects

I hated the thought of having to explain to people, so I stopped going to antenatal classes.

My family and friends were amazing, but I was aware that my face had drooped, my eye had begun to water and I could only chew on one side.

I hated the thought of having to explain to people, so I stopped going to antenatal classes.

Worst of all, when I asked about my recovery, doctors could only say time would tell. This upset me as I had been looking forward to photos with my new baby.

My pregnancy continued normally and, three days after his due date, Stanley was born. I was elated until the cameras came out.

Coping with a newborn

I went back to my antenatal group but felt self-conscious when I looked at other mums smiling at their babies.

But going back to work when Stanley was 16 weeks old wasn’t too bad because everyone there knew what had happened.

I’d advise others to do your facial exercises as soon as possible as this can aid recovery.

Although I was supposed to be doing facial exercises, I was too tired. Stanley had colic and my husband was in the Royal Navy and he was posted abroad.

My time was spent taking Stanley to nursery, working, picking him up, and doing bath and bed time.

There are times when I’m very down but my family and friends have helped. They listen when I’m having a bad day and remind me I’m still me and they love me the same – wonky smile or not.

More information

For information and support after a challenging experience of pregnancy, birth or parenthood, call NCT’s helpline on 0300 330 0770.

Facial Palsy UK runs support groups for anyone affected.

Find out more about Bell’s palsy on the NHS website