Our placenta praevia and placenta accreta survivor story

This year has been a real rollercoaster and guess what, it is not over yet. I am not only talking about the Covid-19 spread, the lockdowns, the travel bans, the killing of civilians by police in the States, the anti harassment movement in Egypt and .. oh well the list goes on .. I am talking about something a little more private and definitely not so high profile: my high risk pregnancy.

Being pregnant during a pandemic is definitely not easy, especially while on lockdown. I did not get any external help with my first born (his nursery was closed for 2,5 months) and I was running out of ideas on what to do with him, but it all worked fine regardless of my pregnancy. We were truly looking forward to May 4th: the day Germany eased up on the lockdown regulations and brought a new fresh wind into the country. It seemed like the hospitals had enough capacity, that the system was going to work again..and even though hospitals did not allow visits yet it kind of gave us all a little sense of security during these hard times. Never have I imagined that the 4th of May was going to be the beginning of my very private lockdown: I had my first bleed at 24 weeks due to a very rare and dangerous pregnancy condition called Placenta Previa. I knew I had a low lying placenta since week 20 but I never really took it seriously until that day. We rushed to my OB who sent me straight to hospital, where I had to say bye to my son and husband in the car since they could not come up with me to the ER. I was then diagnosed with a Central Placenta Previa (somewhere also called Major Previa) and had to stay in for about 4 days. The bleed calmed down after a day but I had random blood discharge for another while so I had to stay in until it stopped. Thankfully the pregnancy was viable at this point but who wants an emergency C section this early? The chances of survival for such an early preemie are low and even if a baby makes it, the chances of it having serious health problems in life are high. Anyhow, I got my first round of steroid shots and the hospital told me to go somewhere with a higher NICU level in the extremely likely case that it would happen again.

Fast forward a week I was sent to hospital by my OB due to a premature shortening of the cervix (no blood at this time, just some spotting). I was monitored for three days and then sent home where I was on bed rest and pretty much on lockdown. That is when our lives took a big turn.

At this point it was clear: I was on bed rest. I was starting my very own lockdown just as the country started to ease up all the COVID restrictions. I didn’t take my condition as seriously up until that point. My whole life was moved down to 100 squared meters as I could not take the stairs anymore. No more sleeping in my bed, no more showering in my bathroom, no more walks with my son and no more going out unless I had to go to the doctor. I lived on the first floor of our house: the couch was turned into a bed for me, and the guests bathroom turned into my own bathroom. It all felt like prison. It felt like I was trapped in my own body with absolutely no control over it.

Fast forward three weeks, I was admitted to hospital again following a big bleed. I got another round of steroid shots, I was given a lot of information about preemie delivery, about the NICU of the hospital I was staying at, about giving birth under high risk circumstances. It was overwhelming. It seemed like my placenta praevia was not completely covering the cervix anymore, just partially. This gave me a little bit of hope, and a little bit of strength. God only knows how much I have prayed for my praevia to clear on its own, for my health and my babys health to be ok. But my bleed did not want to stop, I stayed in a week and was released to go home after that. My anxiety was high, my fears would not leave my head. I could not sleep, every movement was really hard, my body could handle activities but I was not allowed any and this was killing me. Even harder than that was the fact that I could not freely play with my son, he felt there was something going on, he felt things were different and all I could do was cuddle up with try to explain the situation. But what can a 20 months old truly understand? He could feel, but he could not understand why things were this way. I had a countdown calendar, I was living for the day, I ticked off each day as it passed and prayed for another 24 hours to go by without further bleeds. But things did not go as smoothly.

At my 34 weeks check up it seemed like I had a slight chance to give natural birth as my placenta moved a few millimetres away from my cervix. In many countries it would not have been enough, but here in Germany the doctors gave me the benefit of the doubt and told me I could cancel my planned C section (which was booked for 38 weeks) if I wanted to. I took some time to think about it, went home, talked to my midwife, and talked to my husband. They both encouraged me: I really did not want a C section unless necessary, I really wanted to give birth naturally. It might be a painful experience yes; but it is a great one, full of adrenaline and connection to your child. Moreover; kids born naturally are statistically said to be healthier and stronger, and this is what I wished for anyway.

I felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel and that at this point things would just get better. Little have I known..things did not get better. On the same afternoon I felt the biggest gush of blood coming out of me, went to the bathroom and it started dripping on my legs, on the floor, filled the toilet and my underwear. Once again I was rushed to labour&delivery at the hospital. Once again I had my blood drawn, an IV put in place, and once again I was away from my family. My husband was allowed to visit me once a day, but I missed my son terribly. He had no idea what was going on but he missed me too. We had several video calls a day: they were great but made me miss him even more. I did not know when I would be able to see him again, the doctors told me it might take weeks before I could go home again.

Luckily the bleed started to get weaker the morning after, and my husband came to check up on me. He wheel chaired me to the hospital ´s garden so I could breathe some fresh air, we talked about me going home soon, about things getting better…. but it did not all go quite as planned.

On the next morning I woke up to yet another strong bleed, I was given some medications, and I was monitored on a CTG a few times a day. Again, it felt like this was fading away as well. I had another scan and I was very hopeful to finally be able to go home to my family.

Unfortunately the doctor was not happy about the scan at all: the baby was doing fine but he felt there was a new anomaly around my placenta. It looked like an internal blood clot. He was not sure what this clot would turn into and decided that I had to stay for another 48 hours. Thank God I stayed. On July 16th I woke up to a massive bleed, which lead to a few other scans and check ups. This time the results were different. The head of the department came to talk to me and told me it was time to make a decision. He said I would not go home pregnant. We had to decide what to do.

There was a 50% chance that I could deliver naturally, the doctor told me if I wanted to try then they would induce birth straight away, but I would have to be monitored for at least 24 hours or until delivery (in case that occurred earlier) since I was high risk. The other alternative would be to go straight to the OR for a planned C section. I felt like I owned myself and my baby a try, and that maybe the induction was the right choice, I signed the papers and there I was: at labour&delivery again. This time the doctors took several precautions, and I was put on CTG for the entire time. There was a midwife checking up on me every 30 minutes and a doctor coming in every hour or so. After a couple of hours the contractions started kicking in, I was so happy, I felt like it was working. I was even asking whether I could be given an epidural just in case, and I was about to sign the papers for it as well.

My happiness did not last long though, 8 hours after they induced birth, I had another (this time) extremely strong bleed, I saw blood everywhere, and I started feeling numb. I knew something was wrong, I screamed and pressed all emergency buttons. A midwife rushed in and seconds later I had three doctors in the room as well. I had another two IV´s placed in and I was given medications to prevent me from puking, I was given something for my pulse and I was given medications to quickly stop the contractions. Then I was finally told that it was time to go in. There was no more waiting, no more trying, surgery was the only way as I was starting to have a placenta abruption. I could feel blood coming out of me, but I cannot remember much, I know my husbad was called in but was obviously not allowed into the OR. My baby girl was born within 5 minutes and taken straight to the NICU, whereas I was out about an hour after that. I remember feeling cold, I remember shaking, and I remember seeing the needles in my arms, but I also remember the friendly face of the anesthesist who kept telling me things will be fine, that I am in good hands and that my baby will be fine as well. I remember thinking about my son at home, about how I had to fight to make sure I could see him again, and that is when my pulse started stabilising. My family gave me the strenght I needed.

During surgery they found out my placenta had a little cut in it, which cause internal bleeding, and they diagnosed placenta accreta as well (this is a very rare condition), therefore they had to cut it out manually. Both placenta praevia, and placenta accreta occur in rare cases and could be extremely dangerous if not diagnosed before delivery. Luckily the doctors were prepared to treat all eventualities and had blood reserves for me, as well as enough specialists available. Afterwards I was told that the bleeding was very severe, and that I should consider myself lucky to be in hospital already, as we would not have made it from home.

The team has made an amazing job in saving our lives and I could not be thankful enough. God is great and has been by our side all along.

Our baby girl, Nora Elena, was born on July 16th at only 34 weeks gestation, has spent 9 days at the NICU and had 3 subsequent check ups. We are now both home and could not be happier.

It all feels like a dream, or rather a nightmare. It is over and I still cannot believe it. I am still having a hard time emotionally but my mental health is slowly getting better. I still have nightmares and need some time to process all that has happened but I am definitely grateful. I learnt to appreciate all the moments gifted to me, I appreciate my family and my friends, I love life and I am so thankful to be where I am. I am lucky, and I have been gifted. I will definitely try to give a share of what I have to those in need, and I will gift people with a smile a little more often: a smile is something we need during hard times. Never again will I understimated the power of love, the power of a prayer and the power of doing well.

There is so much to our story than what I wrote here, but I do not feel ready to go into further details just yet. Please reach out if you want to know more or if you feel like you are going through a hard time and need some support. All I can tell you is that this has been the hardest time for my family, my husband and I were on the verge of a breakdown, and my son was feeling something was not ok as well. As of now we are happy to start enjoying our life again, my son is the sweetest little brother and already loves and cares for his sister. He does tell me every now and then “mom please don’t go away, and this breaks my heart. But I am surely glad to tell him that this time I am here to stay. I guess most people will not understand the gravity of the situation we have gone through unless they experience it, but it is ok. Just please know that being there for your friends and family is extremely important, not only during hard times but always. Moral support is great, we often get caught in our lives that we forget about those in need. Maybe an elderly member of our family, a neighbour, a friend … maybe a stranger who happens to cross paths with us… there is always someone who could use a word of encouragement and a smile. Empathy is important, caring is important. Please be there!

xx

Pete


THE FOLLOWING PART WAS WRITTEN DURING MY LAST HOSPITAL ADMISSION, I DIDNT KNOW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN AS I WAS WRITING. I JUST THOUGHT OF INCLUDING IT AS IT DESCRIBES MY FEELINGS AT THE TIME. I HOPE IT HELPS SOME MOMS REALIZE THAT THEY ARE NOT ALONE DURING HARD TIMES

I am writing this part lying on my hospital bed, it is Sunday evening and I was admitted on Friday at 34+0 weeks following a bleed. Yesterday it kind of got better, it changed in colour and it didn’t´t look as fresh anymore, and started wearing off during the day. Unfortunately a warm gush woke me up this morning: fresh blood, again. So that would be my second bleed within 36 hours. Yesterday I thought I could leave the hospital on Monday, as of today I do not know when this will actually happen.

I know this is the safest place to be at and to be honest going home and waking up to such a gush would scare me even more, or maybe being home alone if it happens would totally drive my anxiety level to 1000%; however I really miss my son. Due to Covid-19 regulations I am allowed to get one selected visitor once a day in the afternoon (this is better than my first two hospital admission right in the middle of the pandemic, where no visitors were allowed at all!), it has to be the same person so I opted for my husband. They might increase that to two visitors at some point but this does not include kids, so as long as I am in the hospital I won‘t be able to see Liam, my 22 months old son. Being a mother can be extremely hard sometimes, and these mixed feelings right now make it even harder. On one hand I have to really take care of the precious baby inside of me, and on the other I have to “neglect” my first born a little for the time being. It totally kills me, knowing that I cannot do both of my kids good at the same time. This is a feeling only those who are in a similar situation will understand, FaceTime helps a little but whilst I love seeing my baby boy, I know I have to keep smiling while looking at him, try to make him feel like I am still close to him. Then, the second I put down the phone I start crying (just like I am doing now while writing down these words). I am sure I am in good hands and that at some point this struggle will end and better times will come, but right now this is very emotional, hard and nerve racking. My stress and anxiety level is quite high right now, and it is not even the fact that I don’t know when I will see my family, or when I will be able to take a walk…it is the simple fact that I am not in control of my body right now, I do not know what/when will happen. The worst of it all is that no one can tell. I am scheduled for a very much unwanted but necessary c-section at 38 weeks and 4 days; however the doctors are not confident that my pregnancy will last that long. I was told there is no point in setting an earlier date because as of now I could go into labour at any time, and every day is a win, so if I do start going into labour or if I get yet another significant bleed, I will be taken to the OR and take my baby out saving both of our lives (I hope!). This is yet another cause of anxiety for me, knowing that I could deliver anytime between now and the next 4 weeks without any kind of warning. What I do is actually set myself little targets. The very first one was set after my very first hospital stay at 24 weeks: my goal was to make it to 29 weeks. After that it was to make it to 32 weeks, then 34..and now the targets are getting shorter. As of now my next one would be to make it to 35 weeks; I will take it from there then.

Five things they don´t tell you about post partum

Hi everyone!

I hope you all had a good night sleep and are ready for the weekend! I actually had a really good night, Liam slept almost 9 hours straight so I really can´t complain. He is now 3,5 months old and I have to say I am feeling really well. It wasn´t always like this though.

A lot has happened during the first few weeks after I gave birth, most of which I somehow didn´t expect. So here I go sharing with you my top 5 things you (might) go through right after getting a baby that you might not know about just yet.

But hey, don´t worry, there is nothing a woman can´t do, and post-partum is not so bad after all. Our bodies and souls get back to normal faster than you would think, and all of a sudden we feel stronger and empowered, because there is just so much a woman can do!

*** Note: I had a natual birth, I have no idea what happens in the weeks following a C-section ** 

  1. You don´t magically lose your pregnancy weight (and your baby bump) right after giving birth 

If you thought all those pounds you put on during those hard but beautiful 9 pregnany months would just go away the moment you see your bundle of joy, rethink. It is definitely not true, at least for most of us it isn´t.

Right after giving birth you lose the weight of the baby, the placenta, some water and some blood. Now, depending on how much you have put on during pregnancy, this could be about a third of the total extra pounds you have gained. For me it was unfortunately only a fourth of my plus weight (I did gain a whooooole lot though!). This means you will probably look like someone in her 5th pregnancy month, meaning that the maternity pants you bought may still serve their purpose. So do not throw them away the moment you check into hospital for delivery! AND remember to get very comfy pants (and panties) with you to the hospital.

Whilst you might be disappointed by the way you look, you won´t really have time to think about it. The joy of finally having your baby overweighs everything else for sure!

Also, don´t worry! The rest will also slowly (but surely) disappear with time. I still, for example, have only 800grams left to shake off, which is not much at all (given I had put on 21Kg!). It might be a tough road at times, but be reassured, everything does get better, and all those beautiful clothes hanging in your wardrobe will soon enough fit again!

2. Your (natural) birth wounds do not heal overnight 

The pain that comes with natural birth is forgotten the moment you see your little bundle of joy; however there is one or the other thing you might experience right after! I had third degree wounds and at the beginning I could feel pretty much all the stiches I got, which made the whole process of going to the toilette a little scary. Fortunately it was not as bad as I thought it would be, just remember to always use warm (not hot) water right after peeing (it really works magic, I promise), and at the beginning use suppositories (they should give you some at the hospital) if you need to go to the toilette for something else.

I know, this sounds a little gross, but it is the bold truth: you want to avoid haemorrhoids and ease pain (so this is the perfect solution for both). I am sorry this is a little too bold for some of you, but I believe it is important to speak about it! It is also important to mention that you should not use any toiletry articles if you are still bleeding, just use hot water!

I fortunately did all of this right away and had no problems in the healing process, it just all took its time and its course.

3. You might bleed for 6 weeks straight

Yup, you heard that well. Ladies, not having your period for 9 months straight was pretty cool yes, but it all comes back at you at once (but it stops again if you nurse). Just think about it, your body needs to get rid of all that little extra you piled up during pregnancy, the uterus needs to get back to its natural size and shape, and your organs need to get back into the right place and position. While all of this happens, your body naturally gets rid of all the extra and it goes through a well deserved healing process. The bleeding is quite strong at first (so you will need specific sanitary pads at first, I needed those for about 2 weeks, maybe a little less) but it lessen with time, before it stops completely at week 6 the latest. I think I was done by the end of week 4 or 5. At the end is not as bad, it just feels like the last day of your period and normal pads will definitely do.

Again, this might be a gross and very explicit topic, but it is important that we talk about it and share our experience, this is part of a process and it is part of education. Don´t forget to visit your doctor 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth, just to make sure everything is really ok!

4. Breasfeeding is not easy and it takes time to get it right

Whilst it is ok if you decide not to breasfeed and use formula instead (I respect all opinions and decisions), I believe there is nothing better for a child than drinking his mother´s milk. I was told by all the doctors I have seen that it contains vitamins which formula cannot replace, it builds antibodies, and (let´s be honest) it helps the natural healing process of the mother (as well as it helps you lose weight if you do not over-eat of course, the production of milk consumes at least 200 Kcal a day I was told !).

At first it will take (a lol of ) time! I don´t feel like I am ready to share my experience about this with everyone just yet, but I promise breastfeeding took a lot of effort. I even got sick, but fortunately it all went well. Even then, I didn´t stop nursing. After a very long 6 weeks, my baby boy has learnt how to eat properly and did not need any additional food through bottles. If you are facing problems, I promise it gets better. Just stay at it and don´t give up! My doctor adviced me to nurse at least till Liam is 6months old, I am planning to do it until he is 1 (unless something comes in between). We will start giving him food other than milk after he is 5 months and we will see how things will change.

This is a beautiful experience, it is a bond you get to experience only once with your child. Do not miss it if you can, even if at the beginning you might bleed, get milk clogs, and/or get fever. Trust me, it all goes away!

5. Diastasis Recti (or abdominal separation)

This is a condition a lot of woman (including me) have right after giving birth. As your uterus grows, a gap caused by its stretching forms between your abdominal muscles. Let your care provider advice you on what you can do to reduce this gap and to make sure your muscles get into the right place again. I personally did some pelvic excercises and followed all the instructions I was given. Also, I started a 10 weeks post partum rehab program which is really good for my waistline as well.

I now don´t have diastasis recti anymore and can luckily do all sort of physical activities again.

 

So that was it from my side on this topic for now! As I said, all of the above are just temporary conditions, but it is very important to talk about them and share our experiences with one another.

Let me know what you think in the comments below, or else you can write me an E-mail 😉

 

xx

Pete