Uterine Fibroids

Spotlight On: Prenatal and Postnatal Complications In Droves

    Prenatal and postnatal complications are not as rare as we'd like to believe, even in the United States. This month, Band Back Together is bringing this to light in our spotlight series.

We invite you to share your stories of any type of complication before or after the birth of your child. Whether it's preeclampsia, a cord trauma or an infection like Group B Strep, we want your stories.

Have you experienced complications during pregnancy or immediately after?

You want prenatal and postnatal complications?

I've had them in spades. My son just turned a year old, and I can't stop thinking about what happened after his birth every single day.

After having a miscarriage in 2008, another in 2009, and a third in 2010, I was desperate to have a pregnancy.

I have PCOS and hypothyroidism, and my doctors had told me that if I wanted to carry my own child, I needed to do it ASAP.

I couldn't get affordable health insurance due to my pre-existing conditions. The policies I could get didn't cover infertility treatments anyway. So I hit blogland to see what real doctors prescribed for women I thought were similar to me.

I found that some women had luck trying to conceive while on Clomid. I gave it a try, but after several cycles and too many stark white peesticks to count, I decided it wasn't working.

One day I woke up feeling worse, worse than I'd felt since the miscarriages - crampy, achy, downright vomity - and I knew I had to test just one more time. It was positive!

The next day, I was admitted to the hospital for the pain due to a suspected ectopic pregnancy. I spent the next three days there until an intrauterine sac showed up on ultrasound.

Guess what also showed up on the ultrasound? My right kidney, very inconveniently nestled up to my uterus.

Hyperemesis hit immediately, as it had with the other pregnancies. It sucked, but at least there was a constant reminder that lucky number 4 was still hanging in there. I was given an anti-emetic and remained on it for the remainder of the pregnancy.

It made things so much better. Even on the medication, I weighed 45 pounds less after delivery than I did before I got pregnant. (I've never been so happy to be fluffy in all my life. Imagine if you didn't have those 45 pounds to spare!)

At eight weeks, I started seeing spots. My blood pressure had started to rise, and a 24-hour urine protein sample showed I was already emitting large amounts of protein in my urine. The blood pressure medications made me incredibly dizzy. For the rest of the pregnancy, I couldn't stand up for longer than 15 minutes without feeling as though I might pass out.

At twelve weeks, my husband and I thought we were in the clear.

Suck it, first trimester!

I went to the bathroom one night at work, feeling slightly crampy. I found that I was bleeding and had passed a large clot. I rushed to the hospital, all the while thinking, "We shouldn't have bought the crib. We tempted fate and now it's all over. I'm sorry, baby."

It turned out that I'd had a small fibroid that grew larger from the pregnancy hormones, too large for its own blood supply. It was dying from the inside, hence the blood and pain. I went on the first of several stints of modified bed rest.

At 18 weeks, the bleeding from the fibroid finally stopped and I was released from activity restrictions. I promptly got food poisoning and ended up dehydrated and in preterm labor. Cue modified bed rest, part two, which ended at 22 weeks.

My blood pressure had risen to dangerous levels at 23 weeks. I was already maxed out on the amount of blood pressure medication I could take. I was also emitting even more protein in my urine. Enter modified bed rest, part three. On the ultrasounds, it showed that baby was getting smaller and smaller for gestational age.

I tested positive for gestational diabetes at 24 weeks. That, combined with the other complications, ruled me out of all care options in my hometown.

We're in a rural community, and a maternal-fetal-medicine team flies in once a month to do level two ultrasounds. They took on my care, seeing me when they were in town. I drove 220 miles one way to see them for the rest of my appointments. I caught bronchitis in their office and broke a rib coughing. Unpleasant at the best of times, downright intolerable when there's also a baby kicking you those ribs.

At 26 weeks, my blood pressure spiked some more. I was seeing spots in my vision all of the time. I had a constant severe headache. I was having epigastric pain, but I thought it was just heartburn from throwing up all the time and wondered why antacids weren't working. Due to miscommunication between my care providers, this went unnoticed until 28 weeks.

At the 28 week appointment, I was put on full bed rest after an abnormal EKG and some bad cardiac laboratory testing. It was only then that the maternal-fetal-medicine team realized that they'd never done a urine protein check on me. It came in high of course, but nobody could decide if that was because of my crappy pelvic kidney (that had been emitting protein for the entire pregnancy and was now getting damaged further by constant baby headbutts) or if it was the beginning of preeclampsia

We monitored it for several weeks. The levels rose slowly, as did my blood pressure, and they decided to keep me home on bed rest with a blood pressure monitor. They would induce labor as soon as the baby's lungs were ready.

At 37 weeks, his lungs were ready, which was good because labs showed I was in the early stages of heart, liver, and kidney failure. He was deemed fully cooked. He thought differently and refused to make his appearance.

After 84 hours of labor (GBS+, 37 hours since my water broke), I had a c-section. I had a bad reaction to the spinal on the operating table. Our son's heart rate hit 30 and mine hit 16. I thanked them for the blessed pain relief. Labor sucks for most (if not all) people, but I didn't know it would also make me flashback to the sexual abuse I suffered as a child.

I never thought I'd really have a baby at the end of it all. Not until I saw him alive and screaming. I thought that was the end of the nightmare called reproduction. But after two hours in the recovery room, his blood sugar was a little low, so they took him for monitoring.

Eight hours later, when I could stand and walk again, they let us have our son back to feed him. We thought he was just sleepy when he didn't want to eat.

Wrong.

His blood sugar had tanked after they forgot to check it during those eight hours, and he was lapsing in and out of a coma. He was rushed to the NICU for IV dextrose.

He was also jaundiced from ABO Incompatibility and had to be on phototherapy. He stayed in the NICU for the next five days.

He's a determined, stubborn little fighter to this day, and we are so lucky that he made it unscathed through all of the complications.

Mama, on the other hand, still can't process the enormity of all of it - more than a year later.

But on the bright side, the PTSD symptoms from the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period have almost completely eclipsed the symptoms I had from other life events.

So, glitter?

Yes, glitter, dammit!

6 Comments
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Spotlight On: My Son's Twin ... I Called Him Fibroid

Prenatal and postnatal complications are not as rare as we'd like to believe, even in the United States. This month, Band Back Together is bringing this to light in our spotlight series.

We invite you to share your stories of any type of complication before or after the birth of your child. Whether it's preeclampsia, a cord trauma or an infection like Group B Strep, we want your stories.

Have you experienced complications during pregnancy or immediately after?

From the moment I learned that I was pregnant, nothing about my pregnancy was normal.

I wasn't trying to start a family.

I was a very single, 31-year-old woman who had just finished a five-year stint in the Army. I had soon thereafter secured a professional career in environmental health and safety. I was dating (and having sexual relations with) multiple men and taking birth control. I was foot loose and fancy free ... or something like that.

The night after my roommate made a comment about my boobs spilling out of my bra, I finally took a pregnancy test.

It just wasn't possible that I was pregnant. For goodness sake, I'd had unprotected sex more times than I could count in the 15 years I had been sexually active, and never once did I even have a pregnancy scare. I was being responsible ... well ... except for that one time, but really? I was fairly certain I wasn't even able to get pregnant, and I was okay with that.

No amount of denial, disbelief, or bargaining could change the results. I was pregnant.

I knew there was no way I was going to have any kind of permanent relationship with any of the potential fathers. They were fun to date, but not what I would call good daddy material.

Single motherhood? I could do that. It didn't matter that my family was 3000 miles away and I would be truly on my own. I'd spent five years being all that I could be. I could do this, too! And so I did.

I started the prenatal vitamins, quit drinking, quit smoking, and waited for that first exam with my midwife. I felt better than I ever had - no morning sickness - no moodiness - tons of energy. Pregnancy was easy for me.

At my 10-week check-up, my midwife did her exam. It took quite some time, and she seemed to be double-checking things, but I really wasn't worried. I had zero experience with pregnancy (mine or anyone else's), so had no notion of what a normal exam was. It wasn't until she told me she was going to have the doctor come in and do the exam that I decided there was probably something to worry about.

The doctor confirmed it: my son had a "twin" - a 15cm (much larger than my son at 10 weeks) mass.

This was 17 years ago. Medical technology wasn't what it is today. The doctor ordered a sonogram, but couldn't be certain what the mass was. Most likely, it was a benign fibroid tumor, but there was a chance it might be something else - possibly even cancer. The only way to really know would be to schedule exploratory surgery, but there was significant risk in doing that: premature labor, stress on the fetus, spontaneous miscarriage.

He decided the best course of action was to monitor the mass for a while. If it didn't get any bigger there wouldn't be any reason for concern.

Six weeks later, the mass had doubled in size. I was carrying a fetus and a small cantaloupe. Exploratory surgery was necessary.

WooHoo!!

Wait ... what??

This wasn't what pregnancy was supposed to be like! I know! I read the "What To Expect When You're Expecting" book. There was no mention of this in there ... NONE!

Halfway through my pregnancy, feeling very alone and terrified, the doctor made an incision from my pelvic bone to my bellybutton, and took a look at my uterus. It was good news - a benign fibroid tumor. I wasn't going to die.

As I came out from the surgery, all I wanted was to hear my son's heartbeat ... and there it was.

I was released from the hospital the following day, 37 staples holding my still-growing belly together, and went back to work after three days of recovery time at home.

Although the healing of the incision site was slow, my pregnancy continued on without concern, until I went in for my seven-month check-up.

While doing her non-routine, routine exam, my midwife looked up at me and asked, "Did you feel that?"

"Feel what?"

Apparently, I was having regular and strong contractions. I honestly couldn't feel them. I thought that was a good thing, but the midwife didn't think so. It seems preterm labor, where the patient cannot feel the contractions, is a really bad thing.

I was sent home with a prescription that made my heart feel like it was doing a tap dance in my chest, and orders to have a visiting nurse stop by the following day with a monitor that would allow me to send data on my contractions (that I couldn't feel), twice a day, to a nurse via a telephone connection. She would tell me if I had cause for concern, or if I could go on about my day until the next monitoring period.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

For the next four weeks.

At 36 weeks pregnant, I was allowed to go off the medication and stop monitoring my contractions, but the fibroid tumor was still causing concern. It was blocking the birth canal.

There was still a remote possibility that labor might change the placement of the fibroid, clearing a path, but that was unlikely.

At 41 weeks and with what appeared to be right around a 10-pound baby, the doctor decided it was time to schedule a c-section.

Two days later my 9-pound, 13-ounce healthy son was delivered via the same incision site they used for the exploratory surgery.

By the following year, the uterine fibroid had shrunk to a size that was undetectable using a sonogram.

Looking back, I was surprising calm about my "twin" pregnancy. I was lucky. I really had no expectations of what pregnancy should be like. It was that ignorance naïveté that I believe resulted in such a positive outcome of an unusual pregnancy.

9 Comments
A note about commenting: It only takes moments to comment but makes a world of difference to an author to know they are not alone: They're with the Band! Please share your support here!