Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My Complete Placenta Previa Story

When I got my 20-week ultrasound with my fifth baby, I walked into the office completely clueless that what I saw there was drastically going to change the next year for us.

Funnily enough, I almost didn't even have that ultrasound.

Because of traffic and my chronic lateness, I missed my appointment. The receptionist wanted to reschedule and I debated just skipping it entirely.

After all, I'd had 4 perfectly healthy babies already. In my mind the only reason to even do the 20-week ultrasound was to find out the sex of the baby, which we wanted to remain a surprise, so what was the point?

Houston, We Have a Problem (Actually, Two Problems)

Well, I did reschedule, and to my surprise we actually did find two weird things during the ultrasound: a single umbilical artery and a complete placenta previa.

My odds of developing each were respectively 0.5% and 1%, so the fact that I'd managed to do both simultaneously was actually kind of impressive.

The single umbilical artery meant a 25% chance of some serious defects, a 75% chance that everything was fine, and a 100% chance of freaking out while Googling it late at night. In our case, though, it turned out to be absolutely fine.
At 20 weeks pregnant, an ultrasound showed that I had a complete placenta previa. Here is the story of everything that followed, including pelvic rest, bleeding, hospital bed rest, and an emergency C-section. Dealing with a pregnancy complication like complete placenta previa and all its risks was not easy, so I hope stories like mine let you know you aren’t alone. #placentaprevia #csection

But then there was the placenta previa.

"Previa" is a Latin word meaning "right in the freaking way of everything." Placentas are supposed to attach up at the top of the uterus, out of the way and nicely protected, but mine was at the bottom directly over my cervix.

So from now until I had the baby, there was a possibility of me hemorrhaging.

They put me on "pelvic rest" effective immediately, which is like bed rest lite. You can still walk around, but there's no exercise, (yay!) no sex, (boo!) and no heavy lifting (okay, I completely ignored that part because toddlers.)

The other thing about a complete placenta previa is that going into labor on your own isn't even an option. The baby would be trapped and the mom would bleed out if you tried it.

It means automatic C-section.

In Which I Freak Out about Having a C-Section

My midwife was quick to point out that my placenta could move out of the way as things shifted and expanded, so we'd have to wait and see over the next few months.

Meanwhile, even the idea of a Cesarean was really hard for me to digest.

I'd never had a C-section and never wanted one. This whole time I'd been envisioning a drug-free labor and delivery. I couldn't believe it. I was mad and most of all, scared.

I talked to everyone I knew who'd had a C-section. Most said theirs was okay, but when they described the surgery I thought it sounded terrifying, and when they told me about their recovery I thought it sounded absolutely awful.

When I mentioned that to my friend Jill, who had experienced both Cesarean and vaginal births, she said, "Have these women had only C-sections before?"

I nodded.

"It's going to be okay if you have a C-section," Jill said quickly. "But I'm not going to lie to you: it's worse."

I spent the next 4 months alternately crying over C-section related Google searches and avoiding thinking about my impending fate. I was in complete denial, with periodic lucid moments where I wanted to run away screaming "They're going to CUT OPEN MY UTERUS!!!"

Meanwhile, my follow-up ultrasounds weren't looking promising. At my final ultrasound, the maternal fetal medicine specialist took one look at the print-out and snorted "Well, that placenta doesn't even want to move one way or the other!"

My placenta had firmly, stubbornly, and irrevocably hunkered down in the worst possible place, and there was no question I'd be getting a C-section.

The surgery was scheduled for the day I hit 37 weeks, which sounded crazy early to take a baby out, but there was nothing I could do about it. Except worry, which I did with exceptional skill and stamina.
When I discovered during a routine ultrasound that I had placenta previa, a million questions went through my mind. Is my baby going to be okay? Will I need to have a C-section? Is there a chance that the placenta might move? If you just found out that you have a partial or complete placenta previa, it’s a scary and uncertain time. I wished I’d been able to read more stories like this one of women who’ve been through this pregnancy complication and come out on the other side. #placentaprevia #csection

33 Weeks: First Bleeding Episode

Other than the pelvic rest and worrying about the baby and freaking out about the C-section, the pregnancy was totally normal until 33 weeks.

Phillip was home for the day and planning to take our two oldest kids to the art museum and bring a picnic lunch, but in typical Evans fashion we couldn't get our act together and at noon they hadn't even left yet.

The two of us were at the kitchen counter making sandwiches when I felt suddenly, for lack of a better comparison, like I was laying an egg.

My first thought was "Oh crap, I'm peeing my pants!" and you shouldn't judge because if you've ever been pregnant you know stuff like that just happens to pregnant people sometimes.

So I ran to the bathroom, where I quickly learned that I was not peeing my pants. It looked like I dropped a pitcher of red Kool-Aid on the floor.

Not to be graphic, but later that night Phillip was cleaning up blood that had splashed halfway up the bathroom door.

I knew majorly bleeding during this pregnancy was a possibility so I wasn't panicked, but I was really glad Phillip hadn't left hours ago like we'd planned. For once, our inability to function like normal people was working in our favor!

I called my midwife's office and they said to just go straight to labor and delivery (actually, they first told me to come into the office and I was like, "No, you don't understand, this is a lot of blood.")

The bleeding slowed down and even stopped by the time we were en route to the hospital, which was a good thing because in the back of my mind I'd been wondering how to get in the car without destroying the upholstery.

Nothing makes you worry through a pregnancy like being diagnosed with placenta previa. I know because after 4 completely healthy pregnancies and births, I found at 20 weeks that I had a total placenta previa. From pelvic rest to hospitalization, from bleeding to bed rest, from emergency C-section to a NICU baby, here is my story. #placentaprevia #pregnant

Hop on Board the Emotional Rollercoaster

I honestly thought the hospital was just going to keep me for a few hours, maybe overnight, and then send me home.

The nurses said I'd bled a lot, but I didn't need a transfusion or anything. They strapped a fetal monitor to my belly and gave me a few painful steroid shots in the bum to beef up the baby's lungs, just in case they had to do the C-section now.

Then they gave me an IV and introduced me to the bedpan. (I received numerous compliments, by the way, on how quickly I was able to pee in a bedpan. Apparently it takes most people forever to relax and just go. But since I had 4 kids at home and had been peeing with an audience for ten years already, I had an edge on the competition.)

Then we waited and watched.

Eventually Phillip went home to collect the kids and start his 3-week stint as a single father, although we didn't know then that it would be so long.

They kept me hooked up to the fetal monitor all night and strapped huge sweaty compression boots on my legs to prevent blood clots. The IV dug into my arm whenever I moved and I woke up every time the boots started loudly inflating. I did not sleep well.

For the next week, everyone I saw told me something different. A nurse told me I'd be here on bed rest for a good long while, then the next day the doctor said I might go home in a few days. A midwife doing her rounds the following morning somberly predicted a C-section within the week. I was a complete basketcase stressing over whatever they told me, and it changed every day.

Eventually it was recommended that I stay in the hospital for the rest of my pregnancy, but if I really, really wanted to do bed rest at home, then I could.

It was an agonizing decision to make. I wanted to go home so badly, but I knew that bed rest just wasn't going to happen at home with 4 little kids.

So I stayed. It was hard because I wasn't (and still am not) convinced that the bed rest served any real purpose. There aren't any scientific studies on whether bed rest is actually effective for placenta previa, and there may never be because what mom is going to gamble with her baby's life just to see?

Bed rest sucks, and maybe I was doing it all for nothing, but at the very least I was in the hospital where I was close to blood transfusions and the O.R. if I should need it, and I guess that was some comfort.

Starts with 'B' and Ends with 'edrest'

With the decision made, they moved me to the postpartum ward, so I was the only one on the floor still pregnant. Brahm's Lullaby played over the speakers every time a baby was born.

I was eventually given "bathroom privileges" (including a quick shower) and even permission to walk down the hall and back once a day.

Bed rest is so bizarre, especially the hospital kind. You have all the time in the world, but you can't concentrate long enough to read a book. I know, I tried.

Instead, I watched a lot of Big Bang Theory reruns. I knitted a shawl for my mom. I, who haven't played a video game since 1998, became an expert at Drop 7 (free from the app store!)

My life revolved around mealtime, since that was pretty much the only thing of consequence that happened all day. Phillip maintains the food was terrible, but he's a food snob. I didn't have to make it so I thought it was great.

My Complete Placenta Previa Story --  The craziest 16 weeks in my life was thanks to a placenta that didn't get the memo during my fifth pregnancy. Complete placenta previa is no joke.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Taken just a few days before the baby made his grand entrance.

People think the boredom is the worst part of bed rest, but for me it was seeing its impact on my family. 

I knew Phillip was practically killing himself trying to do both his job and mine, and there wasn't anything I could do besides call in favors for childcare or meals to everyone I knew.

The kids looked like a ragged, unbrushed band of pirates wearing winter boots with no socks when they came to see me at the hospital, yet I knew he was doing his absolute best just to get them there at all.

And I missed them. On hospital bed rest, you never get to be alone with your husband, and when you do see each other it's just for a temporary visit. As a stay-at-home mom, I went from knowing everything about my kids' day to feeling like their lives were going on without me.

It is no exaggeration to say that hospital bed rest was one of the most emotionally draining things I've ever done.

36 Weeks: Second Bleeding Episode

One day at 36 weeks, just a few days before my scheduled section, I was lying in bed (ha ha, what else would I be doing) when I had another bleed. Nothing like the first, but enough for the nurses to revoke my bathroom privileges and put me back on the fetal monitor.


The OB on call wanted to do the C-section immediately, but I pleaded with her to just wait and see.

I already felt like taking the baby out at 37 weeks was too early; I wanted to give him every extra day I could.

They agreed to watch me overnight, but unfortunately it didn't seem to be stopping and as morning approached I was maybe even bleeding a little more than before.

I'd tried as hard as I could do put it off, but having a C-section now was inevitable.

Even though my Cesarean wasn't exactly a dire emergency, they unfortunately don't have a designation for "slightly urgent, should be done sooner rather than later." There are two kinds of C-sections: scheduled and emergency. And since mine wasn't scheduled, they flipped into emergency mode and everything after that happened very fast.

You can read the details about the C-section here if you're interested (spoiler alert: I hated it.) My baby had to go to the NICU after he was taken out, but I think that was a function of him being early rather than anything having to do with the placenta previa, per se.

(And in case you're wondering whether it's possible to have a VBAC after a complete placenta previa, the answer is yes!)

My experience with complete placenta previa taught me a lot. 

It taught me not to skip the 20-week ultrasound.

It taught me childbirth isn't totally under my control.

It taught me patience as I waited on bed rest for what seemed like forever.

And most of all, it taught me never to underestimate the power of a rogue placenta.

At 20 weeks pregnant, an ultrasound showed that I had a complete placenta previa. Here is the story of everything that followed, including pelvic rest, bleeding, hospital bed rest, and an emergency C-section. Dealing with a pregnancy complication like complete placenta previa and all its risks was not easy, so I hope stories like mine let you know you aren’t alone. #placentaprevia #csection

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Unremarkable Files


Trisha said...

I should really stop reading stories about childbirth when I am just weeks away from it again.... But this wasn't so bad to read. I know I luckily don't have that problem (4 years post first c-section). but in wanting a VBAC I am 4 weeks from c-section date and baby might be breech. Oh the things you never think of before becoming pregnant!

Katy said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I hope others facing the same thing find support from your experience.

Pregnancy is crazy. It really is a miracle how our bodies work and how we can have babies. :)

AnneMarie said...

Wow, this is so intense, and I think you are so amazing for making it through this experience! That rascally placenta. Bed rest ordinarily drives me crazy, but I think at the hospital, I would go even more crazy. Seriously, you are amazing for persevering!

Rach said...

Oh wow! I've only had one friend who had placenta previa and hers was on partial and ended up moving. This sounds like a really rough thing to get your head around and all that bed rest sounds really emotionally draining. I'm glad to hear that you were able to have a VBAC with your sixth, though! :)

Lynne at the Sweet Midlife said...

Thank you for your honesty. I know that when I was pregnant with my son, I did a lot of late night Googling as well, but I loved accounts like yours, that were straightforward and, again, honest. And the unbrushed pirate children is my favorite visual.

Jenny Evans said...

I'm so glad yours did move! For some reason I never even thought or hoped that mine would, but you bet when I got pregnant with my 6th I was praying I didn't have it again!

Jenny Evans said...

Thanks. I've had the most boring textbook pregnancies, labors, and deliveries for all 5 of my other kids - I really was not expecting any of that. It was kind of a wake-up call that even with all the advances in medicine and prenatal care we've made, so much of pregnancy is still out of our hands and you really do put your life in God's hands each time you have a baby.

Jenny Evans said...

That's what I forgot: a disclaimer warning pregnant women not to read it!

Michelle said...

Wow! I'm so glad you wrote about this. I had a fluky bleeding scare halfway through, but it wasn't placenta previa, though I remember being worried about it at the time. You are such a trooper. I can't even imagine being stuck in the hospital with your kids and husband at home. I would've been a basket case.

AiringMyLaundry said...

Oh yikes! This would have been scary.

Being on bed rest would be difficult too.

Jenny Evans said...

I know I definitely was. So probably.

Unknown said...

It is helpful for me to read this! Even funny! I was just diagnosed with placenta previa and your story helped!

Her Two Pence said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I to, at the moment, am 21 weeks pregnant and found out I have placenta previa. Mine started 11-12 weeks into my pregnancy, but it took over a month to actually figure out that I had it. I was bleeding from 11-12 weeks (light, to moderate and then gushes of blood) right up until my 20th week. I just recently had an vaginal ultrasound, and, THANK JESUS, the placenta has now moved away from my cervix and the bleeding/clotting has cleared up completely.

I tell ya, it was a scary time for me, these last 4 months, especially when heavy bleeding would occur. I just thank God for His grace and healing mercies upon my baby and me, for it's been rough. I still have a few more months left before baby arrives and I'm just praying my placenta stays put and away from my cervix, cause like you, I really....REALLY....do not want a c-section!

Jenny Evans said...

I hope so, too. Almost 5 years later and everything is fine now, but given the choice I would definitely rather NOT do that again! Best of luck to you.

Unknown said...

Thank you very much for your story. I am currently in the same position as you but I am 31 weeks and was admitted into the hospital till I have my csection. Its comforting to hear stories similar to mine.

Jenny Evans said...

Good luck! Even though it's kind of a scary, unpredictable situation it does make you feel at least a little better to know that other people have been through it and come out okay on the other side. I hope your weeks left until the C-section are calm and uneventful, and I wish the best to your family trying to pick up everything you usually do at home.

BerniceSaunders said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BerniceSaunders said...

Thank you for sharing your story.I am having fluky bleeding scare halfway through, I am worried if it is that and very much worried about it now.
What's the best hospital for placenta accreta pregnancies?

Unknown said...

Thank-you for your story,
I'm 32 weeks with complete placenta previa. I was supposed to have the c section in a hospital near me, but I've been referred to a large specialty hospital (2+ hours away), I've been told to expect to be hospitalized 5-7 days before the scheduled c section,they want to do the c section between 36 and 37 weeks.
I have been having a lot of cramping in my lower uterus, so I'm on light bedrest. Your story gave me some relief.

Stefanie said...

Thank you for sharing your story! I am currently in the hospital with placenta previa (third time bleeding) and now I may be stuck here. I am only 25 weeks so I have a long way to go. Definitely, the hardest part is being away from my 3 young kids. I didn't even get to hug them goodbye when my hubby whisked me away to the hospital in the middle of the night last week. Due to Covid, I can't even see them now. It truly is heartbreaking. I am hopeful that I will be able to go home after a full week of no bleeding but I may be here for the long haul. Husband is getting help from ward family and friends but it's still so overwhelming. I feel so helpless here doing nothing but sitting and getting waited on by hospital staff. I would much rather be home but the thought of bleeding out is so terrifying.

Rin said...

I just had a similar experience today woke up with some bleeding, monitored and sent home this is my third and never had placenta prévia this late. I’m said to be marginal prévia and having another u/a at 32 weeks but am
Curious on frequency of bleeding after one episode and I know everyone is different. Just very nervous.

Anonymous said...

I'm just 14 weeks and has the scare of my life 2 days ago. I was waking like normal till I started feeling warm liquid between my legs. I knew something wasn't right since I had just gone to the bathroom before I left. So I rushed inside and went into the bathroom, saw the blood and sat down out of initial shock. Which is where it got even more shocking cause I didn't feel anything but I heard something plop and what I saw made my panic even worse. (bout a 3 by 3 sized blood clot.) I came out and cried some thinking I had just miscarried the baby but I collected myself quickly cause I had my other kids to think about. So I called 911 and we were all able to get picked up and taken to the ER...

Anonymous said...

Now I get to do bedrest which is totally abnormal from my normal routine.

Jacqueline said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this and your other c-section/NICU posts. I am currently reading from my own multi-week hospital bedrest stay (two down, three to go). You said in an earlier reply that you should put a disclaimer not to read if you're pregnant yourself, but it has been so validating to see that I'm not the only woman to ever experience this. Thank you for not sparing the scary details. I'm only 30 and pregnant with our first, but I feel so much more capable of getting through this than I did even just this morning.