Rosie’s Story: Our Placenta Accreta Diagnosis

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At the first of the year, my husband and I found out that we were expecting our 5th child. It was the day before his 35th birthday. We had been trying to get pregnant for close to a year and I was elated to get a positive pregnancy test. A few weeks into the pregnancy, I thought one of my worst fears was coming true. I work as a sonographer and was able to get a peek of the baby. I quickly realized that the pregnancy wasn’t exactly where it was supposed to be. Instead of being high in the uterus, it was low and it looked like I might miscarry. I prepared myself and was pleasantly surprised when the pregnancy progressed and found it’s way up to where it was supposed to be.

At 16 weeks, I woke up around midnight to use the restroom.  I felt almost like I had peed my pants or was super sweaty. It was at that point that I realized that I was bleeding. It was a lot and I continued to bleed heavily all night. Again, I was sure I was losing our baby. I had never bled so much and it was beyond scary. After going to our OB that morning and having an ultrasound done, I was told that I had two 7 centimeter subchorionic bleeds and placenta previa. The bleeding slowed down and I started to feel less alarmed, but I was put on bed rest until the bleeding completely stopped and pelvic rest the rest of my pregnancy so I didn’t create a new bleed.  I spotted for several days after that and finally it stopped.

 

 

 

 

Four weeks later, we went in for our screening ultrasound. As an ultrasound tech, I was familiar with everything that was being scanned and our baby looked great. It was a little girl! Our ultrasound tech spent extra time towards the end looking at the placenta. I already knew that I had previa and I assumed that’s all she was looking at. After she was done, we went back to meet with my doctor. He expressed concerns that I had placenta accreta and wanted me to get another ultrasound done at maternal fetal medicine.

 

 

 

Placenta accreta was something that I had learned about in ultrasound school but couldn’t remember exactly what it was. I scan general ultrasound and not a lot of OB so I was off to research it as soon as we left. I immediately became scared after reading about it. If you aren’t aware, placenta accreta is when the vessels of the placenta attach too deeply into the uterus. This can cause severe complications at delivery as the placenta doesn’t detach and a woman can start hemorrhaging. The placenta can also invade through the uterine wall and affect bowel and the bladder. I had every single risk factor for accreta which includes:

  • Prior c-section – I’d had 4 before this pregnancy
  • Advanced maternal age
  • Placenta Previa

We didn’t have to wait long to be seen at maternal fetal medicine. The tech took her time with us and then another dr. came in to see us. He confirmed that I did in fact have placenta accreta. The placenta was overlying my c-section scar. The Dr. spent the next 45 minutes talking about a plan for us. We would deliver at 34 weeks with a team of 3-4 specialists. I would have a large vertical incision, they would deliver the baby and then do a hysterectomy. With placenta accreta, if they try to pull at the placenta, it will just begin to bleed. Many women have died from accreta, especially if it isn’t diagnosed beforehand. Therefore, they told me they would remove my uterus with the placenta still in tact. There was a possibility that the placenta would invade into my bladder. If that was the case, I would have to have a bladder repair and catheter for 2-4 weeks after the surgery. I would also have to stop seeing my regular OB and start seeing a High Risk OB who was also an accreta specialist.

 

 

After leaving this appointment, I wasn’t sure how to process. I was scared. Scared to have a preemie at 34 weeks. Scared that I would start bleeding again at any time and have to deliver even earlier. Scared that my baby girl wouldn’t do well. Scared that I would die. I know that seems extreme, but the fact that women do die from placenta accreta is a fact. I did take comfort in the early diagnosis and the track record of the team that I was delivering with.  They had never lost a patient who had been diagnosed with accreta beforehand.  Our diagnosis was made in early May and I had months to think about it.   I felt so anxious and would often cry about it.  I tried to put on a brave face when talking to others about it, but the truth was that I was scared and sad inside.

 

To be continued….

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