Last month, when I went for my 20-week anatomy scan, I was greeted with an unpleasant surprise. Granted, there is always so much unpredictability when it comes to making and having babies, but this one caught me particularly off-guard.
Hubby and I watched with joy as each of the little man’s parts were confirmed to be developing normally. After being ushered from the dark ultrasound room to the brightly lit exam room, I was overcome with gratitude to be blessed with a third healthy pregnancy.
But I came crashing down from those heights as my doctor explained that I had placenta previa, a condition where the placenta blocks some or all of the cervical opening. This came along with the order for pelvic rest, meaning no lifting more than 20 lbs and no sex. And I was to report any bleeding immediately because that could mean that the placenta was detaching from the uterine wall. The doctor told me that they would check again in 4 weeks and we left.
I was devastated. I’ve known people who’ve had placenta previa and I knew that the most likely outcome was a caesarian section. I simply could not get my head around having two vaginal births, only for my final birth to be a c-section. I was frustrated to have the scarring, scar tissue, and delayed recovery time. I had always bounced back so quickly before, and this time I would have not one but two kids under 5 to care for when I got home. Yet, my doctor had made no mention of c-section even being a possibility – in fact, she simply said we were going to “watch and see.” Did this mean it might resolve itself? So, I did what most people would do… I took to the internet (right after I called my mother, of course).
All the major health websites explained the condition and the treatment listed was c-section. But I wanted to know more. Why does it happen? How common is it? How does it resolve itself? Is there anything I can do?
The hands-down best article I found on the web was by the Pregnant Scientist. Her article is chock full of research about placenta previa, and helped ease my concern with the high statistics on placentas actually migrating away from the cervix when diagnosed in the 2nd trimester.
Armed with this information, I spent a good half an hour discussing it with my nurse case manager. If you have the opportunity to use a pregnancy case management program through your insurer, I highly recommend it for this reason. These case managers tend to have more time to discuss issues and concerns than your doctor. One of the missing pieces of the puzzle she helped me with was that due to a recent change in diagnostic codes, all types of placenta previa (including low-lying placenta) are now included under one code. So, simply from that diagnosis, you cannot tell exactly how “bad” the previa is.
My first step was to call the office back and ask some follow up questions:
What is the extent of the placenta previa? How much of the placenta is covering the cervical opening? In my case, the ultrasound notes did not include these details.
Is the previa toward the front of the uterus (anterior) or towards the back of the uterus (posterior)? (According to the research compiled by the Pregnant Scientist, it has a higher chance of migration if it is anterior). In my case, it was posterior.
Questions partly answered, I resolved to wait and see. I tried to accept the idea since there wasn’t anything that I could do to change the situation but I have still been pretty stressed. It was really hard to stop picking up the kids. My youngest at 2 ½ is almost 30 lbs. Even my vacuum weighs more than 20 lbs, meaning whenever I needed it on a different floor, I had to ask for help carrying it. Which was quite difficult for me, a do-it-yourself kind of girl. But I managed. I had to remind myself that I didn’t want to risk the safety of the baby over something I could prevent.
And today at my 24 week exam, I got the best possible news. I might just have floated the entire way home from the doctor’s office. My placenta actually migrated enough to give me the green light for a vaginal delivery! Instead of being within 2 cm of the cervix, my placenta is now 2.7 cm from the cervix.
And I am SO SO grateful.
Now, I just have to worry about pushing out my largest baby yet…