Our Birth Story: My High Risk Pregnancy with Vasa Previa

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Mom and dad at baby shower

We had been trying to get pregnant for a few years and after a few miscarriages, this pregnancy was such a wonderful surprise. All of our family and friends were waiting for news of our anatomy scan.

I’ll never forget the emotional shift in the ultrasound room during my 20 week anatomy scan. My husband Rian and I were happily chatting away with our ultrasound technician about the baby and laughing about possible name choices.

Then, her face went from smiling to concerned and she got very quiet. My husband kept on chatting. I noticed her face change and immediately became hyper aware of every facial expression she made and her fleeting attempt to laugh at a story Rian was telling.

I asked if everything was ok. She told me she just needed to take some additional images with the ultrasound wand.

She left the room to let the doctor know the images were ready for review and I told Rian I thought something was wrong.

He tried to calm me down and reassure me it was all normal. Then, the tech returned with Dr. Staat, who introduced himself as an OBGYN specializing in high risk pregnancies. Then Rian got quiet.

We both knew something wasn’t right.

He drew a basic picture explaining what the ultrasound images showed: unprotected fetal blood vessels laying over my cervix. Normally these vessels are protected by the umbilical cord but these were not and were connected to an extra lobe of placenta. If these vessels rupture our baby would need to be delivered immediately.
We were stunned and speechless. The doctor continued…

There were many ways the vessels could rupture: pressure from the baby’s head, rigorous exercise, intercourse, digital exams, or bumpy car rides. It suddenly felt as if I had stick of dynamite in my belly and had little control over the life of my baby. I was put on strict pelvic rest. He explained I’d be admitted for strict hospital bedrest at 32 weeks with a planned C-section at 36 weeks.

My diagnosis was Vasa Previa.

When undiagnosed, fetal mortality rates are close to 95%. I felt lucky because when diagnosed prenatally, prognosis of survival is very good. Vasa Previa is a rare condition and occurs in 1 of 2500-5000 pregnancies.

We left the appointment in pure shock. The first thing I did was google the condition. I don’t recommend that route! The search results made me more worried. I saw stories titled: “Vasa Previa—Number One Reason for Stillborn Babies” and “I Lost My Baby to Vasa Previa.” Rian immediately banned me from consulting Dr. Google. We stuck with the medical journals and peer reviewed articles to better understand the condition. The doctor provided us with wonderful resources.

LIVING WITH VASA PREVIA

At that time, we were stationed in Germany at the time so we had a lot of Skype dates to try to explain the news. It always started with the good news—the baby is healthy! Then we had to explain the condition and try to be super positive while being so scared.

Even though I scaled back my activities, I still had a few scares that landed me in the ER to get ultrasounds and make sure our baby was still ok.

At 32 weeks, I was admitted to the mother-baby ward until my scheduled C-section at 36 weeks. Strict hospital bedrest is tougher than I ever imagined it would be! I was bed bound except for walking to the bathroom, had an IV which was changed every 72 hours, in case I needed an emergency C-section, so I looked and felt pretty rough.

A constant flow of friends stopped by after work to say hello. My husband would always join me for that amazing hospital dinner! But I was still scared and I felt like Rian was missing out on so much of this pregnancy and not feeling all the kicks and movements. He went home every night and I stayed in the hospital while our baby did somersaults in my belly.

THE DELIVERY

After a couple of weeks of hospital bedrest, I woke up early one morning by a sharp pain.  I thought the baby was kicking but the nurse informed me it was a contraction and immediately called Dr. Staat. He arrived at the hospital at 3 a.m. and told me he’d allow one more contraction, and any more than that the baby was coming immediately.

As I tried to fall back to sleep, I was kept up with another round of sharp pain. The doctor felt it was time to deliver the baby and if Rian wanted to be there for the birth, he better come in a hurry. I called Rian at 4 a.m. and he arrived in six minutes. (For those of you who have ever been to Landstuhl Hospital in Germany, and have driven that hill, you know this is impressive!)

Newborn baby with mom vasa previa
Our son Finn was born on August 21, 2013 at 5:19 at 34 weeks gestation. He had a very rough start and almost didn’t make it due to his breathing issues. His first three weeks were spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. He was able to finally come home two weeks before his due date.
He turns eight this year and is as perfect as a seven year old can be.

Boy running and playing baseballINFO ON VASA PREVIA

Vasa Previa is not routinely screened for. But since I was going to be 35 at delivery, I had a higher level anatomy scan performed where the condition was found with a color doppler. The diagnosis is typically confirmed by transvaginal ultrasonography. When it is identified prenatally and patients are delivered prior to the onset of labor or rupture of membranes, the outcome for the baby is typically excellent, with a 97–100% survival rate.
Mom holding baby vasa previaFor more information, please visit www.vasaprevia.com.

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