Saturday, 28 June 2014

My pregnancy story

At my booking-in appointment with my midwife, I opted for the baby to be screened for Down's Syndrome. It required the pocket fluid at the back of the baby's neck (nuchal translucency) to be measured at the 12 week scan and for me to have an extra blood test.

The 12 week scan was surreal. I had mentally prepared myself in case the scan showed nothing and revealed that it was all just a phantom pregnancy. When the sonographer first put the scanny-thingy to my belly, her first words were 'oh no' - so for what felt like ages, but was probably only a second, I thought that my doubts had become reality. She soon found baby but also discovered that I have a retroverted uterus and an anterior placenta which, for me meant that I didn't feel the baby kicking until much later than 'normal'; I think I felt it at 22 weeks, possibly a bit later.
Left: Normal 'Posterior' Placenta
Right: My 'Anterior' Placenta
The 12 week scan showed I had a retroverted uterus
The scan showed the nuchal measurement to be normal, which was a relief and I had my bloods taken shortly after the scan. I went back to work, in awe of the 5-ish centimetres of wonder that was growing in my belly.

Shortly after my scan, I got a letter from the Foetal Medicine department at the hospital which showed the results of my Down's screening. Basically, I was showing to have a low risk of Down's but that my PAPP-A measurement was low, meaning that I had a higher risk of the foetus not growing properly, losing him, premature birth, still birth, and the risk that I could get pre-eclampsia in the later stages of pregnancy which could have a number of implications for the baby. I was invited to have an appointment with a consultant at 24 weeks and was advised to begin taking a low dose (75mg) of aspirin every day immediately. The worry and guilt that ensued was awful. Because PAPP-A is related to the health of the placenta, I wondered whether it was my fault that it wasn't as it should be, could I have done anything to prevent this happening? Could my vegetarian diet have had something to do with it because I don't eat enough protein? Then I thought about what we'd do  or how we'd feel if something did go wrong or if the baby had some sort of condition. I carried around a massive headache for a number of days afterward which my GP put down to stress and tension because of my diagnoses. I was prescribed paracetamol, which I was scared to take, so a microwaveable lavender wheat-pillow became my best friend.

I went to the consultant appointment alone as I didn't really know what to expect... which in hindsight is equally just cause to not go alone. Anyway, I was given another scan which showed notching in one of my uterine arteries which is another indicator that the baby could not grow properly as the flow of blood to the placenta is not 100% as it should be. I was incredibly worried again, but the consultant said that precautions would be taken to ensure that anything that I'm at risk of having would be caught, and prescribed further scans every four weeks to monitor the baby's growth, and for me to be taken into the care of another consultant in the antenatal clinic for the rest of my pregnancy. It also meant that I was unlikely to be able to have a water birth in the midwife-led unit, which was my preference based on what I'd seen on One Born Every Minute.

I had mixed feeling about seeing the baby every four weeks as it was to make sure he was ok in there, rather than just a casual 'hello'. After the first two positive scans which showed steady growth, I was much more relaxed about seeing him. Slightly disappointingly, the scan pictures aren't very clear in the later stages of pregnancy as the baby can't fit in one image and you don't always get to keep the pictures.

Toward the very end of the pregnancy, all of the doctors and midwives who felt my tummy all said that the baby felt small but, because he was growing in proportion to his size according to the scans, I was told 10 days before my due date that I could have midwife-led birth after all although I needed to have one last scan in a week's time just to dispel any worries the delivering midwives might have when I arrive in labour. I didn't make it to that last scan as Joseph arrived one week early, but I'll save that story for another post.

The consultant said in my last appointment that 50% of women who show low-PAPP-A are fine but the other half do have complications and that I seemed to have been in the lucky 50%. I really am thankful to have been in that half, and I cannot fault the care that I was given by the Foetal Medicine department at the William Harvey Hospital and the Antenatal Clinic at the Kent & Canterbury Hospital.

12, 20 & 24 week scans... Always has his hands up!

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Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. It really means a lot! Nicki x

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