I Did Everything “Right” and Still Had a High Risk Pregnancy

Getting pregnant seemed to be the easy part, keeping our little girl healthy proved much more difficult.

For some reason when I was growing up and meticulously planning every detail of my adulthood, I decided I would get pregnant and have a baby before turning 26.  I have no clue why 25 became the magic number, but it seemed to stick with me.  After my husband and I got married in 2012, we decided we would wait a few years before trying for a baby.  Since we love travelling, we decided we wanted to enjoy some time together just him and I, before adding a little bundle of joy to our lives.

Yes, I have always been a planner, but I have never been someone to follow my plans rigidly.   I’ve always been easy going in the sense that I understand life can be messy and I know tricky situations completely define ones character.  Ultimately, my husband and I never seem to sweat the small stuff.

Before getting pregnant,  I understood that carrying a baby was a privilege and I wanted to be sure I was doing everything right for our baby, when the time came.  I wanted to take all of the proper vitamins, maintain a healthy weight, live an active lifestyle and keep my stress levels low.  When we decided we were ready to try for a baby, I started taking prenatal vitamins for a few months in preparation.  We ate well, we continued to exercise, we didn’t indulge in any alcohol and we started planning our future.

My Mom always told me that being pregnant was the best and one of the happiest times of her life.  She never experienced morning sickness, she had minimal weight gain (despite her love for Mars bars and Milkshakes) and her pregnancy was “routine” down to her scheduled C-Section.  Despite being so alike with my Mom, the apple surely fell FAR from the tree when it came to our pregnancy experiences.

Disclaimer: Please note, I am VERY fortunate to have been able to get pregnant and deliver a healthy, happy baby girl at 35 weeks.  However, we went through many ups and downs throughout the pregnancy and I never felt like I had any resources online to research what I was going through and experiencing.  I felt very alone, so I’m writing this post to hopefully help someone who may be going through a similar pregnancy.

So, here we go! Here’s a quick recap of the events leading up to finding out I was pregnant:

The timing could have been better for selling our home and relocating back into the city in our 1 bedroom loft.  But, I wouldn’t change a thing (I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason).  I feel extremely fortunate that my husband and I were lucky enough to get pregnant nearly immediately after we decided we would try.

Finding out I was pregnant:

  • I started craving cherry tomatoes (I’ve never liked tomatoes)
  • I had a bit of a sweet tooth (more than usual)
  • Even though I was happy to leave our house outside of the city, I became very emotional while packing up our belongings
  • I caught a cold and had an emotional breakdown when my husband threw out my used Kleenex’s (This was a tipping point for us.  After this outburst, we decided we would get a pregnancy test).
  • The first time we took a test, it came back very faintly positive.  We stared at the test for a while and then both thought, no, it couldn’t be.  It would be showing a strong positive sign if I were pregnant.  We searched the internet for images of positive pregnancy tests to compare our faint lines to.  A good lesson here, it’s not possible to have a false positive…So if it looks even remotely positive, guess what, it is!
  • We ended up taking another test (which happened to be on our 2 year wedding anniversary) and it was a strong positive.

Staring at the test, we both experienced an “Oh My Gosh” moment.  I don’t know why we were so surprised it was positive (that was the outcome we were aiming for)…however, we both sat there in complete shock (and excitement).

Up to Week 12

  • (Approximately 5 weeks along): I called my family physician and told them I had a positive pregnancy test.  They booked me in for a check up.  They took a urine sample and confirmed the pregnancy.  They then sent me for some blood work and a few more tests.  She booked me to return for a visit in a few weeks.  She advised that I start taking prenatal vitamins (which I already had been for a while).
  • I was sick nearly every morning, afternoon and evening.  I just made sure I had something I could get sick into wherever I was.
  • (Week 7): I started experiencing some unusual bleeding.  It seemed to be around the time my regular period was due.  At first, I didn’t think much of it, but it slowly got heavier.  Finally, I called my doctor back to explain how I was feeling.  She got me into her office that day.  Took another urine sample and confirmed I was still pregnant.  She sent me for some additional blood work.  Later that week she called to let me know that I had experienced a miscarriage.  My HcG levels had significantly decreased in my blood work (which is common with a miscarriage).  I remember bawling hysterically.  I just started “feeling” pregnant and suddenly I wasn’t pregnant anymore?  My bleeding stopped which made it even harder to understand why or how I was having a miscarriage.
  • The following week, I went in for an ultrasound to check to see if I had “passed” the baby or if I would need a d&c.  This was one of the most confusing times in my life.  I still “felt” pregnant and was extremely nauseous.  The ultrasound technician found a fetal heartbeat and confirmed I didn’t have a miscarriage.
  • I continued to get sick throughout the next few weeks, and noticed I didn’t feel as bad when I would take my prenatal vitamins right before going to bed.
  • My doctor sent me to an OB around 8 weeks just to keep a close eye on my pregnancy.  I felt so bizarre going into the OBs office.  The waiting room was filled with pregnant ladies ranging from barely showing to nearly toppling over as they were ready to deliver.  At the start of every OB appointment they would have me take a urine sample and give it to the nurse.  They would check my blood pressure, take my weight and ask how I was feeling.
  • Aside from the miscarriage scare and all day sickness, the first 12 weeks flew by and I started showing.  Despite how often I was getting sick, I had no problem gaining nearly 15 lbs in my first 3.5 months.
  • I was very hesitant about taking Diclectin, but my “all day” sickness got so bad, I eventually caved and started taking the pill as needed.

 

13 weeks – 20 weeks

  • As the news spread at work about my pregnancy, a few people made comments about us living in a 1 bedroom with a newborn.  These comments were easy to shrug off, especially considering our baby wouldn’t be crawling around for quite some time still.
  • By week 15, I had stopped getting sick! However, I was still spotting on occasion.
  • (Week 16) – I started working out again, light weights, cycling and walking.
  • (Week 18) – We were sent for an ultrasound due to the random spotting I continued to have.  I remember eagerly trying to sneak a peak at the monitor throughout the entire ultrasound.  They initially informed me it would take about 1 hour to complete.  They were trying to get photos of the face, spine and heart.  The first hour went by and I still hadn’t been able to see the monitor.  The technician was having a lot of trouble getting the spine shots.  She had me try a candy and finally decided we would take a break.  She brought Shawn in and we got to enjoy checking out our little baby!   She asked if we wanted to know the sex of the baby and we sure did! We found out we were having a girl!

048

  • (Week 19) – We received a call from my OB and we were informed we needed to go in for a rush ultrasound on Friday and then see her at her office.
  • (Week 20) – We went back for another ultrasound.  The technician told us that our little girl was being stubborn again and they were having a hard time getting the spine shots.  We tried walking around, some more candy and even some ice cold water.  Finally, they got the images they needed.  The following day we met with our OB.  She informed us that they found some markers during the ultrasound exam.
    • First, they noticed she had bilateral choroid plexus cysts on her brain (CPCs).  We were informed this could be a marker for some chromosomal problems.
    • Second, they noticed she only had 1 artery on her umbilical cord (typically there would be two).  They indicated this was called a Single Umbilical Artery (SUA).
    • In order to monitor the above findings they decided to continue to have regular ultrasounds.  In addition, they also informed us they would submit a form on our behalf to our government to request approval for comprehensive blood work to be completed.  This blood work could analyze our baby’s information to determine the probabilities for particular disorders.  Without the funding, the blood work is approximately $800.00.  This blood work is referred to as Non Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT).
  • I finally started to notice some kicks around this time!  It was amazing and reassuring to feel her moving.  We took the requisition form into our lab and they almost looked puzzled to see the requisition for the NIPT.  They hadn’t completed very many of them.

 

21 weeks – 31 weeks

  • (Week 21) We continued to plan and prepare for the gender reveal party.  Despite the ups and downs we were experiencing, we wanted something nice to look forward to.
  • We had the parents read a riddle at the party that spelt “It’s a Girl” along the side of the page.  However, when they couldn’t figure it out, we let them all open up a present that had a little swim suit or pink glitter Sperry’s in it.  We had a lot of fun doing this party.
  • (Week 22) I noticed a lot more movement during this week.  I noticed a trend of movements around 4am, 11:30-12 and 7:30-8pm.
  • (Week 23) I called back in to our doctor’s office as it had been a few week since completing the blood work.  The receptionist confirmed all results were negative.  The results indicated during the blood draw they were able to get 8.1% fetal fraction.
  • At this point they were under the impression that everything was looking good and I may have to get induced prior to 40 weeks due to the SUA.
  • I had gained 20 lbs.  I was feeling good but I felt like I was gaining weight so quickly.
  • (Week 25) I went for the routine check for gestational diabetes.  The drink was not that bad actually (considering everyone says it’s horrible.  It tasted like the orange drink from McDonalds).  After finishing the drink we had to wait around for 1 hour before I could get my blood drawn.
  • (Week 27) I was feeling a LOT of movement by now.  You could even see my belly rippling depending on how she was moving.  The OB called to inform me that my iron was showing a bit low.  However, she just noted that I should mix in some more red meat into my diet for the next little while.
  • (Week 28) I started to notice that my energy was slowing down a little bit by this point.  I started to go to bed ridiculously early again.  We went for our follow up ultrasound.  They checked the blood flow in her umbilical cord, her brain and monitored her movements.  During the ultrasound she was sitting with her legs crossed and one arm in front of her face.  Absolutely adorable!
  • (Week 30) We had our biweekly OB appointment.  She was happy with everything during our 28 week ultrasound and indicated that our little girl was doing so well and gaining weight.  It was so nice to finally have a good appointment.  Our doctor indicated she still wanted us to go for the 32 week ultrasound just to confirm that everything was still going well at that point.

 

32 weeks

  • (Week 32) I was excited for this ultrasound appointment.  It was another chance to see our baby and check out how she was doing.  The technician spent quite a while taking audio clips of what sounded like a heartbeat.  She looked concerned but still fairly casual.  She said she needed to step outside for a minute to make sure she got all of the pictures she needed to get.  I knew this couldn’t be a good sign.  I remember texting my husband (who was in the waiting room) and telling him that I thought something was wrong with our daughter’s heart.  The radiologist returned with the technician and advised that they think they had found something very bizarre.
  • From what she could see on the ultrasound it appeared that our daughter had developed an aneurysm on her umbilical cord.  She said she had seen aneurysms on umbilical cords before but never one where our daughters was located.  This aneurysm was on the umbilical cord right where it attached to the placenta. The office called around to our top three hospitals within our area.  We waited patiently in the waiting room trying to keep our composure.  It was one of the most terrifying times throughout my pregnancy.  Everyone seemed concerned because they weren’t entirely sure what they found or what it meant.  Finally, we were informed that McMaster hospital in Hamilton would see us early next week.
  • We did probably the worst possible thing and spent the night googling aneurysms during pregnancy / in utero and really any combination we could think of to draw any type of information.  However, after hours of searching the web we came up nearly empty handed.  We found about two case studies from many years ago and both indicated that the baby passed away at 36 weeks.
  • During the weekend we went to the hospital for a Non-Stress-Test (NST) and a steroid needle.  The NST was simple and fairly quick.  They hooked my belly up to the monitor and tracked our daughter’s heartbeat and movements.  Then, they gave me a steroid needle to help develop our daughter’s lungs just in the case she was delivered premature (the second steroid needle was given 24 hours later).  All of these precautions made us feel a little at ease, however, we still really didn’t know anything about this aneurysm or what it meant.

 

33 weeks – 35 weeks

  • (Week 33) We had our first appointment at McMaster. We started by having an ultrasound and then went to meet with the high risk team.  Here are some of our questions and the answers we received;
  1.  What is the diagnosis?  Arteriovenous malformation or aneurysm
  2. How common is this? Rare
  3. How many cases had they seen?  Hardly any
  4. What are our next steps? Twice weekly ultrasounds then meetings with the team
  5. What should we be looking out for in the meantime?  Fetal movement counts
  6. How did this occur? No clue as it is extremely rare and hardly ever written about.  Very difficult to know or explain why or how it happened.
  • During the ultrasound the team noticed our daughter’s heart rate was slightly elevated higher than it should be and a little bit of fluid was showing around her heart.  It wasn’t enough to cause a concern yet, but it was something they wanted to make note of.
  • They indicated they would keep an eye on a few things and if we needed to we would deliver before her due date.
  • (Week 34)  After completing our next ultrasound we went back up to meet with the team.  They did notice that the blood flow in her middle cerebral artery (MCA) was a bit quicker than they would like.  However, it was just something to note at this time as well.  Here were some of the questions and answers from that appointment;
  1. Was there any change in the size of the formation? No, same size
  2. Has she developed any hydrops? No
  3. Has the fluid around her heart increased? No, it was 4mm but now it is gone.  It could have been showing because she was very active during the last ultrasound.
  4. What’s her weight up to? About 5lbs
  • Later on during this week we were sent back for another ultrasound to confirm the blood flow in her brain.  After this ultrasound the doctor’s decided the flow had normalized and that everything sounded okay again.
  • (Week 35) During this appointment the ultrasound technician kept taking audio clips of the flow of her MCA and umbilical cord.  After a few minutes and lots of photos / clips later, she advised us that she had to step out to make sure she had gotten all of the photos she needed. Those dreaded words again!! We knew something was up.
  • We went up to meet with our doctor and he indicated that our daughter was very puzzling.  On paper and during the NSTs she looked like a perfectly healthy baby, however, she kept having these weird unexplainable occurrences.  This time, the blood flow in her MCA was too quick again (higher than it was at our previous appointment the last week).
  • He went to check some of her photos again and then decided to send us over to triage while he discussed our file with a few other doctors.  We got hooked up at triage and did another NST.  About 30 minutes later, our doctor came back and notified us that we would be delivering the baby tomorrow at 35 weeks by C Section.

Even though we were completely terrified of the idea of having a C Section, we were extremely excited to have our daughter here.  I am very glad we didn’t wait until 36 weeks as who knows what could have happened!

 

 

 

 

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