Week 29 Surprise: Why a Low-Lying Placenta Should be Taken Seriously

I have previously mentioned this whole placenta previa thing that came up at my 20 week ultrasound. Well at our 26 week ultrasound right before we went to Seaside, Florida for a week (glorious family paradise), my placenta had moved up to “low-lying” and we were pretty pumped that it was moving and confident that there wouldn’t be any issues as this thing continued to resolve.

Well yesterday, around 4:30 PM, just as I was getting Bowen his afternoon snack and finding his favorite TV show, I felt a little something down below. I’ve had some increased discharge recently, not to mention been pissing myself when I sneeze, so I just figured it was one of those two common pregnancy issues and told myself that after I got Bo’s show going I needed to go get a panty liner. A second later I felt something running down my leg. Fast. All the way down to my ankle. I was wearing a dress and looked down to see blood streaming down both of my legs.

Ok that’s a problem.

I immediately headed to the bathroom to find the most giant pad I could find and called Brady. Luckily he picked up and the first thing I said was, “Brady I’m bleeding.” He responded, “I’m getting in the car now.”

“Please come quickly, there’s a lot of blood.”

“Do you need to call 911? I could be 30 minutes in traffic.”

“No [voice audibly breaking down] but please hurry, I don’t think I can stand up.”

By this point I realized that given the soaked-through, bright-red panties I kicked off and the gushing that was occurring there was no way my giant maxi pad was going to last. I simply had to grab rolls of toilet paper, lay down, and try to hold it all together down there. I called my doctor and let them know what was going on and that we were headed in.

Then I waited. When the bleeding started I hadn’t actually gotten Bowen’s show started yet, so during the brief initial chaos, he somehow miraculously managed to locate the Apple TV remote, and start some sort of kids show, which I could hear from the bathroom. Toddler occupied, check. Technology didn’t stop him, however, from coming into the bathroom to find me on multiple occasions to tell me interesting parts about the show he was watching. It also didn’t stop him from thinking it was “mommy cuddles” time and laying down right next to me at one point. I was in and out of lying there in a stupor and talking to my doctor’s office, Brady, my mom, and dad, sporadically bursting into tears, but overtime he came in I tried to act like it was completely normal that I was laying on the bathroom floor, naked from the waist down, with bloody toilet paper and towels everywhere.

Brady made it home in 30 minutes, and somehow managed to have Bowen dressed, packed for an overnight stay at my parents’ house, and into his car seat with the car running in under five minutes. He also managed to switch the location of the carseat so he could fully recline the front passenger seat for me, and he got me into the car. Have I mentioned that my husband is my hero?

The car ride to the hospital was an uneventful 25 minutes, but I did feel light-headed at one point which worried me about blood loss; luckily, it was only a temporary sensation. We pulled up to the valet and a medic team was there to meet me, along with an emergency OB doctor, and about three residents that looked like this was definitely the most exciting part of their day. My mom met us there and took Bo over so Brady could be with me.

Despite some initial chaos about whether to wait for a stretcher or just use a wheelchair (I finally told everyone to calm down dammit, I can get into a wheelchair!), I was efficiently rolled inside, into a waiting elevator, and up to a labor and delivery room on the 9th floor, thereby bypassing triage.

The next 30 minutes were a blur of needles, monitors, ultrasounds, doctors, nurses, hospital staff (gotta get all the insurance right), and it all felt a bit overwhelming/ brought me to tears a few times. In short, everything was good news though. It looked like my bleeding stopped on the way to the hospital, or shortly thereafter, as the doctor reported that she wasn’t seeing any new blood from her speculum exam and my cervix was still closed. The ultrasound and monitors confirmed that baby was happy and gestational age-appropriate for her weight. We weren’t out of the woods yet, but we weren’t being immediately rolled into an operating room for an emergency c-section either. I was lucky enough to get the equivalent of an equine shot of steroids in my bum to help speed up lung development of the baby in case things go awry.

The next few hours passed relatively quickly with constant monitoring, but I started getting those contractions where you don’t feel any pain, just your uterus tightens and gets really hard. The nurses called it “uterine irritability” and my doctor said it could just be from the bleeding or from a placental abruption (don’t google the latter), so she pumped me full of fluids.

I got zero sleep between the horrendous L&D bed, constant lower back pain from the horrendous L&D bed, beeping monitors strapped to my belly that constantly had to be adjusted since my baby girl is a future acrobat in the circus, my constantly hardening abdomen, and general anxiety. Luckily, I sent Brady home to get a good night’s rest because he would have gone insane.

This morning there was still no further bleeding (yay!), but those contractions had paced up to every two to three minutes, so they decided to give me some sort of synthetic narcotic that the nurse told me “feels like drinking four margaritas.” Turned out she was right. For someone who has forgotten what a good old alcohol-induced buzz feels like in the past six-plus months, it was a welcome sensation. And not only did it do wonders to relax my uterus, but it also helped chill out both me and the baby.

Later this morning we met with a neonatologist, who coincidentally knows my dad (a pediatric surgeon) from their early days at the hospital over 20 years ago. He talked to Brady and I about babies born at 29 weeks and gave us a lot of very calm reassurance that we’re in a good place if the baby has to be born anytime soon. She’ll need a fairly lengthy NICU stay, but most likely, she’ll be just fine and caught up to her same-age peers by her first birthday.

Shortly thereafter I was considered stable enough to move to an antepartum room with a much more comfortable bed and less monitoring. The nurses are super sweet and I meet with the maternal fetal medicine doctors (high-risk OBs from what I understand), and we had another detailed ultrasound this afternoon. Baby looks great, she’s about three and a half pounds at the moment, and they were able to see where the placenta looked disturbed and what seems to be some debris or clots that will probably come out in the next few days. My placenta is about 1.5 centimeters from my cervix, and we’ll never really know what triggered the bleed, but hopefully that pesky placenta will just keep moving up and away.

I have to spend the next five to seven days here for observation. From what I understand, if I have any subsequent bleeding episodes or pre-term labor that can’t be controlled, I’ll need to have an urgent c-section. If I continue to be stable and the placenta moves a safe distance away from my cervix, I’ll hopefully be able to continue to full-term and have a normal vaginal delivery. Time will tell.

In the meantime I’m hanging in the hospital, which is one of the worst places on the planet to just hang out, especially alone. Brady brought over books, my laptop, and is luckily en route with non- hospital-food dinner right now, but it really makes you appreciate your own home and the people who love you.

The worst part for me is that all of this means that I won’t be able to attend my sister’s wedding next Saturday, August 1st, in Seattle. I am devastated. I have been looking forward to this weekend since last May when my sister and her fantastic fiancé Adam got engaged. They are the best, and I just can’t imagine not being there to support and celebrate such a fantastic couple. My sister is my best friend and such a special person in my life. Luckily I was able to be in Seattle last month for her wedding shower, so I feel very fortunate to have been a part of at least one of the wedding festivities, but nothing can dampen the sadness I feel about missing her special day.

That said, given the severity of the situation yesterday afternoon, I am very thankful that I was here in Houston, in my home, when the bleed began. I can’t imagine how much scarier it might have been on a plane or in a city far from home where I don’t have my established doctor and hospital. I guess there’s always a silver lining.

I’ll keep everyone posted on my progress. I guess they weren’t kidding when I was told that every pregnancy (and kiddo) is completely different. Off to get another steroid shot in my rear (seriously, I thought those were just for animals!).

2 thoughts on “Week 29 Surprise: Why a Low-Lying Placenta Should be Taken Seriously

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