Sometimes it still bothers me that we don’t know why I had a placental abruption. I had none of the risk factors. None.
In case you’re wondering, they are:
- hypertension or high blood pressure in pregnancy (mine was and is always low)
- cigarette use (nope)
- cocaine use (never)
- infection (no)
- multiples (no thank GOD)
- and being 40+ (I was 29)
And of course the last risk factor, prior history of a placental abruption (it was my first pregnancy – next time though!).
I also had no trauma to my stomach, which is the most common cause of a placental abruption. The odds of a placental abruption are about 1 in 100. The odds of a placental abruption when you have none of the risk factors and no trauma? They’re really really low.
Occasionally I’ll take a deep dive reading studies and articles about placental abruptions. I’ll read about what the studies suggest about subsequent pregnancies. I always hope they’ll make me feel better but in the end, they wind up making me feel like so much is out of my control. I’m still shocked that it happened. I had the most textbook healthy pregnancy, until I didn’t.
The weird thing about placental abruptions is that they don’t always definitively know that’s what happened. They looked at my symptoms that day and believed that was what was taking place. They safely delivered Ben. I was told that it was possible that my placenta would be sent to the pathology lab to provide a firm diagnosis but in the end, that didn’t happen so I guess I’ll never really know for sure.
At my most recent OBGYN appointment I told my doctor that I was still a little unclear about what happened that day. I know so many specifics about Ben’s health. I remember his heart rates on the monitor. I remember they estimated he was between 3.5 and 4lbs. (20 minutes before he was born at 5lbs. 6oz. ha). Each day I knew his weight down to the gram along with what meds he was on and how many liters of oxygen. I knew very little about my part in the whole thing. What happened to my body? Did I for sure have a placental abruption? I went to the hospital for back pain. I was not bleeding (until several hours later). I had major abdominal surgery. What happened to me?
She wasn’t the doctor who delivered Ben (fun fact: I didn’t actually know who had delivered Ben because my c-section was that fast) and she wasn’t in the hospital that day but she took the time to dig through my chart. She gave me specifics about every detail they had that indicated to them that I was having a placental abruption. Apparently there are also other indications after the fact (like the baby’s blood gas levels moments after birth) that increased their confidence that is what happened.
So I guess it did. Even if I still can’t believe it happened to me.
When I read the studies, part of me feels like the research can’t directly apply to me. Maybe it’s my ego. I’m young (ish) and healthy. Very healthy, I’d assume, compared to the average American. It feels like the research can’t apply directly to me because were all those women who participated in the studies as healthy, active, etc. as I am? Did they do everything “right” like I did?
In so many ways I’m the anomaly. My doctor never would have predicted that it would be me with complications. She told me herself when she visited us in the NICU that she was shocked. We’d joked at my last appointment that my checkups were so boring and I distinctly remember her saying “the boring ones are the best ones because it means everything is going right.”
And finally, because of my complications my doctor has advised us that we should wait longer than is typically recommended between pregnancies. Longer than we’d like to wait. It feels like the final punishment for my body’s betrayal.
I’m sure that all of these thoughts will make any future pregnancies more challenging. I’m certain I’ll call the doctor more frequently. Maybe even stop by the PETU at the hospital to get checked at the first sign of back pain. It’ll be an entirely different experience than my last and I hope I’m able to enjoy it when that time comes.
I’m so grateful every day that Ben got here safely and that he’s healthy. I’m grateful that I was able to have a child, because I know not everyone is. I’m grateful for my own health and my speedy recovery. But it doesn’t mean my mind doesn’t wander and wonder why or how my very healthy, perfectly normal pregnancy abruptly (bad pun?) ended the way it did. Sometimes I’m still a little mad about it.