Are Some Women Destined for Birth Complications?

Marj Hatzell

baby cooing
Note to self: Babies come out before placentas
No one wants complications during pregnancy and birth, but sometimes they are unavoidable. You may have a propensity to certain complications and not even know it. Like some people I know. Ahem. I was one of the lucky ones. Text book perfect pregnancy, no morning sickness, little weight gain (with the first one), nothing out of the ordinary whatsoever. I FELT GREAT. I had energy and drive and stamina. I exercised like a fiend, painted ceilings, you name it.

My grrrlfriends hated me because I was out walking my dog for three miles while they were semi-reclined in bed nibbling on saltines and drinking papaya juice (it works! Honest! So does peppermint tea!). Then I went into labor.

It all started out innocently enough. But what I didn't realize was that I was prone to placental abruption. Placental abruption happens when the placenta wants to come out before the baby. For those of you not good at science, that's bad because the placenta keeps the baby alive. You know, like breathing and stuff? Yeah, kind of important that it stays in there.

With my first pregnancy, it happened when I was near the end of my labor. Since I used midwives for my prenatal care, I was in a birth center, though it was directly across the street from the hospital. When I stood up at one point and blood began pouring on the floor (and by pouring, I mean gushing), the midwife calmly said, "I think perhaps we should go across the street and finish your labor. You know, just in case." What she probably meant was, "HOLY STINKING CRUD THAT'S NOT GOOD!" but probably didn't want to alarm me.

The good news? The boy was born an hour after we got there, the baby came out first and the placenta, though torn, was intact. I was given medication for the hemorrhaging and was right as rain the morning. They thought it was a fluke and at my postnatal visit, I was given a clean bill of health. No worries!

Then I became pregnant again. When my older son was a little over a year old. Whoopsy.

This time, due to the abruption with the first pregnancy, the midwives recommended I deliver at the hospital. So we made the plans, toured the hospital, and everything was hunky dory. I mean, the chances of that happening twice? Impossible! But just in case, we did everything they told us to. And by we I mean I did everything they told me to. And he was two weeks late. And then I was induced. And I was about 9 and three quarters dilated and everything was running smoothly, and then I stood up to get a more comfortable position and (I think you can see where this is going, right?)?

Yup. Buckets. Rivers. I know, TMI. You're welcome.

This time I was running a fever along with it. I was whisked into the Labor OR across the room, complete with the machine that says, "BING," and delivered a healthy baby boy by c-section. Which, in case you didn't hear, is a long ways away from going to midwives for a natural childbirth. Disappointment aside, I was more focused at that moment on the out-of-control bleeding and the placenta that tore away from my uterus, leaving me five pints down in the blood department. Which, it turns out, makes your hemoglobin about a 4.6. It should be, oh, 13? Fifteen? And my husband was more focused on OMFG AM I GOING TO BE A WIDOWER? Yeah, it was bad. Even without the blood pressure of 50/20.

And now that I've had two placental abruptions? The chances of me having another are about 100 percent, according to doctors and what I've read. And if my husband and I choose to increase our family size, I will unfortunately have to have another c-section. Though planned this time. And that's not something I'm willing to do at this point in time. So there's that. And? The incidence of abruption in pregnancy is about 1 percent. I had ONE RISK FACTOR. ONE. And that risk factor was having a previous abruption. Go figure.

So, no worries. Chances of it happening to you are slim to none, as they were for me. Maybe that isn't the best example. But seriously, it isn't common and it rarely happens to most women. Just freaks like me.

Do you get overly worried about birth complications?


Image via Marj Hatzell

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