Fertility Journey, Placenta Previa/Accreta Diagnosis and NICU Stay

Kathleen spent 2 years in pursuit of conception, hitting a few roadblocks along the way, including an auto-immune thyroid disease diagnosis and the death of her mom, which took a toll on her mentally and emotionally as she grieved. After year 1 of casually trying without success, Kathleen decided to take a more serious approach and worked in a group with fertility coach Lisa Hendrickson-Jack of the Fertility Friday Podcast. Lisa guided a small group of women for a 10 week session on learning the Fertility Awareness Method of cycle tracking. This method can be used for conception or pregnancy avoidance, and it enabled Kathleen to pinpoint the best days for conception based on several key signs she had not previously been able to recognize with confidence. She also learned ways to support her thyroid, which seemed to improve her cycle.

When Kathleen became pregnant naturally in January of 2018, she and her husband were elated. Besides the standard sickness and cramping of early pregnancy, everything was going smoothly up until midway through the 2nd trimester. Around week 13, her doctor observed the placenta was low-lying over the cervix. At her 20 week anatomy scan, everything with the baby looked wonderful except the placenta was still in the way and had not budged. At this point, Kathleen was diagnosed with complete posterior placenta previa; but, there was still the hope of it moving because it was diagnosed so early. This condition comes with a high risk of hemorrhage so the doctor advised Kathleen to limit her activity considerably.

Kathleen joined a facebook group for previa and began learning all she could. Through this group, she also discovered that women with previa are at a higher risk for another, even more dangerous condition called placenta accreta. Somewhere in the back of her mind, fears of accreta began to eat away. Kathleen started experiencing frequent Braxton Hicks contractions, pressure, and cramping. Around week 24 she had regular contractions for 48 hrs and decided to visit L&D at her area hospital. The residents observed her contractions and immediately performed an internal ultrasound, and discovered something was “wrong with her cervix”. Although it was closed, it appeared distorted. They chose to observe Kathleen overnight and she was ultimately discharged with a diagnosis of irritable uterus + polyhydramnios, and a follow up ultrasound was scheduled to look further into previa/cervical complications.

After an emotional visit and an MRI, it was determined Kathleen indeed had an accreta where the placenta was growing into her cervix. She and her husband were devastated, as this would mean their first baby would need to be delivered at least a month early via c-section and she would require a hysterectomy at delivery. Her case was taken over by the MFM department of Yale New Haven hospital—the same team of doctors she saw at week 24. Even with the accreta diagnosis, these doctors hoped for the best. Thankfully, Kathleen avoided a major bleed that typically occurs in complete previa pregnancies, the polyhydramnios and irritable uterus resolved, and she was able to deliver on her scheduled date at 36 + 0 weeks. Her son was delivered successfully, and it was discovered that she did not have an accreta. The placenta was removed without issue. What Kathleen did actually have was an even more rare condition called cervical AVM, or arterio vascular malformation of the cervix. Her doctors printed her a case study which claimed to be the only known case. The cause is unknown. Unfortunately, Kathleen’s son suffered complications from being born pre-term and spent 12 days in the NICU overcoming respiratory issues. After 6 months postpartum, both mom and baby are doing well and enjoying the semi-calm after the storm.

Kathleen Harrington Bio

Kathleen is 33 years old and lives in Connecticut with her husband, Dennis, their 6 month old son, Cassian Robin, and 2 rambunctious rescue hounds Edie and Juno. Kathleen has a film degree and spent some time post-college working in TV production as a personal assistant; but, she has since branched out into other fields, including most recently, biotechnology. After learning she had hashimoto’s thyroiditis during her 2 year conception journey, Kathleen dove into the deep well of fertility knowledge the internet has to offer and began to learn ways to support her body from a functional medicine perspective. She truly enjoys connecting with other women and sharing what knowledge she has gleaned from her personal experience. Connect with her on instagram @kateye85

Resources

Fertility Friday | Fertility Awareness Method Cycle Charting 
Placenta Previa & Accreta Support Group
Hope for Accreta Foundation- Placenta Accreta, Increta and Percreta
The Birth Hour
Pregnancy Podcast
Fertility Friday Podcast