How my pregnancy went from normal to high-risk within a week

When Vanessa found out she was pregnant with her first baby she was so excited. She began dreaming about her nursery and couldn’t wait to find out if she was having a boy or a girl. Vanessa decided early on that she would be using a midwife to deliver her baby and began attending her regular appointments. Her pregnancy was textbook in the beginning and she had a great 20-week scan with no issues. It was that day that she found out she was having a girl. She and her husband were so excited and decided to name her Luna.

At the start of her second trimester, Vanessa started noticing lots of swelling and weight gain. She had heard about a condition called preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidney.

“Because I had heard about preeclampsia before, I was nervous. I told my husband that something didn’t feel quite right and asked him to get a blood pressure cuff. When he took my blood pressure, it was really high,” explains Vanessa.

Vanessa called her midwife right away who had her come into the office. While she was there her blood pressure thankfully went down and her midwife suggested a few natural remedies to keep it down. “She told me to watch it closely and to come back if I started experiencing headaches,” Vanessa added.

The next day, Vanessa started getting headaches and visited the ER at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital — Westover Hills, but nothing was showing up in her lab work that was concerning the doctors so she was sent home. At her regular appointment with her midwife on the following Wednesday, things were still looking good and Vanessa was relieved.

But, things took an interesting turn when Vanessa got to work on Friday, January 15. She went to work like normal at a skilled nursing facility where she is a speech pathologist.  “I asked a nurse to check my blood pressure and it was really high. I didn’t leave right away. I know it sounds silly, but I wanted to get my COVID vaccine first. I thought I might just need to rest so I rested for a bit when I got home and then took my blood pressure again when I woke up and it was through the roof. So, back to the ER we go, but this time I packed a bag, just in case.”

And thank goodness she did. Vanessa and her husband checked into the ER at Westover Hills where they ran lab work. Right away, they saw protein in Vanessa’s urine which is a key indicator of preeclampsia. The doctors warned Vanessa that there was a strong chance she would be delivering soon and gave her the first round of steroid shots to help with Luna’s under-developed lungs.

“I was really scared at this point. Luna was only 29 weeks (gestation) and I knew it was too early for her to come,” said Vanessa.

Vanessa was immediately transferred by ambulance to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio where they drew more labs as soon as she arrived. “This is when the bad news started and kept getting worse,” Vanessa explains. “I was hoping to be treated and released back home, but life had different plans for me and baby Luna over the next few days.”

At The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Vanessa met Dr. Brook Thomson, the obstetrician who would now be making sure Vanessa had a safe delivery. “I was considered a high-risk patient and Dr. Thomson was watching me closely,” remembers Vanessa. “By Tuesday, my platelets were too low and my lungs were filling up with fluid. All I remember him saying after that was, we have to get that baby out!”

It was at that point that Vanessa learned that Luna was diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), a condition where the baby does not grow as expected in the womb.

“Even with the IUGR diagnosis, they weren’t worried about Luna. It was me they were worried about,” explains Vanessa. “Dr. Thomson was very patient with me as I tried to decide if I should try to have a natural delivery versus a C-section. I decided on a C-section and I am so glad I did because there was a knot in Luna’s cord and my placenta was completely attached to my uterus. I’m so grateful things did not get even worse than they already were.”

Vanessa was not able to see Luna for 24 hours due to some of the medications she was on to treat the preeclampsia, but her husband would bring her pictures throughout the day. “It really meant so much to me that he was showing me her sweet little face. I was in a lot of pain and really out of it due to the medicines, but seeing her made it so much easier,” said Vanessa.

After Vanessa was diagnosed with preeclampsia, Luna was born at only 29 weeks gestation and continues to make progress in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

Luna is currently in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and getting stronger every day. Vanessa and her husband switch off visiting her throughout the day due to the current safety policies related to COVID.

As Vanessa thinks back about the experience that made her a mom, she is grateful. “We couldn’t have asked for a better doctor than Dr. Thomson. While I wasn’t excited about having to abandon my birth plan, I knew I was in good hands,” explains Vanessa. “Dr. Thomson was so caring and made sure to explain in detail what was going on. I never felt rushed and I really felt like I was getting the care I needed. Thank goodness he was there to hold my hand through the entire process.”

Vanessa and her husband take turns visiting Luna in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Luna benefits from skin-to-skin contact with her parents.

Vanessa adds, “Every nurse I had from Labor and Delivery to all of Luna’s nurses in the NICU have been phenomenal. I kept telling my husband how lucky we were to be there. Even though they get so many different patients and babies, they still do their best to make you feel they understand your unique situation.”

Vanessa is looking forward to the day when Luna can come home which will likely be closer to her original due date on March 31.

“The fact that these teams were in place to lead me through my delivery and now my stay in the NICU has meant so much to our family. We are over the moon with joy and can’t wait to bring our little baby Luna home,” concludes Vanessa.

If you experience any complications during your pregnancy, please talk to your doctor about a referral to the Centers for Maternal Fetal Care. We offer three convenient locations with a team of compassionate and experienced physicians. Visit our website for more information at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Centers for Maternal Fetal Care.

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