My High-Risk Pregnancy


photoI mentioned in my Intro post earlier this week that I’m part of the high-risk (maternal-fetal medicine) OB practice at my local hospital. Being treated as a high-risk patient has nothing to do with the health of my unborn baby—it is because of my health risks during pregnancy.

When I was 24 years-old I had a stroke. It was pretty serious—I was home alone one morning getting ready for work when a blood clot completely blocked the right middle cerebral artery of my brain. I was left seizing on my bathroom floor, completely paralyzed on my left side. After a couple terrifying hours trapped at home, a dramatic EMT rescue, and many, many days of diagnostic poking and prodding, the neurology and hematology teams at one of the nation’s best hospitals could not determine a cause for my stroke, except for my use of oral contraceptives. I had no other clotting risk factors—no high blood pressure, no family history of clotting, and I had never smoked. I was told that the extra estrogen in hormonal birth control makes your blood “sticky” and I should never, ever use the pill or another hormone-based birth control again.

I got really lucky. I have very few residual problems from the stroke, thanks to physical and occupational therapy. On one follow-up visit a few weeks after the incident, my hematologist mentioned that being pregnant means lots of extra estrogen pumping through the body, making all pregnant women at-risk for clots. So someday, he said, when I was ready to have kids, I would need to be part of a high-risk practice that could closely monitor my health.

Of course, at the time, getting pregnant was the furthest thing from mind. But not long after the stroke my then-boyfriend proposed, we got married, and we immediately starting planning a family. Funny how almost dying makes you want to hurry up and start living.

So that’s how I’ve found myself at high-risk OB practices with all three of my pregnancies. I always imagined I’d find an amazing midwife and have a natural, intervention-free delivery. But, like so many parts of motherhood, I had to realize my expectations were vastly different from reality. In order to prevent any more blood clots I have to inject myself with a blood thinner via syringe each morning into the fatty tissue of my love handles. I have double the OB appointments and ultrasounds of most women. And I have to have a completely medically-controlled labor and delivery. I have to be carefully weaned off my blood thinners and then I go in to the hospital on a set day and time for induced labor and delivery.

With my first pregnancy I longed for the stereotypical birth I’d seen on TV and in the movies—the shock of my water breaking, timing contractions at home, and then a frantic drive to the hospital with my husband. I wished for the excitement and drama of a natural childbirth. But now that I’ve been through my alternate version of childbirth twice, I realize my high-risk pregnancies are 40 weeks full of enough drama and excitement on their own. I just want a healthy baby and healthy me and I’ll be happy.


Read more of Claire’s writing at Rants from Mommyland.

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