Once I emerged from the dreaded first trimester, I was feeling a whole lot better and whole lot more confident that this was real. The chronic nausea was behind me and onions were no longer something out of a horror film for me. A baby bump had emerged and so had the maternity leggings. Things were really moving along!
My second trimester of pregnancy was mostly uneventful, and for that I am grateful. I still cried all the time, but I would soon learn that the tears would stay with me long after the baby was born. Cooking became a thing of the past pretty much from the beginning of my pregnancy. I used to love to cook but while simultaneously cooking a new human in my oven, it just seemed like an exhausting chore. And although I wasn’t nauseas anymore, raw meat still made me queasy. Also, when I did attempt to cook, I would ruin every meal I attempted, or I’d burn myself! I swear, has this happened to anyone else? Where you just totally lose all cooking ability or the desire to? It was a very odd symptom I didn’t expect.
In your second trimester, you are still only seen by a doctor once a month, unless there are any issues that require you to be seen more often. At my 19-week anatomy scan, they confirmed we were having a boy (we had found out at 13 weeks via NIPT blood screening) but they also found that I had something called placenta previa, just another one of the many terms I would learn over the next 9 months.
Placenta previa is essentially a condition where the placenta (the organ that is connected to the umbilical cord and provides oxygen and nutrients your baby) is too low in the uterus, therefore blocking the cervix, AKA baby’s exit door. A normal placenta rests above the baby, but mine was below him. Placenta previa is somewhat rare yet not totally uncommon. It’s said to effect less than 200,000 pregnancies per year; however my doctor was confident that my placenta would move upward before baby was due for his exit. In an effort to learn more, I spoke to a lot of friends of mine who had given birth before, and found a few of them also had placenta previa and it did in fact correct itself. To me, this was just another example about how being open about things that are going on in your motherhood journey can help make you feel less alone. If placenta previa does not correct itself, it means the baby has to be born via c-section. Which is not the end of the world, but ultimately was not my first choice.
What happens if you’re diagnosed with placenta previa? The answer; not a whole lot. I was put on “pelvic rest” at that doctor’s appointment and was scheduled for another ultrasound a few weeks later to check on the placenta’s progress. What is pelvic rest you ask? Basically, it means you can no longer work out, lift heavy things, have sex, or put any foreign objects in your vagina—ya know, in case you were planning to. The reason for this is because the placenta is so low (how many times can we say placenta? Placenta, placenta, placenta…The limit does not exist) that there is a high risk of bleeding. Bleeding during pregnancy = no bueno.
While I was grateful to not be on full bed rest, it was also discouraging to be given limitations. I was only halfway through my pregnancy and already I was being slapped with a list of can nots in addition to the can nots of coffee, wine, soft cheese, deli sandwiches, the finer things in life, etc. It was about 6 long weeks until I was seen again to check on the status of my placenta. I scheduled that appointment for the same day as my glucose test—the test every pregnant woman dreads that checks for gestational diabetes. You drink a horribly sweet syrupy drink, wait and hour, and then have your blood drawn to check how your body responds to the sugar. If you “fail” this test, you have to do it again, and the second time, you have to wait three hours and get your blood drawn every hour on the hour for those three hours. I do not handle blood well—something I’d have to get over as my pregnancy continued—more on that later. So I did not anticipate handling the glucose test well. I was right, I fainted in the waiting room of the lab and had to lie down on the table adorned with puppy posters and reserved for pediatric patients (see main photo in this post, thanks for the pic, husband!) As embarrassed as I was, somehow I passed the test.
After the glucose test, and after assuring the nurse I did not need a wheelchair escort, I went into the ultrasound room to check on the placenta. I was confident it would have headed north by then, but my confidence was quickly squashed when they pointed to the screen and told me it had moved slightly, but not enough to be in the clear. The placenta needs to be a minimum of 2 cm from the cervix to no longer be considered a previa, and mine had only moved 1 cm. It was really disappointing, but it was out of my control. We continued to monitor my placenta well into my third trimester. Eventually I was told it is the most stubborn placenta the doctor had ever seen, but it had moved the 2 cm it needed to (although they had hoped for a lot more) and she felt confident I wouldn’t need a c-section. Since my placenta was still considered “low lying” there was still a risk for bleeding, so I was kept on pelvic rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. Hey, at least I had an excuse not to workout, although my initial pregnancy goal was to stay as fit as possible to help make delivery easier. I was also very worried because I was told there is a higher risk of bleeding during delivery, but because I had planned to birth at a hospital, I would be closely monitored in the event bleeding did happen. *Spoiler* placenta previa ended being the least of my worries during the delivery of my little one, and caused no complications.
On a positive note, placenta previa gets you way more sneak peaks of your little bun in the oven as many more ultrasounds are needed! A normal pregnancy usually only gets 2-3 ultrasounds in its 40 weeks, but I got at least 8—enough to fill a whole album with ultrasound pictures!
Did you have placenta previa? Did it correct itself or were your required to have a c-section? Share your story in the comments!