This is not an easy piece for me to write. When we were expecting our fourth child, I suffered a placenta abruptio at 26 weeks gestation. What is placenta abruptio? Literally translated, placenta abruptio is ‘an abruption or tearing away of the placenta from the uterine wall’. What that amounts to in reality is that I woke up laying in an enormous pool of blood that covered me from belly to toes and drenched the bed. I think that it was the most terrifying event of my life.
What ensued was that I was rushed to the hospital. To our intense relief the baby was alive and seemed to be stable. Evidently what I had was termed a ‘partial abruption’. If the placenta had torn completely away, the baby would doubtless have died because there is almost no time to rescue the baby.
I was hospitalized at our local hospital overnight. In the morning, our doctor breezed in and asked us how badly we wanted this baby. We were both speechless. He went on to say, rather casually that if I didn’t have any more bleeding, the baby would make it. Otherwise, if I bled again, she would die. At 26 weeks, he said, the fetus doesn’t have a very high chance of survival.
I questioned him on that one. I have read about and known babies to survive even when born earlier than 26 weeks. I asked to speak with a physician from the Neonatal Unit at Butterworth Hospital (now Spectrum) in Grand Rapids, MI. This physician, a perinatalogist, said that I must be put on complete bed rest. No getting up except for the potty.
During the next night, while still in North Ottawa, I experienced some odd cramping sensations like very early contractions. When I told the nurse, she said, ‘Honey, we’re not messing around here anymore. You need to be at Butterworth. They are equipped for this kind of thing.’ Very sensible of her, I thought. So we made a hasty ride by ambulance to the big city. My husband worked third shift and had to be called at work. Poor guy, he was pretty all in with the horrible stress.
To make a long story short, I spent a week in the hospital, went home on bed rest, completed the bed rest and was allowed to be up and about when another placenta abruptio occurred at 34 weeks putting me back in the hospital. The dilemma was this: should labor be induced to get the baby out of what appeared to be a unstable environment? I underwent an amniocentesis (see my other article) procedure to ascertain if the baby’s lungs would be strong enough to breathe alone. Three amnios it took for her lungs to finally register high enough to function outside of the womb. At 38 weeks our little daughter was born, happy and healthy. Thanks be to God.
What I have learned from this experience is that there are several things you can do to avoid a possible placenta abruption. First, take it easy, please. A week before I had the abruption, our nine year old daughter had to have an emergency appendectomy. It was December 14 and I hadn’t had time to Christmas shop, so I went shopping and probably, without realizing it, overdid it. My mother went with me and warned me to take it easy. Lesson 2#: listen to your mom.
Lastly (this part is a little embarrassing) while this is not a direct correlation, having an orgasm can cause a slight abruption. That was apparently the case with me because dad and I did have sex right before the bleeding occurred. I’m not saying, and neither did the doctors that we ‘should not have had sex’. Some placentas don’t ‘seat’ quite as well as others. I just want you to know all that I know about ‘placenta abruptio’. All the best.