Pregnancy Diaries: Placenta Previa and Vasa Previa

Hi all!

In my Second Ultrasound post I mentioned that I had placenta previa, which means a low-lying placenta that is too close or covering the cervix. That was not the entire story though, it was discovered that I had a possible complication with my pregnancy and I had to be referred to the High Risk Pregnancy Unit.

We only shared that information with immediate family and close friends because we didn’t know how things would go, but I’m extremely happy to say that the complication went away, and now that baby girl is here I’ll tell you all about it.

Placenta Previa

As mentioned above, placenta previa means that your placenta is low-lying and too close or covering the cervix (the placenta is usually at the upper part of the uterus). If the placenta is in this position close to your due date, a c-section is usually scheduled because you can’t deliver naturally (you’d rupture the placenta if you did – which is NOT good). However, in about half of the cases the placenta will eventually move up by itself and you will be able to give birth naturally. There is nothing that you can do to help move it up, it’s basically a wait-and-see thing.

Read more about placenta previa on BabyCentre.ca.

Ultrasounds

During my 20 week ultrasound the technician showed us the placenta and how it was low-lying (but assured us there was nothing to worry about) and we could see it on both sides of the uterus. Once I got home I did some research online and I figured I had major placenta previa.

Picture from BabyCentre.ca

I then got a call from my family doctor because the doctor at the ultrasound clinic wanted to take a closer look at my placenta.

So 2 weeks later (week 22) I was back for another ultrasound. This time they did the usual belly ultrasound, plus a transvaginal ultrasound (where they go “in”) because that shows better what is going on around the cervix.

My Condition – Vasa Previa

It turns out that I had 2 placental lobes and the connecting blood vessels between them were covering my cervix. Following that discovery the doctor at the ultrasound clinic recommended to my family doctor that I be referred to the High Risk Pregnancy Unit – which he did.

Of course I did more research once I got home and that pointed me to vasa previa. Bad idea on my part to research that because it is some scary shit.

If these fetal vessels rupture the bleeding is from the fetoplacental circulation, and fetal exsanguination will rapidly occur, leading to fetal death.
Source: Wikipedia

See what I mean? SCARY SHIT!

High Risk Pregnancy Unit

So, my first appointment at the High Risk Pregnancy Unit was during week 24. They did more ultrasound checks and I met with the doctor.

The doctor did appease my fears though and said that if I do bleed, the first bleed is minimal, but the second bleed is usually major. So if I get that first bleed then it means immediate hospitalization until a c-section a few weeks before my due date. I did have to keep an eye out for bleeding, but I knew that if it happened that I didn’t need to worry and just to make my way to the hospital.

It was still a scary condition to have, but I knew I was in good hands.

In order to minimize my risks of bleeding I could no longer have sex (ah crap!) and could only do light swimming, light yoga and walking (but no high-speed walking). No heavy lifting of any kind either. I don’t swim or do yoga, and it was the middle of the winter and the side-walks weren’t ideal for walking. So basically I just stopped working out completely (hello weight gain!).

More Ultrasounds

At every visit they did more ultrasounds to check the status of my placental lobes. At the same time they would also check on Peanut and measure her to make sure she was doing fine, so the positive in all of this is that I got to see our baby girl way more often than I would have with a regular pregnancy (which is usually 3 ultrasounds total).

They would also give me her estimated weight, so after a while it became a little game of “guess her weight today”. To get the estimated weight they measure the circumference of the skull viewed from the top, the size of the abdomen from the side, and the length of the tibia.

Week Placenta Status Approximate Weight
27 no change 2lbs 9oz
29 no change 3lbs 10oz
31 moved up a bit 4lbs 6oz
33 moved up more 5lbs 11oz
35 cleared! 6lbs 3oz

As of week 35 I was officially in a normal pregnancy zone, WHOOHOO!

Just so you know, in order to be considered “cleared” the placenta and/or blood vessels have to be 2cm or more away from the cervix. I believe mine were 3cm away at my last visit.

I think you can all imagine the relief we had after that last appointment.

After that I was back with my family doctor and we just waited for Peanut to do her grand entrance through a natural birth! 🙂

In case you didn’t count, that was a total of 9 ultrasounds (don’t forget about my 12w US). I ended up having a 10th ultrasound because Peanut was late, so that was at the beginning of my 41st week. Her approximate weight at that one was 8lbs and… I forget! But they couldn’t get a good angle for both her head and abdomen so that guestimate was way off because she ended up being 9lbs 5oz at birth, which was 4 days later.

Oh, and I never had any bleeding whatsoever. My husband pretty much wrapped me up in invisible bubble wrap and did all the house work for me. 😉

Had you heard of these conditions before? This was all new to me, and if it didn’t happen to me I probably still wouldn’t know about them. I didn’t even know there could be 2 placental lobes, huh!

– Chantal 🙂

Computer geek by day and super mom by night, Chantal loves to try products of any kind and share her thoughts with the world.