Get Your Baby Out of Your Bed: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Update!

Co-sleeping has gained popularity over the years. Cuddling and snuggling…doesn’t that offer the greatest sense of security for your baby? Yes, but not in your bed! A recent study published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, confirms that the highest risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in infants three months and younger is bed-sharing. While this doesn’t erase the risk of SIDS from co-sleeping for older infants, it does help moms realize that sleep environment safety is of the utmost importance from day one.Baby Sleeping With Mother

Unfortunately, day one is when bed sharing is the most attractive. Your cuddly newborn longs to be held, snuggled, and fed constantly. And, while napping in bed with your infant may make nursing more convenient…it’s just too risky. Trust me, I know how exhausting nursing a newborn can be! Co-sleeping does let moms get just a little extra shut-eye at night, and in a sleep deprived world, every extra moment of sleep counts! But, moments matter for your infant as well. It only takes a moment for your child to become a victim of SIDS or Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS). That is a moment that you NEVER want to encounter!Fingers Of Newborn Baby

Having had a preemie, I know more than many moms about kangaroo care. For nine weeks in the NICU all that I did was Kangaroo my baby (Okay, I did a little more than that according to the breast pump and stock piled freezer and fridge). Even after we made it home, I continued to Kangaroo for months. There is definitely evidence to say that skin to skin and close contact with an infant is imperative for their mental and physical wellbeing-from heart rate and breathing regulation to increased oxygenation and bonding. And, while I’m an advocate for kangaroo care, I’m also an advocate for SIDS and SUIDS prevention. Doing what is safest for an infant is always what is best in the short-term and long-term. While there may be validity to the benefits of co-sleeping/bed-sharing, these benefits don’t out weigh the risk of death from SIDS and SUIDS.Newborn Beautiful Baby Sleeping

Every mom wants to do what is best for her infant, and creating a special bond between baby and mommy is definitely BEST!  Ensuring INFANT SAFETY is also BEST! So…what’s a mom to do? Here are some SAFE ways to bond with your infant (note…co-sleeping/bed-sharing doesn’t make the cut!)

1. Take the time to snuggle your baby during the day (or, if you are working, snuggle in the evening)Mother Playing With Her Baby Boy Son On Bed

2.  Let your infant sleep on your chest…while you are awake. You can do this in bed or in a recliner as long as you are awake and aware of your baby’s position.

3.  Incorporate Kangaroo Care (skin to skin contact) into your routine. Strip your baby down to his/her diaper and either take off your shirt or use an open, button-down shirt. Place the baby directly on your chest and then cover over with a blanket. Enjoy the special bond that skin to skin contact can bring. (If you are breast-feeding you may even notice that you have a milk let-down. If you have trouble with let-downs Kangarooing would be great to try before feedings)Young Mother Breastfeeding A Baby In Nature

4. Carry your baby in an infant carrier such as a Moby or Ergo when you are up and about. This will allow your baby to enjoy your sense of closeness while allowing you to get things done around the house (who am I kidding! REVISION…while it allows you to wash pumping equipment, bottles, and pacifiers that the dog stole)Happy Mother Breast Feeding Her Baby Infant

5. Sing to your baby even if you have a horrible voice! If it is truly horrific…talk to your baby in soothing tones. Your baby was used to hearing your voice before delivery. Hearing you now will bring your baby a sense of security and calm. If you can’t think of what to say, reading a book to your infant is another great way to engage and bond. It’s also great for your child’s language development.

6. Massage your infant. Massage has been found to have a relaxing effect on infants. Its benefits have even made it a part of many NICU’s occupational therapy sessions for preemies. In addition to providing relaxation, infant massage can help with constipation and gas! It also helps prevent the newborn (especially preemies) from being hypersensitive to touch and can even enhance a baby’s immune system.

7. Play with your baby. While this may sound trivial or like a no-brainer, play time with your infant  creates an important bond. Letting your infant see you smile, laugh, tease, and tickle will enhance your infant’s sense of security and love. You may even be rewarded with a squeal!Beautiful Mother And Baby outdoors. Nature. Beauty Mum and her C

While these are just a few ideas to promote infant and mommy bonding, take the time to find other safe and fun ways to create special connections with your baby. While co-sleeping/bed-sharing may have its benefits, err on the side of caution. The bond that co-sleeping brings isn’t worth the risk of SIDS or SUIDS. Don’t be a mom with regrets!Mother Father And Baby Feet Under Blanket

From The Mom in Me, MD

 

How To BURN Your Dinner: for all of the moms sharing my non-pinterest worthy day!

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The Culprits Up To No Good!

Motherhood is about trying, failing, and trying again. Although we all like to think of ourselves as super moms, truth is…most of our days aren’t even close to Pinterest perfection. We post our best mommy moments on Facebook, but really? Is that reality? Being a mom is hard, tiring, dirty, and sometimes downright ugly. I usually don’t post the poopy blow-out that ends up on my face, the Target mid-aisle meltdown, or the close call in the parking lot. But, today, I decided to affirm all of the moms out there by acknowledging that none of us are perfect, myself included!

How To Burn Your Dinner…

Necessary Ingredients:

1 long day

1 poopy diaper

1 mischievous toddler

1 naughty dog

1 distracted mama

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My Thrifty Find!

It all started with a silly package of sliced french bread! Since I had just posted my recipe on crostinis I decided to whip some up myself. As I was speeding past the freezer section in the grocery store with my whining toddler (yes, I broke down and bought ice cream) my eyes landed on a bag of sliced french bread with a manager’s special sticker!  25 cents! What can you buy for 25 cents these days??? Proud of my thrifty find, I tossed it in the cart and raced toward the finish line! As we approached the check out counter I remembered that I had forgotten to grab green peppers for the pizza. Back I hauled my oversized cart with the kiddy car to the opposite side of the store. I grabbed the pepper and once again headed toward the check out counter. Thankfully, the check out guy was kind enough to offer my now adamantly “DONE SHOPPING” daughter some stickers to get us through the line. I actually remembered my coupon (which never happens), and I assured Ayla that we would be home eating dinner in no time. I peeked into her red car to check on her and noticed that her favorite (okay, my favorite) hair band had fallen off of her head. Then to my frustration I realized that it hadn’t fallen off, Ayla had taken it off and intentionally launched it from the car somewhere in the store. With my cart full of bagged groceries, we began going aisle by aisle through the grocery store, with me muttering to her the whole time in as calm of a voice as I could muster, “Ayla, if you hadn’t thrown your bow we could be home by now. Why did you do that?Mommy has no clue where it might be. This is incredibly frustrating. etc. etc. etc.”

I’m sure you have all tried to maneuver the grocery carts with the cars. It’s like driving a semi on an Italian side street! I’m pretty sure that I missed everyone’s toes (if not…sorry) as I plowed ahead on my mission. Not in the produce department, not at lost and found, not in the cheese department. Frozen food was free of all accessories. Score! Cracker aisle! Hair bow found and mommy happy! I’m embarrassed (and so is Ayla) to say that I danced a jig in aisle 7.

Getting through the parking lot was a little crazy! How is it possible for every car to have their reverse lights on at the exact same time? It was like a scary version of dodge ball. We made it to the car in one piece, but as the groceries came out of the cart, Ayla was reminded of how hungry her tummy had become. Being a really bad mom, I handed her a bag of veggie straws. Not really the best option right before dinner. But, she was happy. I always take my cart back to the carousel, but today I wanted to get in the car and get home. Yes, that’s right! I’m the mom who left the cart in the middle of the only available parking spot!

photophoto 3We made it home with only a few minutes of crying. An hour behind schedule wasn’t too bad, right? I pulled out my french bread, turned on the broiler, and shoved them in the oven. In the meantime I went on to whip up a semi-homeade pasta sauce and some tortellini. My hungry munchkin wasn’t having it. Since dinner wouldn’t be ready for sometime, I pulled out carrots, a squeeze veggie pack, and some chicken for Ayla. Presto, dinner was served. After I was done washing her up, I started my pasta sauce. Things were under control until I heard the distinct splash of water. Yes, Ayla had dumped the dog’s water dish all over the hardwood floors. By the time I got to the dish, I noticed that Ayla now had two hands full of dog food and a piece of dog food stuck between her front teeth. I couldn’t help but screech!

photo 2My rotisserie chicken was sitting just a little too close to the counter edge, and while I was cleaning up his spilled water bowl, my dog decided to join in on the action. Let’s just say that he loves rotisserie chicken! He is such a lover that he doesn’t even leave any evidence…down go bones and all! It’s like a chicken rapture! With my chicken missing and my sauce now starting to overheat, I turned to find Ayla pulling at her pants. She waved her hand in front of her face to indicate that something was stinky, and I knew that she was trying to tell me that she was poopy. Why she thought she needed to take her pants and diaper off…I’m not sure. Thankfully, I was able to prevent a major poop catastrophe in the kitchen. I raced her upstairs, changed her diaper and congratulated myself on keeping my cool.

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photoAs we came to the top of the stairs I noticed the distinct smell of burning food. Burning? What could be burning? My FRENCH BAGUETTE! I had entirely forgotten about my crostinis! They were a little more than overdone. Ah, well, at least I had only used half of them. Back in the oven went a fresh set of bread slices. I set the timer this time! I searched the fridge for my fig preserves. I knew that they were in there somewhere! I couldn’t make goat cheese and fig crostinis without the figs! Recipe revision…goat cheese and mixed berry preserve crostinis tonight. With my appetizer under control, I pulled out a back up chicken from the fridge, finished dinner, and thanked heaven that daddy would be home soon!

All in all…this was a pretty good day even if it wasn’t Pinterest worthy. A few bumps on the road here and there, but what mom doesn’t have those? While none of us need a tutorial on how to burn dinner (I assume it comes pretty naturally to most moms), all of us need a reminder that although our daily lives may not be picture perfect, we are still pretty awesome moms. We love our kids and what could be more pinnable than that!

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From The Mom in Me, MD

 

 

 

If you can pee on a tree…I can breastfeed on a park bench!

mother breast feeding her childMen always seem to have this innate desire to be one with nature. Camping, chopping wood, and yes, even peeing on a tree seems to top their list of liberating activities. And, while peeing on a tree should probably be reserved for certain times and places…breastfeeding should not! Nothing is as natural as a mother nursing her newborn baby. And, while I don’t endorse an exhibitionist lifestyle for men or women, sometimes a little boob is gonna show!

As a first time mom (to a preemie), and a first time breastfeeder I was determined to make it work. Nursing without any additional complications can be challenging enough. Add in a tiny mouth that needs a lot of help latching correctly, and what should seem natural becomes a production. At home, I had my routine…a zillion pillows in just the right positions, my Boppy angled at just the right degree, and my feet propped to just the right height. But, nursing in public was a whole different story! My daughter hated the nursing cover. Actually, she despised it. I tried to convince her that Petunia Pickle Bottom was all the rage for covers (only the best for her), but every time the cover went down her scream reached new heights. If I was finally able to clam her down, I then had the complicated job of getting her to correctly latch so that she would get milk without biting off my boob in the process. Trying to stay covered while getting a preemie to latch correctly is like playing Twister naked with only a towel for cover…good luck!Happy Mother Breast Feeding Her Baby Infant

Since nursing with a cover always ended up with my baby (and me) in a meltdown, I resorted to finding “private” places to nurse such as bathrooms, designated nursing rooms, and the car. I quickly crossed bathrooms off of my list! Disgusting! I don’t ever eat in a bathroom…why should my baby have to? With limited options, and my frustration rising, I came to the conclusion that I just couldn’t leave the house, or if I wanted to leave I would have to pump and give her a bottle (pumping is no mother’s preference). My baby just wouldn’t breastfeed in public!

Looking back I now realize that my baby wasn’t the problem…my comfort level with openly nursing my daughter was the problem. If I had been willing to show a little boob, she would have nursed just fine. What was it that made me feel so uncomfortable breastfeeding without a cover? Was it my own sense of modesty? Was it my concern that I might offend someone or cause a vulnerable man to have “inappropriate” thoughts? Was it our culture that promotes larger than life Victoria’s Secret advertisements but is appalled by a breastfeeding mother showing any part of her breast? Honestly, probably all of the above.Young Mother Breastfeeding A Baby In Nature

Whether or not I will ever have another infant to breastfeed, I’m not sure; But, I’ve decided to change my opinion and my regard for what is currently, culturally acceptable and what I’m comfortable with. Most cultures around the world are comfortable with open breastfeeding. Many cultures rely upon breastfeeding as the safest source of nutrition for infants since clean water is scarce. Although the United States has established laws guaranteeing that nursing mothers can breastfeed in public, the fact that laws are necessary to ensure that a mother can feed her infant is disturbing. Isn’t it a little ironic that many developing countries are more advanced in their view of breastfeeding than those of us in the “first” world.

As women, our bodies were made to breastfeed. What could be more natural? Breastfeeding isn’t a sexual display or even a women’s lib movement. Instead, it is one of the best ways that a mother can nourish, protect, and bond with her infant. While I don’t think that nursing moms should walk around in public completely topless (although I’m all for it at home), I do think that breastfeeding moms should have the freedom to feed their babies where, when, and how it works best for their infant. If that means you need to plop down on a park bench with an exposed boob, so be it! If anyone has a problem with that…you can tell them to, “Go pee on a tree!”

P.S. For all of you mom’s who couldn’t or chose not to nurse, you are still amazing moms! Although I advocate for breastfeeding, every mom has to choose what works best for her and her infant.

From The Mom in Me, MD

Our Preemie Journey: Day 1 of Motherhood

When I awoke, I almost forgot that I was a mother. The discomfort from my c-section and the breast pump forced my mind to acknowledge that I had a baby, but I hadn’t seen her. I hadn’t held her. I hadn’t even named her yet. I knew she existed, but she felt like a distant memory. The magnesium continued to cloud my mind. I was sick. Oh, so sick. I knew that I cared about a little being, but it was hard to think about more than my own failing body. I was flooded by feelings of guilt. Did I truly care about myself more than my baby? Was I really that selfish?

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My precious preemie daughter!

The thought brought tears to my eyes. I wasn’t selfish. I loved my baby more than the knot in my throat would allow me to voice. Preeclampsia was to blame. Preeclampsia was the guilty one. Still, I couldn’t shake the guilt. I wanted to hold my baby for the first time. I needed to hold her, but I couldn’t. Even if I would have been able to move out of bed, I wasn’t allowed to leave the obstetrics floor with my dangerously high blood pressure and my magnesium IV still running. A picture of my fragile, tiny baby was my only glimpse into her world. She terrified me. She was so small. Too small. Scary small. I couldn’t look at her picture without bursting into tears.

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My baby in her incubator under bilirubin lights with feeding tube and supplemental oxygen.

A baby that small needed her mother. She needed to know my love and my presence. She had been a part of me for 32 weeks, and I had been her EVERYTHING! Now she was being cared for by people that she had never met. I envied them. I envied my husband who was able to spend hours cherishing our baby on his chest, skin to skin. The two floors that separated my hospital bed from her incubator might as well have been a continent. My heart longed for her. I was now a mother, but I felt childless, empty, hollow. How could day one of motherhood feel this tragic? I wanted my daughter back. I wanted to give her eight more weeks to grow and develop inside of me. I wanted to rewind and then fast forward to a perfect, full-term delivery! I wanted a day one of motherhood “do over.” I knew I couldn’t get my “do over”, so instead I decided to fight toward my next best option…Day 2 of motherhood with my preemie. Maybe tomorrow I would finally be able to hold my baby.

From The Mom in Me, MD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rub a Dub Dub Ayla’s Playtime in the Tub: bath time must haves and safety tips

Ayla LOVES bath time. Who wouldn’t with a bath full of fun toys? Time to share our favorite bath time picks from toys, to soap, and towels! Let’s get splishin’ and splashin’! What to Sit In? When looking at baby … Continue reading

Our Preemie Journey: Delivery Day…8 Weeks Early!

young pregnant woman sitting on the windowMy mind was fuzzy, my vision blurry, and my body on fire from the magnesium! I felt like I was going to burst like a water balloon from even the tiniest poke. I could barely move my fingers due to the swelling, and I was scared. I was terrified for my unborn child and for myself. Preeclampsia had taken over. It didn’t care that I was just shy of 32 weeks pregnant. It didn’t care about what I had already gone through just to get pregnant! It was mocking my plans for a perfect delivery. I asked myself, “Who attacks a mother and her innocent unborn child? How could a disease be so sadistic…so ruthless?”

I waited for Dave to arrive for what seemed like hours. I was alone, alone with my unborn baby…uncertain of what was going to happen next…uncertain if my child would survive…uncertain if my body would fail me…uncertain of what the future held. A sense of relief washed over me when Dave walked into my hospital room. He hadn’t realized the severity of the situation until he saw me. I was barely recognizable from even the night before. Dave had raced from work, stopping at the house to take the dog out and to throw some overnight clothes together. Little did he realize that our overnight bag would need to get us through the next nine weeks.Fetus 7 Month In The Womb. Visible Head And Arms

The next several hours were filled with ultrasounds from Maternal Fetal Medicine, discussions with the neonatologist (NICU doctor), and constant blood pressure checks and rechecks. I was reassured that 32-week old babies can do very well. They can still have major complications including bleeding in the brain, respiratory distress syndrome, vision problems, and much more; but according to my Ob/Gyn, making it to 32 weeks was a great accomplishment. It didn’t feel like an accomplishment. It felt like a failure. My body was failing my baby and me. Once again, my best efforts could do nothing to change the situation.

Because our baby’s lungs hadn’t gotten the chance to fully develop, I was stabbed with the first of two steroid shots to speed up the process. A plan had been put in place. We were going to wait for my 24-hour urine protein to come back, and we were going to try to get both steroid shots in before delivery (these had to be spaced out by 24 hours).

I was a little nervous about a C-section, but I was willing to do whatever it took to keep my baby safe. Because my blood pressure was so incredibly high, an attempt at a vaginal delivery was out of the question. Starting an induction would be too hard on the baby and on my already stressed body.

The minute that my 24-hour urine protein results arrived the conservative timetable was thrown out the window. I was loaded into a wheelchair and told that the C-section was happening NOW! My urine protein was the highest that my Ob/Gyn had ever seen. The baby was starting to have some dips in her heart rate, and we couldn’t wait any longer. Delivery was the only “cure” for preeclampsia. My leg was stabbed too early with the second steroid shot in a last ditch effort to give our baby’s lungs every chance to mature. The magnesium and blood pressure medications continued to run into my veins, in an attempt to prevent me from having a seizure or stroke.

As the nurse wheeled me down the hallway, I pleaded desperately with God. He had answered my heart’s longing for a child. I had watched my belly grow with awe, wonder and gratitude. This baby was my answered prayer. He had to protect her! If not, then why had he given her to me in the first place? I loved this little being that I had never met more than my mind could comprehend. He couldn’t take her from me now…not after we had made it this far.

The spinal was more unpleasant than I had imagined. For some reason the idea of a huge needle poking into the nerve track in my back freaked me out more than just a little. I wasn’t worried about having my belly cut open with a scalpel, but a giant needle wasn’t my idea of fun. I hunched, I hugged the pillow, and I hunched some more. After three attempts, the needle was finally in the correct position. I was transferred to the operating table, and prepped for surgery. I had assisted in numerous emergency C-sections during residency. I had reassured many panicked mothers that everything would be “just fine”. Now I was the panicked mother, and I found that my own advice fell flat.

I remember the tugging and pulling during the c-section, and that the spinal was just as unpleasant as patients have described. My blood pressure dropped fairly rapidly at one point, causing me to vomit.

My C-section!

The C-section felt like an eternity. Just as they were pulling the baby out of my belly, my blood pressure dropped precipitously from the anesthesia, and I began to vomit. I vaguely remember the attending physician showing my baby to me before she was whisked to the resuscitation table. Her skin was dusky. She wasn’t crying! Was she breathing? I couldn’t see. What was happening? And, then I heard her. I heard her first cry. It was a small cry, but it was fierce. She was a fighter. She was in the lightweight division at 3 pounds 2 ounces, but she was a fighter!

My baby was born at 3 lb. 2 oz. She was whisked away to be resuscitated.

Ayla in the Delivery Room being Resuscitated

Before I could catch another glimpse of my precious baby, she was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with her daddy close behind. I felt physically sick, helpless, and alone. I was her mother, but I had yet to hold my baby. I wanted to be at her side, but I could barely keep my eyes open. I wanted Dave at my side, but I knew that he needed to be with our baby. My mind was heavy, clouded by painkillers, anesthetics, and magnesium. As the last stitch was placed in my belly, I drifted off. When I awoke to a soaring blood pressure and splitting headache, I realized that I was in a fight for my life. Preeclampsia was still my master, and it wasn’t finished with me yet. Delivery had only made it more determined to destroy me, but I was a fighter too!

From The Mom in Me, MD

Our Preemie Journey: The Beginning

Pregnant Woman holding her hands in a heart shape on her baby bu

After years of trying to get pregnant, our dream finally came true. God had finally answered our heart wrenching prayers for a baby. Getting pregnant had been the hard part-being pregnant was a breeze in comparison. That is, until everything went wrong.

Because we had conceived with the help of IVF, I was already a paranoid pregnant lady. Even though I followed all of the recommendations, I still feared a miscarriage, a physical deformity, or a genetic anomaly. I had thought of most potential complications, and every little ting or pain alarmed my fragile state of mind. Knowing too much as a physician didn’t help. I reminded myself that it was normal to be overly concerned considering all that we had been through. It wasn’t like getting pregnant was a walk in the park for us. All forces of nature had conspired against us for years. Now that we had finally gotten a positive pregnancy test, I was a little leery that it was too good to be true. But, as months passed and our baby continued to be a perfect patient, the hypochondriac in me started to lessen. I resolved that I was going to have a happy and healthy baby.

Around 26 weeks of pregnancy, I suffered the worst headache of my life. My husband and I had recently moved states, and I had just established care with a new OB/GYN. I didn’t want to be the annoying patient who called about every little complaint, but when loads of Tylenol and sleep just didn’t cut it, I began to worry. Knowing that headaches can be linked with pregnancy induced hypertension and preeclampsia, I quickly checked my blood pressure. It was normal, but the pain in my head was not. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I asked my husband to call the doctor.

The physician on call recommended that I come into the hospital for blood work, to monitor the baby, and to get me something stronger for the headache. I couldn’t have agreed more. Thankfully, my blood pressure and blood work were fine, the baby was active, and the Percocet took the edge off.

After that episode, pregnancy life returned to normal. My follow-up blood pressures were fine. I hadn’t had another headache, and my only real complaint was the swelling in my feet. By swelling, I mean absolutely NO shoes fit my feet. I questioned, joked, and complained about my elephant feet, but I just assumed that it was part of the beauty of getting pregnant.

Since we had just moved to a new state without any family nearby, I knew that I needed to establish a support system before the baby arrived. This gave me the bright idea to join a Mom’s group while still only 32 weeks pregnant-I like to think outside of the box sometimes! I loved my “Real Mom’s” group from the moment that I met them. They applauded my assertiveness in joining the group while pregnant and welcomed me wholeheartedly. They didn’t, however, welcome my swollen feet! Instead, they insisted that I prop them up and have someone take a look at them. I reassured them all that I had a doctor’s appointment later that day, and that I didn’t have preeclampsia. It was simply swelling from pregnancy. I had noticed just the night before, however, that my glasses seemed a little tighter on my face, and my rings were even tighter than usual. I voiced my concern to my husband but then brushed it off as paranoia.

Fetus 7 Month In The Womb. Visible Head And Arms

At my 32-week prenatal visit, my blood pressure checked out fine. The Ob/GYN examined my belly and listen to the baby’s heartbeat. After measuring my belly, she recommended that we get a quick ultrasound of the baby since I hadn’t grown much since the last visit.

I waddled off to ultrasound, my feet aching with each step. The ultrasound confirmed that my baby’s growth had decreased to the 10th percentile from the 40th. Something was making her very unhappy inside of me. When I returned to the exam room, my doctor asked for a urine sample (which being pregnant I was easily able to give.) She reexamined my feet and decided to confirm my “normal” blood pressure. On recheck, my pressure wasn’t just a little high; it was stroke worthy! My urine dip screamed protein. And, when my doctor asked if I had been seeing any floaters, I dumbly responded that I had been having a weird, spotty kind of dizziness for months, but it seemed to be positional. Duh! Floaters! Wow, sometimes being a physician really doesn’t prepare you to be a good patient.

Within minutes I was loaded into a wheel chair and whisked to the OB floor for overnight observation. I voiced my concern that my mom was coming from Michigan to pick me up and take me back for a wedding shower. My Ob politely but firmly replied, “Emma, you aren’t going anywhere. First we have to make sure that you and the baby are safe.” By the time I made it to the OB floor, my blood pressure was sky-high, my head was pounding, and I was starting to get very scared. The nurse poked and re-poked me to start the IVs for the blood pressure medications and the dreaded magnesium. In what seemed like minutes, I had developed sudden and severe onset preeclampsia.

I called my mom to let her know the change of events. Knowing nothing about preeclampsia, she asked, “Emma, is this serious?” That’s when I broke down sobbing. Yes, it was serious. I was getting sicker by the minute, and I knew that my baby needed to be delivered soon…TOO SOON.

From The Mom In Me, MD

Where Modern Medicine has Failed the Pregnant Mom

Pregnant Woman Belly. Pregnancy Concept

The beauty of medicine is that it can fix most things. No, it’s not perfect, but modern medicine saves countless lives. In addition to saving lives, it dramatically improves the quality of the lives we live. Without modern medicine, my 18 month-old daughter and I would not be here today. After sailing through 32 weeks of a healthy pregnancy, I developed sudden and severe onset preeclampsia. I’m a high achiever, so my body decided it needed to start setting records. My blood pressure soared to stroke high levels. The protein in my urine topped the charts at 12 grams (5 grams is considered severe preeclampsia), and I gained over thirty pounds of fluid, becoming the Michelin man overnight. A simple tap on my arm or leg would send my limbs flying into the air. My nervous system and reflexes were in overdrive. The pounding headache, spotty vision, and abdominal discomfort were icing on the cake.

Overnight, I became one sick mamma to a 3 lb. 2 oz preemie. As soon as my daughter was cut from my belly, she required urgent resuscitation. A tiny tube was placed in her airway, and she was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit. It took me two days to even make it up to the NICU to see her. Even then, I was hooked up to IVs, countless medications and could only manage to hold her for a few minutes. Although the textbook answer to treating preeclampsia is to deliver the baby, for some women this doesn’t solve the problem immediately. My blood pressure continued to top the charts, my reflexes remained in hyperactive mode, my mind was very confused, and I was pretty sure I had, or was going to have a stroke. My concerned OB/GYN consulted a cardiologist to manage my unimproved condition. She was amazing. She listened, investigated, and made the necessary changes (mega doses of several blood pressure medications), which eventually helped normalize my blood pressure. But, even she didn’t have all of the answers. It wasn’t until three weeks after I delivered that I was able to cancel home nursing and stop my blood pressure medications.

Through this experience I started asking questions about why this was happening. What was the physiology behind this crazy multisystem condition affecting my nervous system, cardiovascular system, kidneys, liver, and reproductive system? What caused preeclampsia? What could I do to prevent it in the future? What was my chance of having it happen again? Why couldn’t we prevent it or at least treat it more effectively? I didn’t like any of the answers that I was hearing or reading. They were all just theories, nothing concrete. This condition, which landed me in the hospital for eight days, forced me to have an emergency c-section at thirty-two weeks, placed my tiny baby in the NICU for nine weeks, and which put me at risk for having high blood pressure and a stroke later in life was still not understood.

One out of every twelve pregnant women will develop preeclampsia according to data from the Preeclampsia Foundation. One in twelve! I don’t like those odds. How is it possible for a condition that is so common and potentially life threatening to mom and baby to continue to mystify us? We have mapped the human genome. We have eradicated small pox. We can identify breast cancer at its earliest stages, ensuring early treatment and amazing survival rates. Why haven’t we identified the true cause of preeclampsia and developed earlier and more efficient and effective screening tests for this condition? If prevention and earlier identification are not yet possible, then why haven’t we developed more effective treatments that will allow for a continued healthy pregnancy?

I have a fifty percent chance of developing preeclampsia again and at an earlier gestation in future pregnancies. I’m not a fan of my chances. I did everything right during my pregnancy. For goodness sake, I was the crazy lady who gave up all caffeine even though it probably wasn’t necessary. I didn’t drink a single soda, and I verified that every item entering my mouth was pasteurized. I was a paranoid pregnant mama! And, although following all of the recommendations probably prevented me from having other complications, it didn’t protect me from preeclampsia.

In a world where I count on modern medicine to fix most things, I have decided that modern medicine has failed to meet my expectations. Yes, it definitely saved my life and my daughter’s, but not all women are as fortunate as I was. Globally, preeclampsia is listed as one of the leading causes of mother and infant morbidity and mortality (illness and death). Worldwide, the United Nations reports that more than 500,000 women die each year due to pregnancy related causes. In the United States alone, preeclampsia causes 18% of maternal deaths. In short, preeclampsia is a killer.

As with any horrific and life threatening disease, the way to beat it is to study it. Research and clinical studies require interest, money, mental power (the scientists), and patients willing to participate. In most cases, it takes years before the results of clinical trials can be used in every day medicine. With only a short window left for my childbearing years, I’m hoping that new preventions and treatments will be available quickly. In the meantime, I’m doing my best to raise awareness and money, educate other women, and save the lives of women and their future babies (myself included). Join me by putting on your tennis shoes for the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia in your area. Or, take a look at the Preeclampsia Foundation or the March of Dimes for other ways to get involved. Push modern medicine to meet our expectations as women, mothers, and future mothers.

From The Mom in Me, MD