Today on the blog, it is an honor to share another Vasa Previa success story! You may or may not know that my daughter Zoey was born after a vasa previa pregnancy. You can read all about it here, as well as other stories of vasa previa success here. Join me in celebrating the life of little George – a survivor of a vasa previa pregnancy! Clare, thank you so much for sharing your story with Life Abundant readers. Little George is truly a miracle!
Vasa Previa Success Story: Baby George
by Clare Stephenson
Our son George was born safely following a prenatal diagnosis of Vasa Previa. This is our story.
In October 2015, I found out I was pregnant with my second child. After suffering a miscarriage 4 months earlier, we were so happy, but nervous at the same time. Unfortunately, at 6 weeks, I started bleeding. After telephoning the hospital, I was told I was probably having another miscarriage and was booked for a scan at 8 weeks. I was so upset that this could be happening again, but after suffering the normal early pregnancy symptoms, I was quietly confident. At the 8 week scan, we were so relieved that there was a healthy heartbeat! A week later at 9 weeks, I bled again. It was the same routine: back up to the hospital for a scan at 10 weeks, and again we saw a healthy heartbeat. There was no reason why I was bleeding and I was told it probably wouldn’t happen again.
The weeks passed and I was starting to enjoy my pregnancy and forget the previous bleeds when I started bleeding at 16 weeks. Thankfully, I had a midwife appointment that day, so she checked me all over and was confident all was OK. But another bleed at 19 weeks resulted in a further scan. At this point I could feel the baby move, so I felt quite positive all was OK, but I wanted a reason why I was bleeding. Again, no one could see why. I was really starting to worry now as the bleeding was getting worse and there wasn’t an explanation. When it came to our 20 week scan, I really hoped we would get answers, and we did. I was diagnosed with a low lying placenta. I felt massive relief as there was an answer! The Doctor advised they would scan me again at 34 weeks and told me most of the time the placenta would move in time for birth and this was very common. I felt much better and started planning ahead.
Things took a turn for the worse when I started bleeding heavily at work when I was 22 weeks. This bleed just came on suddenly when I was sitting at my desk. I called the hospital straight away and was told to go in immediately. I was admitted, and after being examined, I was surrounded by Doctors. They told me there was a possibility I could lose the baby if I didn’t stop bleeding. The Neonatal Doctors came and told me about a “22 weeker”. They went into detail of how they wouldn’t resuscitate the baby as baby wouldn’t be classed as “viable”. It was heartbreaking and I just couldn’t believe it was happening. I kept telling myself that they have to tell me the worst case scenario. After what seemed hours and hours, I finally stopped bleeding. I was monitored and sent home 2 days later.
From this point forward, I was just desperate to get to 24 weeks when baby is classed as “viable”. I never really relaxed but tried to be as positive as I could. Three weeks passed and I had no further bleeds. Then in early hours at 25 weeks, I woke to a bleed. We were sent up the hospital again and the Doctor on call did a portable scan at my bedside. That’s when Vasa Previa was first mentioned. It wasn’t confirmed, just briefly mentioned, and I was told if I bleed again I would be scanned to rule this out. When I asked what it was, the Doctor advised it was very very rare and not to worry. I went home and googled this and was shocked at what I was reading. I put it out of my head as all articles were saying how rare it was, I thought surely I can’t have this?
Sure enough, a week later at 26 weeks I bled again and my consultant [with another doctor] sent me for a scan where Vasa Previa was finally diagnosed. I remember being in the scan and the sonographer taking ages and getting more staff to look at the screen. I knew it wasn’t good, even though she told me not to worry. My Consultant explained what it was in detail and I had to be transferred to a London hospital. After a week in London, I came back to Ipswich where I was admitted until I delivered. My Consultant advised we were aiming for a 34 week caesarean section and I would have scans every 2 weeks to check the growth of the baby. Initially I was upset to be in the hospital as leaving my little girl at home was heartbreaking, but from that point forward I bled every few days and I knew I was in the right place. Every bleed I had in hospital, small or large, just worried me even more and I couldn’t see how I could make 34 weeks. I knew how serious this condition was and I tried not to think what could happen. It was really hard not to let my mind wonder, especially in the evenings when all was quiet on the ward. I felt like I was a ticking time bomb in a situation I had no control over.
On 2 April 2016, I woke in the early hours to heavy bleeding and told my waters had ruptured. I was taken to theatre for an emergency caesarean section. I was only 29 weeks pregnant and in shock I was being delivered so early. I remember laying in theatre so scared at what they were going to tell me about our baby. I was told about the risks to me too but that didn’t even enter my head. Our son George was born weighing 3lb 8oz. We only saw him for seconds before they took him to NICU. He looked so tiny in this big incubator. I was in complete shock and denial I had delivered until we went and saw him in NICU a few hours later. It was so upsetting seeing him so poorly. There were tubes everywhere and machines beeping. The Doctor advised us he was very poorly and he had lost a lot of blood resulting in him having a blood transfusion.
I was discharged home 2 days later and that’s when it really hit home what had happened. I knew we would always have a premature baby and a special care visit but I never expected 29 weeks. I didn’t hold my baby until he was 4 days old and I felt so guilty I couldn’t get any further on in my pregnancy for him. George’s Consultant advised me that he had experienced maternal Vasa Previa before only once with a bad ending. He also advised if I wasn’t delivered when I was then the blood loss to George would have been fatal. I was up at the hospital every day with him and in the early days trying to recover from surgery and share my time between George and my little girl. It was so exhausting and overwhelming. In time, we got into a really good routine and it became normal to us.
After 6.5 weeks in Special Care, George went from strength to strength and we were finally allowed home. It was great to get home but very surreal as Ipswich Hospital had become our second home since my very first bleed in November 2015. Today, he is absolutely fine with no long term problems. The only problem is he’s anemic, which he is being monitored for due to the blood loss.
Looking back at our story (and after 13 bleeds) I feel very lucky to have been able to make 29 weeks. I never thought I would even make this when the bleeding started at 6 weeks. We never allowed ourselves to get excited or find out the sex of the baby just in case; the pregnancy never felt safe. We are so grateful to everyone at Ipswich Hospital who cared for me and George and helped make this a success story. We were really well looked after.
After reading some heart breaking stories, I wanted to share mine to show if Vasa Previa is diagnosed and with the right prenatal care, it can end positively. I would say to anyone in this position to do whatever you are advised to do by your healthcare professional. Even if this means a long hospital stay; it’s so worth it to get your healthy baby.
Thank you again for sharing your story, Clare! I hope it brings hope to those who are going through vasa previa, especially if they are going through it with the bleeds you experienced. Little George is precious and I am so glad he is doing well today!