I have been meaning to write this blog for a very long time and am finally getting around to it. This is a very important blog to me personally and probably the most important one I will ever write. As the title says, this is something EVERY pregnant woman or anyone TTC needs to read. We were very lucky to have our precious boy delivered safely at just under 34 weeks. However, if it hadn’t been for a very thorough ultrasound technician and an amazing Obstetrician, things would be very, very different for us. This is my story… please share so others are given the chance that we were.
My pregnancy was a fairly normal one. I had all the typical signs and symptoms; morning sickness, bloating, extreme tiredness, the usual. That was up until my 20 week scan. Now most people who know me personally, will know that I was extremely stressed and anxious about my 20 week scan. From the beginning of my pregnancy I had a “feeling” that something was wrong or was going to go wrong. Everyone kept telling me that I was nuts and that I was being silly. Call it mother’s intuition, call it whatever you want, but I just knew we were going to be given some bad news. I wanted to be prepared and know exactly what I was looking at when I went into my 20 week scan so I decided to google what they look for in the scan. What would look normal and what wouldn’t. What would be cause for concern etc. However, nothing could prepare me for what I was going to be told. Even with all of the research I did I never came across this condition…
On the day of my 20 week scan, I had gotten myself so worked up that I actually collapsed in the elevator at the hospital on the way to the scan and luckily Jamie dragged me in there otherwise I don’t know what would have happened. Once we got into the scan room I explained to the ultrasound technician that I was very nervous, luckily he was really nice and managed to keep me calm. At the beginning of the scan, they checked my cervix a few times and asked whether the Doctor had any concerns about the pregnancy or whether I was high risk. I answered no and immediately alarm bells went off in my head. The technician said not to worry and that maybe my bladder wasn’t full enough and that he would do the rest of the scan and go back to check the cervix at the end of the scan. About 30 minutes later we were told we had a very healthy and “textbook” baby. He then went to re-check my cervix and looked concerned. That is when he called in his superior to check as well. It’s safe to say I began to panic at this point. A lady came into the room and checked as well and said that my cervix was measuring a bit short and that I needed to discuss it with my doctor. Luckily, we had booked an appointment with my Obstetrician for about an hour after the scan. In between the time of the scan and the OB appointment I did some googling and found very little info on a shortened cervix. Once in the OB’s office he immediately wanted to do an internal scan and said that while my cervix was measuring short, it wasn’t really of concern at this point, but to come back in 1 week to check it.
A week passes by and we are back at the OB’s office yet again awaiting another internal ultrasound. I wasn’t really nervous as the OB seemed confident that everything would be fine the week previous. However, once the ultrasound began I knew something was wrong. The OB was silent throughout the majority of the scan. Towards the end of the scan he turned to me and said “Your cervix has shortened to about 2cm and your waters are beaking, have you packed a bag?” as at the time we lived out of town. When I replied yes he said “Good. We’re going to have to do an emergency cervical stitch (also known as a Cerclage).” When I asked how soon he said “Tonight or tomorrow morning. As soon as possible. Don’t panic, I’m confident it will be fine, however it needs to be done now.” I felt numb. I had never been so frightened in my life. I managed to keep it together whilst booking into the hospital with the Nurse. My husband called my parents and told them the bad news, although I refused to speak to them as I knew I would break down instantly if I had to tell them what was going on. We paid for the appointment and were told to go directly over to the hospital. As soon as I walked out of the OB’s offices I broke down. I couldn’t believe this was happening. There were massive risks with doing an emergency stitch, and from what I had read it was usually unsuccessful. It was actually usually referred to as a “hero stitch” as it was the last bid by doctors to save the baby. Jamie managed to keep it together until we got to the hospital car park, then he lost it. I have never seen my husband cry so much. I knew then that I wasn’t being overdramatic and that this was serious. We both thought we were going to lose our baby.
Fast forward to about 6pm, my brother and Sister-in-law had driven 2 hours to be there for us and support Jamie whilst I was in surgery. It’s safe to say I was terrified to the point where I kept saying to everyone, I want to leave I don’t want to do this. Of course I knew I had to otherwise I would lose my baby. I think I just didn’t want to have to deal with what was going on. What a sh*t situation to be in. I wanted to just close my eyes and wake up and have it all be a horrible nightmare. I was wheeled into surgery at about 7.30pm and put under general anaesthetic. The surgery only took about 15 minutes and was successful. I remember the first thing I said to the nurses when I woke up in recovery was “Is the baby okay?” and all they said was “I assume so, we haven’t been told otherwise.” Which frightened me but immediately after, my little fighter gave me a few strong kicks to let me know he was okay.
The next day I found out I had what was known as an incompetent cervix. Less than 1% of all women have this condition during pregnancy. However, the frightening part about this condition is that most women lose one or more babies before Doctors work out what the cause is. An Incompetent Cervix is basically a weak and short cervix. It struggles to hold the weight and withstand the pressure of a growing baby. Usually women develop this after having some form of surgery on the cervix. It is even rarer for a woman who has had no damage done to their cervix to develop this condition. Unfortunately, I was one of those rare few. One of the worst parts about having a “hero stitch” is the fact that no one can tell you whether it is going to work or not. It is literally a waiting game. On the drive home from the hospital I couldn’t stop crying. I was only 21 weeks pregnant. I needed to reach AT LEAST 24 weeks for the baby to even be resuscitated at birth and if I wanted to have a healthy baby I needed to reach 32 weeks. This was the hardest part of my pregnancy. Those 11 weeks felt like they went for years. The fear of losing your child when there is a great chance is something I cannot describe. It is truly horrific and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. I ended up having a few more complications with my pregnancy (mainly an Irritable Uterus) which resulted in many hospital stays and even having to move to Toowoomba due to the risk of preterm labour. At my 28 week appointment my OB did an internal scan (which he had been doing fortnightly since the stitch was put in) and discovered my waters were at the top of the stitch and the stitch was beginning to open at the top, at this point my cervix was measuring 1.8cm (18mm). I was then hospitalised for the duration of my pregnancy on strict bed rest and given 3 doses of steroids as well as inserting progesterone pessaries twice daily (the pessaries began at 23 weeks). At 33 weeks and 4 days I lost my mucus plug and the following day my cervix began to open. I was told I would have my baby within a week. On Sunday 7th September 2014, Hunter Raymond was born (the very next day) on Father’s Day. Hunter was born healthy and breathing on his own. He spent 21 days in the SCN (4 days in the NICU included) and was released the day before he turned 37 weeks. This is technically deemed an unsuccessful “hero stitch” as researchers/doctors only class an emergency stitch to be successful if the patient reaches 37 weeks gestation before giving birth. Which shows the statistics provided online are incorrect in my opinion, as I believe as long as bub is born without severe complications that to me is a success. Hunter had no issues other than becoming Jaundice and requiring treatment. Otherwise the only other issues he had were feeding issues and that is common in preemies. He is thriving now at just over 6 months old.
This was a very difficult blog for me to write. I don’t like to relive what we went through, even though we have a beautiful healthy baby boy now, when thinking/writing about what we went through to get him here I instantly feel sick and get very emotional. But I wrote this blog in the hopes it will save women from the heartbreak of losing a little one.
The message I want you to take away from this blog is please get your cervix checked thoroughly at your 20 week (anatomy) scan. If it is any less than 4cm long, demand a repeat ultrasound no more than a week later. If I can save at least one person the heartache of losing a baby by sharing my story than it is definitely worth reliving everything.
So I ask you, please share this blog! There is literally hardly any information on this online and no one talks about it! I had no idea about it until I went through it myself and I just wish someone had pre-warned me about it. Unfortunately, this is a condition that those who have suffered with it in a previous pregnancy will definitely have the same issues in subsequent/following pregnancies, which is why I also urge you to share this with anyone who has lost a baby without any reason (an incompetent cervix cannot be diagnosed after a woman has already gone into premature labour) and is trying again as it can be treated to possibly prevent future losses.
As always, feel free to message me on Facebook if you have any questions or just need support. The link is in the sidebar on this page.