We would like to share with you the story about our amazing daughter Abigail Louise. You may find our story upsetting but we hope by reading it, it will help you to become more aware of a condition in pregnancy called Vasa Praevia.
After trying to conceive for 2 years, I fell pregnant with the help of a fertility drug in July 2009. We were so so pleased after thinking we were never going to have a baby.
My pregnancy was fairly straight forward. I was told I had a low lying placenta at my 20 week anomaly scan. We were told that this is fairly common and that the placenta usually moves upwards as the uterus grows. I was scheduled for another scan at 32 weeks. At 27 weeks, we had a 3D scan done at The Original Window to the Womb. We felt amazed as we saw our daughters face for the first time. She was beautiful and just perfect.
My 32 week scan showed that the placenta had not moved. We were told not to worry as it still may move. I was scheduled for another scan at 36 weeks.
The pregnancy continued with no problems. We decorated the nursery and got everything ready for our baby girl. We were so excited.
The 36 week scan showed that the placenta had moved enough for the baby’s head to engage so we were told it was safe for us to have a vaginal delivery. I was told to watch for any spotting of blood just in case it was from the placenta.
On Thursday 25th March, I saw my midwife. She listened to the baby’s heart and everything was fine. She told me to get my birth plan written out as the baby’s head was 3/5 engaged.
The next day, I felt different. I had a bit of a show and was getting very mild cramps. I had a feeling we were going to be meeting our daughter very soon! That evening, Jamie and I wrote out our birth plan. It was short and sweet. We went to bed around 10pm. I woke about 11pm and my bedding felt wet. I got up to go to the bathroom and my waters broke. In shock I shouted Jamie who put the light on and we discovered there was bright red fresh blood all over the floor. Knowing this wasn’t right we went straight to labour suite at City hospital. On arrival, I was hooked up to a monitor to listen to the babies heart beat. It kept dipping and coming back up. Nobody seemed concerned about the bleeding. Jamie and I thought it was coming from the placenta. I was examined and only found to be 1-2cm dilated. As the baby’s heart rate continued to dip, I was examined again by a doctor. It was then decided that the baby needed to be born quickly and so we had an emergency caesarean. Abigail was born on 27th March at 01.12 at 37 weeks and 6 days. We eagerly awaited to hear her cry but nothing. Instead there was a horrible silence. Jamie looked over to where they had taken Abigail and they were giving her chest compressions. Words can’t describe how we felt but somehow we thought that she would be ok. They worked on her for 15 minutes before they took her to the neonatal unit. We were told she had lost alot of blood.
Jamie eventually got to see her around 05.30. He said she was beautiful and perfect. She weighed 5lb 9oz. She had lots of tubes and wires attached to her. I wasn’t able to see her until around 06.30 because of the spinal I’d had. She was just as her daddy described. Just perfect. We were told she had lost almost all her blood and was very sick. She was on a ventilator and was having lots of blood transfusions. She opened her eyes for us and grasped our fingers. She even had tickly feet. If the tubes were taken away, she looked like a healthy baby. That evening, Abigail took a turn for the worse. The doctors were struggling to maintain her blood pressure. They put her on some medication to help. Abigail’s brain was monitored to check for activity to make sure there was no brain damage from the oxygen deprivation. It looked ok so far. We spent as much time with as we could and told her how much we loved her and willed her to be strong and get better. She made it through the night. On the 28th March, the doctors seemed quite pleased with her progress. Her blood pressure stabilised and she was holding her own. We decided then to let people visit her, just close family and friends.
Our baby girl was such a fighter. The brain monitoring was removed and there was even talk of her coming off the ventilator. But that evening, she began to have seizures. Abigail was given medication to stop them but it didn’t work. To try and help, the decision was made to put Abigail to sleep. This didn’t help either. She continued to have seizures every few seconds. She was put back on the brain monitoring. That night, we were told she was very very sick and she may deteriorate rapidly. We decided to have her christened. Abigail’s grandparents and us gathered around her incubator as she was christened. It was heartbreaking. It felt like we were saying goodbye.
Abigail made it through the night but remained extremely sick. I continued to express milk hoping that she would soon be well enough to feed. Our hearts were shattered when the doctor told us that Abigail’s chances of survival were very slim. He told us that we could carry on treatment or keep her comfortable and let her pass away. We just couldn’t bare the thought of letting our baby go so we agreed that if Abigail gave us a sign that she was tired of fighting, then we would let her go. We spent all day wishing and hoping for a miracle that she would get better. She now had multiple organ failure and severe brain damage. She gained 2lb in weight from fluid. That evening, Daddy changed his baby girls nappy for the first time whilst I gave her mouth a freshen up. We then went to our room for a couple of hours rest. At 03.00 on the 30thMarch we got a call to say Abigail’s heart rate had dropped and wasn’t coming back up despite medication. We both agreed that this was Abigail’s sign. We asked the doctors if we could stop treatment. We asked if we could hold our little girl for the first time. The nurse placed her in my arms. We couldn’t believe this was happening to us. The doctor arrived and explained that Abigail was dying. At 04.00 Abigail Louise fell asleep forever in mummy and daddy’s arms. We can remember that moment as if it was yesterday.
We were given a room so we could spend some time with Abigail. We bathed her and put her in her going home clothes. She was wrapped up in the shawl made for her by her Nana. Family and friends arrived to have a cuddle with her.
That day, we were told be a doctor that Vasa Praevia was very rare and is not possible to be diagnosed during pregnancy. We were told we were unlucky and that it was just one of those things. It wasn’t until we got home that we researched Vasa Praevia and found that it wasn’t rare and it can be diagnosed and managed in pregnancy.
Abigail’s funeral was on 14th April. We chose a pink casket for her. Lots of family and friends showed their support at her funeral. She touched the lives of so many people in such a few days.
We don’t want to imagine other parents going through what we have experienced and are still experiencing. A piece of us died when Abigail died and we will never get over losing her. Our way of coping is by campaigning to get Vasa Praevia scanned for in women who are at risk. Risk factors include:
- · Low lying placenta
- · IVF
- · Bi-lobed or Succenturiate lobed placenta
- · Previous uterine surgery
- · Velamentous cord insertion
Following the histology report on my placenta, it was found that I had 3 risk factors including bi lobed placenta, velaumentous cord and low lying placenta. All of these can be picked up on a scan.
Vasa Praevia occurs in 1:3000 pregnancies and 1:300 IVF pregnancies. If diagnosed and managed appropriately these babies have a 100% survival rate. If undiagnosed like us, the survival rate is 5%.
We will continue to campaign to get all women at high risk scanned for Vasa Praevia. Like many people, we had never heard of Vasa Praevia before Abigail was born. We want to make you all aware of it not to scare you but to stop this happening to another family. It is so easily managed. So, please spread the word about this condition and share Abigail’s story.
Please go to www.vasapraevia.co.uk for more information on vasa praevia.