Two Tales of High-Risk Pregnancies
For these two couples, the news of impending births brought more than the usual excitement of bassinets, layettes, and growing families. Health problems, pregnancy issues, and perilous prognoses made for some difficult obstacles for these parents-to-be. Find out how they persevered.
Sharon Bernstein and her husband had been trying to conceive for nearly six years. After multiple infertility treatments, they were ecstatic when an early ultrasound revealed that their third IVF procedure had been successful. The Bernsteins were having twins. “We were thrilled,” says Bernstein, of Rockville, Maryland. “I didn’t want to undergo another IVF procedure, so having twins was instant family fulfillment.”
The pregnancy was going beautifully, and Bernstein already knew she was expecting two girls when a routine checkup during week 22 revealed troubling news. Twin A was fine, but twin B was smaller than her sister and suffering from a problem with the flow of blood and nutrients through her umbilical cord. The prognosis was bleak. “The perinatologist we had been seeing told us very matter of factly that our baby might not survive, and that if she did survive to week 24, we should consider delivery,” says Bernstein. “When we asked if there was anything we could do to protect or help the baby, he said no.”
Bernstein cried for two days straight. “I felt like a knife had been driven through me—I couldn’t imagine losing one, if not both, babies. I didn’t want to make the horrible decision of delivering at 24 weeks.”
That’s when Bernstein’s husband decided to take action. He took Bernstein to a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), who gave her acupuncture treatments and offered suggestions for helping twin B. He also arranged for a second perinatologist’s opinion. The Bernsteins’ new doctor came to some very different conclusions. “He saw that there was a cord problem with twin B, but that she seemed to be adapting,” says Bernstein. “Her movement and heartbeat were great, and she showed no obvious signs of distress. He didn’t see enough information to make the determination that the baby might not survive.”
Bernstein’s new doctor ordered a complete blood panel to look for issues that might be treatable. A disorder called protein S deficiency, which can cause blood-clotting problems, was identified, and Bernstein began taking injections of a blood-thinning medication twice daily until delivery. She was also put on full bed rest and weekly monitoring. While bed rest was tough physically, Bernstein notes that emotionally she felt much stronger: “This was a huge relief. I felt that I was able to do something to help my baby.”
Bernstein’s husband, family, and friends all pulled together to keep her spirits up. “I couldn’t have survived 10 weeks in bed without their support,” says Bernstein.
At week 30, it was decided the babies would need to be delivered by week 32, and Bernstein began steroid injections to help her daughters’ lungs mature faster. Upon birth, twin A, Hannah, weighed a whopping four pounds, three ounces. Twin B, Jessica, was indeed tiny, weighing just one pound, 11 ounces.
Both twins did well. Hannah came home in only three weeks, weighing five pounds even. And despite being diagnosed with severe intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), Jessica was thriving, too. She came home just three weeks after her sister. “While she weighed only three pounds, 12 ounces, they couldn’t justify keeping her in the NICU for size alone,” says Bernstein. “She was a healthy, strong little girl.”
Today, the whole family is doing well, aside from a little sleep deprivation. “It is wonderful,” says Bernstein. “We are so lucky . . . the girls provide nothing but joy to me and my husband.”
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