Tell us about your pregnancy experience(s) from your first trimester through to when you gave birth.
Jenny: My firstborn son, David, was born on his due date and in perfect health. Other than morning sickness that seemed to last up to one month before David was born, my pregnancy was, thankfully, uneventful. My second pregnancy with my second son, Joshua, began like my first pregnancy, uneventful. I was healthy and felt great with Joshua. Things changed drastically, however, when I went to a routine checkup with my nurse practitioner.
It was at that appointment where she couldn’t pick up my son’s heartbeat. I was 26 weeks pregnant and terrified. They placed me in an ambulance and rushed me to the nearest hospital. In what felt like minutes, I was prepped for an emergency cesarean surgery. At 26 weeks gestation, my youngest son, Joshua came into this world and was immediately sent to the NICU where he spent his first 129 days of life.
What did you know about preterm birth prior to and during your pregnancy?
Jenny: Due to being in my 30s while pregnant, my obstetrician kept a close eye on my pregnancy but never warned me about the potential for a preterm birth. I was given pamphlets regarding high blood pressure and types of natural supplements/herbs to avoid while pregnant among other medical pamphlets, but he never really explained what a preterm birth could mean to me and my family and the outcomes for preemies like Joshua.
I was completely oblivious to preterm birth. I had no understanding of what it entailed and how grave the outcomes could be. Statistical data was not provided to me during pregnancy, and I never believed that having a micro-preemie could happen to me.
Fast forward to today when Sera Prognostics has the PreTRM® Test that can determine a woman’s risk for spontaneous preterm birth. Having had that tool, how do you feel that you could have changed how your pregnancy played out in an unexpected early delivery, even if medically indicated?
Jenny: The PreTRM Test, if it identified me as being at higher risk, could have played a vital role in preparing me for a preterm delivery. Not having warning signs, symptoms nor knowledge of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit left me incredibly vulnerable. Had I had this test, I would have at least been able to mentally prepare myself for the possibility of a preterm birth through education and research. It would also have provided a heads up to my obstetrician who may have been more apt to order tests and schedule more frequent follow ups in order to prevent preterm delivery.
How do you look back on your pregnancy and preterm birth experience? What would you want to tell expectant mothers?
Jenny: Looking back, I’m not sure how my late husband and I got through it all. Having a medically fragile preemie in the NICU changes who you are at your core. We watched our son fight many battles his tiny body just wasn’t prepared for. His brain hemorrhaged his second day of life, and he was given a 15% chance of survival. When Joshua’s medical team met with us, we were given such a poor prognosis: “He will most likely not walk due to his brain bleed and if he does walk, he will probably have a limp. He may be blind, deaf and have many disabilities. He will probably go home (if he survives) on oxygen and a feeding tube.” Hearing these words from the medical team broke my heart.
While in the NICU, Joshua had acidosis, PDA, ROP, and we watched him fight to breathe and learn to feed among many other complications along the way, not to mention watching him scream during every painful eye exam and needle poke, and the stress of having to leave him in the care of strangers when we couldn’t be there. It’s a terrifying journey filled with many hard days and the journey continues even long after the NICU days. Today, Joshua is 10 years old and is an absolute miracle! He is thriving despite the residual effects of his preterm birth. Joshua is delayed in many areas and has been diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. He wears glasses and is followed closely by an Ophthalmologist. Joshua continues to receive therapies to help him along the way.
If I had prior knowledge that a premature delivery could happen to me, I would have prepared the logistics. I would have researched. Most importantly, I would have mentally prepared myself for the possibility of delivering early. Preparation is key! Preparation allows you to grasp an understanding of what needs to happen. It allows you to find your strength to advocate for yourself and your baby. It allows you to push your doctors to perform additional tests and follow you more closely. Ultimately, preparation gives you a leg up by fortifying you with invaluable knowledge to give you the power and strength to face the daunting challenges you may face in the NICU.
My doctor said it best, “Even if you do everything right, there are no guarantees with pregnancy. You need to hope for the best but prepare for the unexpected.” The PreTRM Test can help you do just that. ASK your obstetrician for the test. Remember, PREPARATION IS KEY!
Talk to your doctor today about the PreTRM Test for your individual risk assessment.