A potential ‘breakthrough’ treatment which could help address a major cause of premature births has been revealed this week.
As a Dad to a premature baby, this headline really struck a chord as it sought to address an issue which set us on a two-month nightmare roller coaster ride with a problematic placenta.
It always seemed a weird, carnivorous concept for people to eat their own placentas. When Hanna’s started malfunctioning at around 28 weeks, though, placenta pancakes were definitely off the menu.
As the i article I’ve linked to in the opening line explains, scientists have discovered an existing drug could prove effective in treating raised levels of a chemical which restricts the blood flow to the baby.
Restricted blood flow to the baby is bad news. In the most extreme cases, it can lead to brain damage or the baby dying. Fortunately, we were lucky and the excellent NHS professionals picked it up swiftly.
The first sign for us was Hanna’s bump measuring smaller than it should have done, with a subsequent scan showing Albie was also small.
Measurements of his legs, abdomen and head (from memory) were out of proportion. At this stage, he looked similar to a SoccerStarz football figure!
In a scary, frank chat with a consultant, we were told our baby was probably coming that night, some 12 weeks before his due date. As a result, he would need special care, away from our hometown of Worthing.
It was a bombshell moment. You expect and hope you’ll have the perfect pregnancy, attend the parenting classes where they spend a day talking about full-term deliveries and don’t think for a moment that something will go wrong.
Luckily, after some monitoring, doctors decided to keep a watching brief and we had a reprieve. That was the nature of the beast over the coming weeks, with one day thinking the operating theatre was beckoning, then to be told that a 40-week pregnancy was just as likely.
But considering the severity of what could go wrong if the blood flow was further restricted, Hanna spent the next eight weeks having weekly scans and monitoring every two days (checking movements and baby’s heartbeat) until we hit 36 weeks, the numbers worsened and Albie was delivered by C-section.
There was no treatment or reason that we recalled for why placenta problems had hit us. If they explained it, the reason was lost in the shock of the situation. The worst thing was the uncertainty.
Having a small baby meant Hanna couldn’t feel many kicks. The cruel reality of the condition was that we would only know if the baby was unwell if the number of kicks reduced.
Without much of a cue, between scans it was an unbelievably uncomfortable, uncertain period. We passed each hour wondering whether the blood flow had reached the critical level, looked at the calendar and remembered it was days before our next scan and hoped for the best.
We now have a healthy, if small, baby boy. He needed no special care, despite expectations that he would need it. We were the lucky ones – despite our stresses.
If a treatment can be found which gets through a clinical trial, we welcome the development. We hope it will help reduce the number of babies born prematurely – and if we have another baby in future years, perhaps it will help us reduce our risk next time.
Please take some time to read the article. If nothing else, it contains quotes from a doctor who at first glance I thought was called Dr Brown Bear, of Peppa Pig fame!
Read more about Albie’s story here.