I have heard some people say that stillbirth isn’t preventable. And that’s a hard subject for me, because while some deaths “just happen,” Adrian’s didn’t have to. There were warning signs, and while they were minor, they shouldn’t have been dismissed.
Warning signs of problems with my pregnancy:
Swelling can be normal in pregnancy, but my swelling was extreme. My ankles swelled early on, around 6 months, and never went down again. I wore tennis shoes, loosely fastened, a full size and a half larger than normal for me. Later on, the swelling spread to my hands and face. And despite reporting this to my providers, I was told it was normal. It wasn’t normal. They should have been concerned.
Slowly but steadily rising blood pressure
This is another symptom that can be normal, but should still be monitored. My blood pressure has been super low my entire life, so when I pointed out readings that were excessively high for me, my providers should have paid attention, especially in combination with other symptoms.
I have a history of migraines, so I can understand how this one wasn’t taken as seriously, but a severe headache or one that lasts multiple weeks can be a sign of preeclampsia. It’s something that should at least be monitored, especially in conjunction with other symptoms.
Nausea is often associated with pregnancy in general, and so it isn’t taken as seriously by itself. But sudden onset nausea in the third trimester can be indicative of preeclampsia, especially when combined with other symptoms. I had a low level of nausea throughout my last 2 months of pregnancy.
Sharp, tearing pain underneath my right side ribs
This is a huge indicator of either preeclampsia and/or placental abruption. When I reported it my providers, I described as “lightning.” My providers brushed it off, though. I still don’t understand why.
Decreased fetal movement
This was the biggest sign. Providers may talk about kick counts, but it seems many don’t emphasize or maybe even understand the importance. Studies have shown that changes in patterns of fetal movement are one of the biggest indicators that something could be wrong. But I reported decreased movement, and my providers told me my son was “running out of room”. This is not only untrue; it is dangerous. Babies will never run out of room in the womb. Their movements may change in type, but should not change in frequency.
Period of significantly increased fetal movement
The weekend before he died, my son had a period of about 4 hours where he moved like crazy. It was non-stop, constant and intense movement, like nothing else I had experienced in pregnancy. I was overdue at that point, and being a first-time mom, I just assumed it was a sign we were approaching the start of labor. I didn’t know studies have shown intense fits of fetal activity may be indicative of a potential cord accident or other forms of fetal distress.
Although my son didn’t have a cord accident, he died only a few days later. I will always wish I had know to go in and be checked out that day.
Other items of Concern:
Although not a symptom, there were other factors in my pregnancy that are commonly correlated with increased risk of stillbirth. These include:
- Being overweight at the start of pregnancy
- Being advanced maternal agehttps://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(19)30425-9/abstract
- Going overdue in my pregnancy
While none of these factors can be determined to the exact cause of my son’s death, they were likely all contributing factors. It’s information I will always wish I had known.
Stillbirth is a hard subject, and part of it is that it’s one we just don’t like to think about. We also hear so many stories about people who ignored all the “rules” and their children were fine. Plenty of women have had similar symptoms as mine, and their children as alive and healthy today. I don’t discount this. I just want to make sure my story is heard too. Because not all stories have a happy ending. And had I known the risks, mine could have ended differently.
If you are ever concerned about the health of your pregnancy or your child, call your health care provider right away. It may save both of your lives.
Visit the Preeclampsia Foundation website
View our Resources for Expecting Parents
Miranda’s Blog: It’s so much more than high blood pressure; What I wish I’d known about Preeclampsia before it killed my child
Miranda’s Blog: When I was Overdue, this is what I wish I knew
Miranda’s Blog: Why I tracked fetal movement religiously in my second pregnancy
Pregnancy Blog: 8 Factors to consider before going overdue in pregnancy
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