Doctors are warning pregnant women about a medical condition that could be life-threatening.
It’s called Placenta Accreta, where instead of attaching just to the wall of the uterus, the placenta grows too deeply into the uterine lining.
Two years ago, nurse practitioner Katie Sullivan of Bethany was pregnant with her third child.
An ultrasound at seven months along revealed she had Placenta Accreta.
“My first thought was I already know that risk -- 7 percent chance of death,” Sullivan said.
Accreta becomes life-threatening after a baby is born. That is when the placenta normally detaches from the uterine wall, but with Accreta, it remains firmly attached.
The result is severe blood loss, severe enough to claim the mother’s life.
“Knowing the pregnancy was complicated, by such a devastating diagnosis, it was extremely challenging,” Sullivan said.
Dr. Michael Paidas of Yale-New Haven Hospital said there are a number of risk factors for Accreta, most notably, having multiple C-sections.
“This ranks among the top three causes of maternal mortality, worldwide,” Paidas said. “It definitely has something to do with disruption of the uterine lining and you can imagine the more and more Caesareans you have, you will disrupt that lining. Any procedure where you have disrupted the uterine lining -- multiple DNCs for example, or if you've had any ablation procedures to the uterine lining.”
Other risk factors include: another problem with the placenta known as Placenta Previa, advanced maternal age, high blood pressure, and smoking.
“I was at risk for this because I had two prior Caesarean deliveries,” Sullivan said, adding that she would have needed a third.
At the age of 27, she would need a hysterectomy to save her life making it her last pregnancy.
“Accepting that was very difficult,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan scheduled the C-section and set about getting her affairs in order.
“I made lists of every password I had, every bank account, every student loan, every ATM card number -- I had lists incase the unthinkable happened,” Sullivan said.
She also wrote letters to her children.
One week before her C-section, Sullivan started to bleed. She was rushed to Yale-New Haven Hospital where two teams of doctors were ready and waiting.
“I said I'm here. I'm in safe hands, I know now that I'm being taken care of and at that moment I was no longer panicked or afraid,” she said.
She needed multiple units of blood but survived the surgery and delivered a healthy baby boy named Calin.
“The name Calin actually means powerful warrior. We both survived Accreta,” Sullivan said.
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