Monday, January 2, 2012

Placenta Previa?

Two days ago, Adhieu started having contractions in her sleep. She thought it was unusual since she was only 6 months along, but there was nothing she could do about it. She lived too far away to get immediate help. She’d have to wait until light.

But as the sun peeked up the next morning, the bleeding started. Lots and lots of bleeding. She bled heavily until noon.

She said her baby kicked like mad during that time, but then suddenly stopped.

That was a day ago.

She knew something was wrong, but it took time to get the family involved. Someone needed to bring her to town. She couldn’t go alone. Who would come?

Eventually it was decided her father would accompany her.

By the time she arrived, her clothes and legs were crusted in dirt-stained blood. A large flap of membranes hung from her introitus but she was no longer in labor.
    --Was this placenta previa?

(For those who don’t know, placenta previa is when the placenta presents first, causing painless bleeding. It can be life threatening for both mother and child, depending on the blood loss.)

There were no heart tones to be found. No movement. Nothing. Her baby was dead.
        --Could she have had an abruption?

(For those who don’t know, an abruption is when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall prematurely. This is very painful and presents with bright bleeding. An abruption can be complete or partial. It is almost always life threatening for the baby unless delivered quickly.)

She wasn’t surprised when I told her baby was dead. And she didn’t cry, either. Instead she looked unblinkingly off in the distance, hardening her jaw. Resolved.

A quick speculum exam revealed a 2-inch chunck of placenta plugging up her cervix like a cork. Thick membranes dangled down the canal, but the bleeding had stopped. She was 2 cm dilated and had no contractions.

Ideally, she would have gone to Wau for a c-section, but I intuitively knew this was NOT an option.

Had you asked me how I knew this, I would have been hard pressed to give you an answer. And yet when Tom asked me to send them anyway, I gawffed, “That’s not going to happen. They don’t have the means.”

He insisted on it though, expounding on the potential danger of her bleeding to death if it was a previa, etc.
-- “If contractions start, her cervix can open and she can hemorrhage... maternal mortality.... too dangerous... must transport....” He lectured pedantically. He wanted us to warn them of the risk of her dying. Just in case.

I listened to his words --I even agreed with them-- but I knew they’d never go.

Her clothes were too worn. Her body was too lean. And neither of them wore shoes. Plus her only companion was a frail father with clouded pupils and trembling hands.

But the biggest clue was the fact it took her a day and a half to get to us.

No one with any sort of means waits a day and a half to seek treatment with this much blood loss. No one. 

I respected Tom’s wishes though and talked to them about transporting. The discussion was disheartening short.

Conclusion: They had no money. His goats were back in Thiet. It would take time to arrange their sale --perhaps two days.

I listened and nodded, then induced her.

I had peace about this induction. Her bleeding was almost nil, and she was a multigravida. If the medicines worked... she’d deliver quickly and this would all be over.

Then no goats would need to be sold.

By God’s grace, the induction was effective and she delivered 2 hours later with very minimal bleeding.

Her baby weighed just 800 grams, but he was perfectly formed. Tiny ears. Delicate fingers. Two thin eyebrows neatly knit atop unseeing eyes.

He never opened his eyes to this world... but I believe he’s seeing something much more beautiful now!

Please pray for Adhieu as she grieves this loss. It was not her first. Pray that it is her last. Thanks.