I was so scared of getting pregnant and I really didn’t know what to expect. There aren’t a lot of resources about being pregnant and living with sickle cell, only a couple of youtube videos. Being HBss(A person with classic sickle cell disorder has HbSS, one HbS from each parent) you’d have to start antenatal a bit earlier than normal. Ideally, you should start at 13 weeks, but as Hbss is considered high risk, you’re to start right away.
The first appointment with my gynecologist, I was placed on paludrine to prevent malaria and a low dose aspirin(baby aspirin) Aspirin is important to prevent blood clots during pregnancy as well as the only proven drug that prevents pre-eclampsia in pregnancy which we may be at risk of. I was asked to take it from my 12th week till the 28th week. If I knew better, I’d have been religious with the aspirin.
I had a very smooth pregnancy, no morning sickness, no throwing up, no funny feelings, everything was fine and thankfully. I didn’t have a crisis all through my pregnancy, except in the 37th week and that was from a long trip/stress. However, getting into my 3rd trimester, I noticed something, my urine was a bit dark…
At my routine appointment, they’d always take your sample, and they did, noticed my urine and said there was little protein in my urine.
My gynecologist told me “maybe I had taken coke” but that it’s nothing to worry about, as long as my blood pressure was fine, and it was.
But the blood in my urine continued. At 32weeks, I left Nigeria to have my baby, started my appointments. Dropped urine samples and was never given a reason to worry. Still, everything was fine. From 36weeks something happened, I started feeling this numbness in my face. Do you know how they numb your mouth when you want to do a tooth procedure? The feeling of numbness all over the face. That’s how I felt, It was so uncomfortable. I would use Ice packs, hot water bottles, nothing. When I googled, it said maybe my baby was lying on a nerve connected to my face, so I wasn’t worried.
38 weeks the same numbness in my face, I wasn’t sleeping anymore. I just didn’t feel the need to complain to my doctor, until the day my mum and husband literally forced me to call my doctor’s office to complain about how I had been feeling. As soon as I called the doctor, he told me to come in ASAP, like right away! Because of fear of hospital bills piling, I said no need because I am almost due, but I eventually went to the hospital after my mum used Jesus to beg me😂
When I got to the hospital, they took my vitals and My Blood Pressure had skyrocketed! The doctor told me if I didn’t come in that minute, something would have happened to me and my unborn child. He also said I had HELLP SYNDROME (A serious complication of high blood pressure during pregnancy which isn’t uncommon with sickle cell pregnancies. HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count).The very first symptom is the appearance of protein in your urine, pre-eclampsia. I was going crazy!
Thank God My team of doctors were proactive, I was immediately transfused, then induced and I dilated as quickly as possible and the baby came out without having a Caesarian session.
Lessons Learnt (From a First Time Sickle Cell Mother) :
When you get pregnant, ask a lot of questions. Don’t just assume the drugs you’re asked to take are to fulfill all righteousness. Do not ignore any signs, and when your Doctor is dismissive, push you’re not being forward. If you happen to have your baby outside of the country, Don’t assume every hospital will be capable of handling HbSS pregnancies. Take lots of fruits, vegetables, reduce your salt.
Don’t be scared to have a crisis in pregnancy, if you do have one, don’t worry your baby is fine. Worrying may give you much more pain. Also, there are a couple of pain meds that are safe in sickle cell pregnancy.
There isn’t any difference between you and any other pregnant woman! Don’t carry the “high risk” in your head. Just live and be thankful for your growing little one.
We would love to feature every sickle cell warrior. Please share your story with us: firstname.lastname@example.org. How was your pregnancy experience? Share with us in the comment sections.