Emma, 26, was 22 weeks pregnant with her third child when a comprehensive ultrasound indicated she may have placenta increta, a condition where the placenta invades the muscles of the uterus. An MRI at 24 weeks confirmed the diagnosis.
“The biggest risk factor for developing placenta accreta spectrum disorders (placenta accreta, placenta percreta and placenta increta) is having a c-section,” says Dr. Suwan Mehra, a maternal fetal medicine physician and co-medical director of the Center for Fetal Care at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.
Emma had two previous c-sections with her younger kids. Due to the severity of her placenta increta condition, Emma was admitted to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in October 2018 and was required to stay there for seven weeks because of hemorrhaging during her pregnancy. Her team of doctors, Dr. Mehra, Dr. Michael Noone and Dr. Guy Steinberg, planned for a hysterectomy, removing her uterus immediately following her son’s birth.
“If there is a possibility that the mother has or will develop one of the disorders, it’s crucial to identify a hospital that is well equipped with resources to handle the birth,” says Dr. Mehra.
The physicians at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital see at least two cases a month of patients with a placenta accreta spectrum disorder and are well equipped to handle the delivery and hysterectomy procedure.
After learning of her life-threatening condition, Emma’s physicians delivered a comprehensive plan that would care for her and her baby. Being in the hospital away from family and kids can be emotionally and physically draining for a mother, but the medical staff ensured Emma felt comfortable.
“The calm with which the doctors delivered the news and care plan helped me realize that I was in great hands,” Emma says. “My doctors and medical staff tried to make me feel at home while at the hospital for those seven weeks. The staff practiced Spanish with me, encouraged me to get up and move and even brought me meals from Au Bon Pain. My nanny would bring the kids to visit during the day, and my husband and parents would have dinner with me each night.”
“It’s extremely important for all women to get a comprehensive ultrasound done at 20 weeks to find out if they are at risk of developing placenta accreta spectrum disorders,” says Dr. Mehra. “Especially in those women with a previous cesarean delivery and a placenta previa, obstetricians should have a heightened surveillance for placenta accreta spectrum disorders and have a low threshold for reevaluation by a practitioner with expertise in this condition.”
After her surgery, Emma returned home and slowly began her path to recovery. She started physical therapy to strengthen her pelvic floor, and once she was cleared by her doctor, she began seeing a physical trainer.
When a pregnant woman finds herself with a medical condition that suddenly requires hospitalization and bed rest for possibly weeks or months, it can be an overwhelming, stressful, and emotional time. Having to adjust to the hospital environment, being away from other children and family members, experiencing a loss of independence, boredom, and other stressors may further add to the emotional challenges of an already high-risk pregnancy.
But Advocate Lutheran General aims to enhance care and services for moms like Emma who have to stay in the hospital for extended periods of time. In fact, Emma was so grateful for the care and support she received that she made a generous gift to help other women in situations like her own.
If you’d like to help women like Emma, please click here.