Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Third Trimester Trials

For the most part this has been the best pregnancy I have ever had. I have been more energetic, healthier, happier and amazingly relatively dizzy and pain free...praise the Lord!

Once the end of June arrived, and along with it the last trimester stretch, I hit a few bumps in the road. Considering that I haven't landed on bed rest or have any serious problems, I really can't complain. Just in case some of you out there may struggle with some of the same issues, I thought I would document these few third trimester trials.

Pregnancy Tachycardia:

This is a fancy medical word for your-heart-is-racing-s0-fast-you'd-think-you-were-running-a-marathon-but-all-you-did-was-walk-to-the-fridge! It hit me all of the sudden one day while I was at the gym. I had not even started to work out and yet I had the sensation that I had just done some high intensity aerobics (in reality all I had done was walk through the door!) Fortunately, I work out at my physical therapist's office, where you pay a small monthly fee if you have ever been a patient and can use all the fancy equipment - this comes in handy for some of the specialized exercises I do for my vertigo. They were able to check me out and recommended that I head home and call my doctor right away.

After consulting with my midwife, primary doctor, and eventually a cardiologist, I was officially diagnosed with pregnancy tachycardia (as well as some minute long Latin sounding thing that is benign and just means my heart adds a few beats here and there to make things interesting!) All this was determined via a 24 hour heart monitor and an echo cardiogram.

Since my heart rate only got up to 144 and did not top off at 190 or over 200, the cardiologist determined that I did not need to take any kind of beta blocker (meds typically prescribed for such a condition.) Apparently, the beta blockers can be bad for baby to be on for a prolonged period of time. All I need to do when I do go into labor is make sure that a cardiologist is aware of my situation and can administer meds if needed during labor.

The only glitch to the pregnancy tachycardia is that I had to abide by a few rules: resting when the heart raced, no more exercising, and no more caffeine! Originally, I thought that the resting restriction would be the hardest as it was taking me several hours to get my heart rate to calm down. I truly feared that I would be on self-imposed bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy.

Fortunately, due to my vertigo and fibromyalgia, I have seen a chiropractor for years and I have continued to see him once a week throughout my pregnancy. He noticed that my rib cage was twisted and sometimes that can aggravate rapid heart rate symptoms. After a few gentle adjustments my heart rate calmed down dramatically. Now, instead of taking hours to get my heart rate to come down from 144 to 120, it really hasn't bothered me much and it only takes a few minutes to get it from 120 to 100.

Since the heart rate has improved, I have been allowed to partake of small amounts of caffeine (decaf coffee, some chocolate and decaf iced tea). At first, it was quite difficult to go completely cold turkey on the caffeine - as I had previously been faithful to get my permitted daily 8 oz dose - but I have survived!

"Basketball Belly"

Stop now if you're trying to google this next bump (pun intended) on my pregnancy road. This is not an official medical term of any sort, just a way of describing the unfortunate event that occurred a week after the rapid heart rate onset.

I was intently watching my two older kids playing basketball for the first time with our church. My daughter had played on her school team this past year, but this was pretty much the first organized basketball game that my son had ever played (unless you count the YMCA class they took when they were really young...quite humorous I must admit!) Both of them were doing so well, making passes, taking shots, stealing balls and scoring points. I am quite proud of how well they have been doing, especially considering that neither hubby nor I have any athletic abilities whatsoever!

The whole time they were playing I had my eyes on that ball like a hawk. I wasn't taking any chances of getting hit with a basketball at 32 weeks. Baby was enjoying the game, moving around a lot and sticking her own little round ball out the top of my belly - head or rump I wasn't sure.

During one of the breaks my husband came in to the gym. Naturally, I looked up adoringly for a split second (as no one was playing at the moment) and WHAM! Out of nowhere a basketball whacked me right on the belly, just at the spot where baby had been protruding.

I tried to remain calm until the end of the game, but it really smarted. I was also greatly concerned that it could have been the baby's head that got hit and in my panic was not feeling as much movement as before. Fortunately, my parents had come up to pick up the kids for the weekend after the game, so I sent them on their way and promptly called my midwife.

After consulting with her on the phone she determined that because I'm RH Negative I needed to get to the hospital right away. Hmmm, not the reaction I had been hoping for - a little more panic welled within me. Apparently, if there was any kind of blood transfer from me to baby it could be quite harmful to the baby.

Hubby and I hopped into the van and took our first test run to the maternity ward. Not exactly the tour I had planned! We were admitted right away and placed on a monitor. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to hear the heart beat and movements of the baby. In fact, she was so wiggly that they had an extremely hard time monitoring her for a straight 20 minutes. It was pretty humorous to hear her heartbeat start out strong and then actually fade into the distance. C'mon, where in the world could she go in there?!

Due to her elusive heart beat, they eventually had to do an ultrasound to determine her position. Sure enough her head was up - she had indeed been knocked in the noggin! However, after hours of monitoring and blood tests we finished our late night "tour" of the maternity ward and headed home, having been reassured of baby's well being.

High Blood Pressure

Believe it or not, just a few days after my encounter with the wayward basketball my blood pressure was registering on the high side. Nothing to be alarmed at, but the midwife performs a routine test when the numbers get to 130 over 80 or higher. Mine fluctuated between 130 and 140 over a few visits.

So for 24 hours it was necessary to relieve oneself in a huge jug (and yes it would be so much easier to be a boy during tests like these!) It is still a mystery to me what high blood pressure has to do with kidney trouble, but the test was to determine if the kidneys were spilling protein. This would be a sign of pre-eclampsia, which can be very dangerous for mother and baby. Again, slight panic at the thought of bed rest and a high risk delivery. Fortunately, all the tests came back fine and the slightly elevated blood pressure was attributed to my run in with the basketball and the tachycardia.

Breech Baby

Of course the fun did not stop there. Remember when they did the ultrasound and found that baby had been head up when she got whacked with the basketball? She stubbornly decided to stay in that position instead of assuming the head down stance in preparation for delivery.

We were told that if she didn't turn down on her own by week 37 then the doctor would have to turn her manually (ouch!) The procedure is called external version. I must admit, of all the ups and downs of the previous weeks this was the one that had me most panicked.

If she didn't turn on her own then I was faced with what sounded like a really painful procedure. If the external version was not successful then it would be an automatic c-section. If I have a c-section then I'm more likely to have a much tougher recovery due to the fact that fibromyalgia usually doubles recovery time for any injury. None of these options suited my fancy.

Over the weeks that followed I tried ever conceivable tip to try and encourage baby to turn before necessitating medical intervention. First and foremost was prayer followed by various and sundry methods gleaned from friends and the internet.

I tried lying head down with my feet up, but that made me feel quite ill because of the annoying acid reflux and the rapid heart rate thumping ever louder in my head. I did the cat and dog stretch, Kegels and pelvic tilts. I tried to coax baby down by shining a flash light on the belly hoping she would follow the light. However, the oddest thing I did was sit on a cd player every evening for roughly a week with Beethoven blaring at full volume!

Yes, I felt silly and yes, my bum got numb, but it may have been worth it. Every time I sat on the cd player she would definitely react to the music - only I had the sensation that she was trying to get away from it. This theory seemed consistent with how she responded in general to outside stimulus. When people try to catch her moving, she usually stops until they remove their hand and then she promptly starts up the acrobatic routine again. At the hospital she had constantly tried to get away from the heart monitor. This behavior made me take a step back and rethink my tactics. So I put the cd player on top of the belly in the hope that she might try to run away from it. She definitely kicked and attempted to wriggle down, but not head down.

Two days before we were scheduled for the external version I went for an additional visit to the chiropractor for him to do a particular adjustment that is supposed to encourage breech babies to turn. He had already done this several times and my pelvis was becoming looser each time - which should allow the baby a bit more room to maneuver.

The evening before our appointment I decided to try some soothing harp music to sit on, supposing that Beethoven might just be a tad to erratic. Or it just could be that baby had inherited my music preferences, which have never included classical music. (Don't worry, my kids still benefit from Mozart and others as they've done Suzuki piano for 7 years. Still, I'm not a fan of classical music. I just put up with it because I know it's good for their brain development! Kinda like spinach.)

That night I went to bed a bit apprehensive about the upcoming procedure in the morning. I had a really hard time getting to sleep, but finally succumbed around 1 am. I awoke around 2:30 am feeling quite uncomfortable and had the strange sensation that baby was lying sideways. My first thought was that God had listened to the prayers of His people and baby had begun to turn on her own.

I tried to get some sleep, but to no avail. Around 3:30 am the contractions started. After about an hour and a half I finally called the midwife and woke up hubby. I figured that since she was still breech I probably shouldn't wait too much longer - especially since my labor with my son was only an hour and twenty minutes start to finish!

We rushed around a bit and finished packing bags just in case the contractions led to a baby. (And why wouldn't they? That's always what happened previously.) We arrived at the hospital around 6 am and I was placed on the monitor. It did show contractions, but nothing significant. An ultrasound revealed that the baby had tried to turn on her own and was transverse with her head down slightly to the right - praise God!

The doctor came in around 8 am to perform the external version to get baby all the way down. Just before he grabbed the belly he warned me that he would not stop if I yelled, only if I told him "stop!" Uh, oh. I really didn't like the sound of that. Well, he grabbed and pushed and I concentrated on my breathing. It was over in a matter of a minute with only a push or two to get her into place. Considering I was sore for days, I am so thankful that she turned most of the way on her own - I really don't think I could have handled the doctor turning her an entire 180 degrees!

So now baby is still in the correct position, my belly looks and feels different since she turned. I had forgotten what the pregnancy waddle in the last few weeks felt like! The pressure is on, literally, and I'm anxious to have the baby in my arms. All things considered, the Lord has really blessed me with a great pregnancy and I have learned a lot about trusting Him during these few bumps in the road.

Baby is scheduled to be induced a week from today. Full moon tonight. Hmm, wonder what the chances are...?

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