Placenta Previa: The Emotional Truth
Placenta previa is a condition that can occur in pregnant women whereby the placenta partially or completely covers the mother's cervix. When I first learned of this condition it was through a friend who had to have a C-Section because of her diagnosis. The second time, another friend was forced to take full bed-rest and gave birth 12 weeks early due to her condition. About 3 months ago, I heard it again at my 20 week OB appointment, where I was told that I too had placenta previa.
I was completely overwhelmed. My doctor informed me that my condition was moderate, meaning that the placenta didn't entirely obscure my cervix, but that I still had to change my lifestyle. No more working out; no weights or cardio. Plus I was placed on pelvic rest, which means no intercourse.
I thank God everyday that my condition is mild. Women with a complete previa are often on total bed rest and carry a substantial chance of delivering early. Most women with this condition are in and out of their doctors office with spotting and bleeding issues, whereas I have had none. I have been extremely lucky.
Nonetheless, this has been incredibly hard. I have found tons of information on this condition all over the internet talking about physical side-effects and possible outcomes. However, the emotional consequences seem to be a topic to be avoided. This condition has changed my life for the past 3 months, and may very well change the way I bring my child into the world, it has been a rollercoaster of emotions, of disappointment, of fear...
Working Out With Placenta Previa
For me, working out is a way of life. It is something I have done consistently for the past 12 years and brings me mental peace and physical acceptance of my body. I not only enjoy working out, I need it for peace of mind. With each of my 5 pregnancies I have modified my workouts so that I could continue them throughout each trimester, helping to keep me strong for labor and to recover faster afterwards.
For over 3 months now I have not been allowed to do more than walk. I feel like a blob, like my body has changed and my mind has regressed back to that college student who simply can't reconcile with her physical self. I drive my husband crazy, always asking him if I am getting fat in the face and arms; worrying that my thighs are rubbing together more today than they did yesterday.
I know it's insane! I know, deep down, that I am gaining pretty much the same amount that I have with each pregnancy. But my brain simply can't wrap itself around that fact. My restricted movement has turned my brain to mush and made me fear that I will never get my pre-baby body back, that my husband, a personal trainer constantly surrounded by the fittest of women, will never see me as the woman I once was...
Pelvic Rest & Its Effect On Marriage
I have read countless posts by women who struggle with their sex drive after having children. It isn't about not wanting their husbands, it isn't about a lack of love; it's about hormones and exhaustion and lack of time. I must admit to struggling with this at times myself.
However, being told that you aren't allowed to have sex, to participate in the most intimate act with your significant other, is entirely different. The key word here is INTIMACY, not SEX. We all know that there are plenty of ways to obtain sexual release that don't require intercourse. However, those particular acts do not create the intimate feeling of love and togetherness that intercourse does.
I am very much in love with my husband. My already stressed brain worries that the lack of intimacy will change our relationship or make him desire me less...forever. If I examine the crazy parts of my emotions, the parts I know are not true/won't happen, I worry that he will find intimacy elsewhere. While I know without a doubt that he would never do this, my fear is still real, it's lurking there, picking at my sanity.
They don't tell you about the emotional stressess associated with pelvic rest. No doctor mentioned how hard it would be to NOT have sex even when your body is bloated and sore and your hormones are out of wack.
A Different Approach To Labor With Placenta Previa
One of the most dangerous effects of placenta previa is the possibility of bleeding during labor. There is a risk of the placenta detaching too soon from the wall of the uterus, or tearing during birth and causing hemorrhaging. It is also a possibility that the placenta could be delivered first, which is not safe for your baby.
Therefore, whether the previa is considered complete or mild, a vaginal birth will not be allowed and a C-Section will be scheduled.
I have had 5 vaginal births, and with each labor I have feared nothing more than having to have a C-section. Now that I am 33 weeks along and my previa is still present, it looks like I will not have the choice of a vaginal delivery. And I am devastated.
Yes, I know plenty of women have had C-sections and everything ends up fine. Yes, I know I am being slightly dramatic. But I want a normal delivery. I want my child to come into the world the natural way; to be thrust on my chest where he or she can cuddle and suckle and be loved immediately. I don't want to lie there and be sown up for an hour, I don't want my husband to see me like that; weak and taken apart...
I want the same experience I have had with all my babies.
The recovery is also an issue. With a vaginal birth, despite some significant stitches in the past, I have always been able to walk and go about a fairy normal routine almost immediately. How am I supposed to take care of my family after such a major surgery? I don't want to depend on others to take care of me and my children.
For me a C-section would be life changing for a week. A week where I regret not having a natural labor to remember with my final baby, a week of having to depend on others to help me and my family. I know I am being childish, but my brain simply can't wrap around changing the status quo and welcoming a baby in any way other than I already have 5 times previously.
Accepting Placenta Previa & Its Limitations
I have definitely not accepted all the challenges of placenta previa. I am upset about what not working out has done to my body everyday, I worry about my marriage and the intimacy we are missing constantly, and I am still holding out hope that something will change and I will be able to deliver my 6th child naturally. There are lots of silent tears, because I know most of these things are silly and shouldn't be worried about; they will all work themselves out after birth. Ultimately, as long as the baby is healthy and happy, everything else with fall into place.
I never expected all these emotions on top of pregnancy and the hormonal changes that are difficult enough. Placenta previa isn't just a physical condition, it effects aspects of life that you would never expect it to, in substantial ways.
I know many people think I am probably over reacting, or just being HORMONAL, but my emotions, no matter what they are caused by, are real. I can't imagine that other women going through the same process, or worse dealing with a complete previa, aren't struggling emotionally as well. If you are, you aren't alone...
Follow Big Fit Fam on Twitter for more.