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Your Healthy Family: Colorado Springs mom's high risk delivery story

Svenja Carlson a Colorado Springs mom, who developed the most severe type of placenta accreta with her third pregnancy. Svenja Carlson a Colorado Springs mom, who developed the most severe type of placenta accreta with her third pregnancy.
COLORADO SPRINGS -

Can we ever say enough about what a woman goes through to bring a new life into the world?  Even under the very best of delivery circumstances, it’s extraordinary. Consider, then, when a pregnancy or delivery becomes high-risk.

That's exactly what happened to Svenja Carlson, a Colorado Springs mom who developed the most severe type of placenta accreta – a condition in which the placenta attaches itself deeply into the wall of the uterus - with her third pregnancy.

Starting with her first pregnancy, Svenja had one hope for her delivery plan:  “We had wanted to do a normal natural birth, but that was unfortunately not the case.  With my first, she was an emergency C-section because my blood pressure kept escalating and her heart rate kept dropping.  Then with my second daughter they noticed there wasn't enough blood going to her, as well; my placenta was giving out and so she also was a C-section because my placenta wouldn't allow otherwise."

So when third daughter Lilija came along, a C-section was a foregone conclusion for Svenja. Unfortunately, C-sections also put women at risk for placenta accreta. “It was frustrating, you know, because you obviously want to do the best for your baby and then your body's just not cooperating.”

However, a complication like placenta accreta wasn’t on Svenja’s radar.  "I had not heard of this condition but at 20 weeks when we did the growth scan, and the 20-week ultrasound they had noticed that I had placenta previa.  That’s where the placenta is partially covering the cervix, and so that is when they first noticed things were  starting to look a little funny.”

After her initial diagnosis at UCHealth Memorial Hospital, Svenja says she was sent to a specialist in the maternal fetal medical department and that’s when they noticed the placenta was doing things it wasn’t suppose to be doing.  “October 3rd, 2016, is when I  was fully diagnosed with placenta percreta, which was the very last final step of the accreta process.  They noticed that the placenta had gone partially through the uterus and attached itself to the bladder.  That's when they told me that she would be my final baby, and that I would carry no more and that this was going to be a mandatory hysterectomy, and so it was definitely a blow to us."  Svenja recalls that her husband had been joking with her that perhaps his third daughter would be enough for their family, but when the devastating news was given to them, “he started crying before I did.”

The tough news that this would be a high-risk delivery and complex surgery because of the amount of blood that flows through the placenta - also came with  news that gave the Carlsons hope: “They told me they were sending me to the the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora to meet with the doctors there,” she said, referring to UCHealth’s University of Colorado Hospital. “I was told that in the neighboring five states around Colorado, they send all the women with the accreta condition to the Anschutz campus because they are the experts and are top-notch.  That was really comforting that yes, we are good and they can handle this emergency situation.”

But the journey leading up to surgery and Lilija’s delivery was also full of worry for Svenja and her husband. "You want to be proactive and start reading things online, which is kind of dangerous to do because your your mind starts to wonder.  It's kind of weird picking out baby things and then secretly in your mind like planning your own funeral and planning what's going to happen after you're gone, so it's kind of weird place to be in."

She was able to focus her attention on the hope and advice she was getting from the team in Aurora, so when the day arrived, Svenja felt prepared and hopeful.  “On surgery day they let me stay awake but they told me be prepared if we don't allow you to stay awake.  They did let me stay awake for her, and it was literally a party room. I mean she alone has five six people just for her.  There was this swarm of people. It was pretty overwhelming but the one thing I thought was, ‘well between all these people I've got to come out of this OK because there's a lot of hands on deck’.”

Lilija was given the middle name of Hope by her father because it was hope that got the Carlsons though - hope and the medical expertise of everyone who worked on her.  Svenja recalls, “They told me everything that could have went perfect went perfect.  I had a really smooth surgery.  I lost only half of my blood volume, which was actually really good considering how these (procedures) typically tend to go.  They were able to recycle some of my blood and give it back to me, and then I needed a few blood products again that evening and then the next day, and the day after that."

Svenja hopes that her story will get others thinking about the importance of  donating blood. She also hopes other women will make sure they get good prenatal care, including ultrasounds to check the health of the baby and the mother.

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