My Experience With Preterm Birth, Progesterone Shots, and Hellp Syndrome

Ok, so here we go.

I wasn’t going to share any of this info. Like, not on my blog and not in person with people I actually know and talk to on a regular basis. I’ve made my peace with the funky issues that have made up each of my pregnancies and I wanted to just leave it at that. No discussion.

But here is the thing. This is my third pregnancy and the hardest part about being pregnant is all of the unknowns, whether you are 100% healthy or have health issues out the wazoo. The unknown is scary. The unknown is frustrating. The unknown is so…unknowable.

So today I share pieces of my story, not because I’m just dying to converse on all the frustrating health issues I’ve had with my pregnancies, but because after three, I’m starting to piece together some insight and I want to pass that along. Knowledge is power and if there is one thing that we mommas are, it’s powerful. No matter how tough the pregnancy, no matter how tough the delivery. We. Are. Powerful.

So here’s my deal…

Theo came two month’s early, after a very pleasant, very uneventful pregnancy. I’ve blogged about this before so I won’t rehash old news. But as a result, I was put on Progesterone shots when I was pregnant with Oliver. Progesterone is the hormone our bodies naturally makes that tells our uterus to just take a chill pill and not contract. When your Progesterone levels drop, you, well…drop a baby.

You with me so far? This is going to be a highly technical post full of medical jargon, so try and keep up. 😉

I was on Progesterone shots for 20 weeks with Oliver. The entire time, I just felt “off.” I was achy, tired, and just felt sick. I thought it was the shots. Every time I’d mention this to my nurse who administered the shots or my OB, they said everything was looking like it should and the shots really shouldn’t be making me feel bad.

Well, I felt bad. I had such a great pregnancy with Theo that I assumed it had to be the shots because they were the only thing that was different. But again and again, everyone told me the same thing: The shots are made of a bio-identical hormone (meaning my body should identify it as the same  Progesterone my body already makes) and should have zero negative side affects. But what they were telling me wasn’t lining up with how I felt, and that was frustrating. On top of that, constantly being told that I shouldn’t feel bad just made me depressed.

Anyhoo…

Fast forward to 36 weeks and I was really feeling bad. I thought I had the flu or a sinus infection. Either way, I couldn’t get off the couch and couldn’t care for Theo. My mom insisted that she take me into my OB one day and, long story short, I was admitted. A few hours later my situation was escalating to the point of becoming life threatening to both me and Oliver so we were transported to another hospital (the same one Theo was born at…that I was trying to avoid going back to. Oh well…)

I was induced amidst a lot of lab work, frightening test results, and a Maternal Fetal Medecine OB who was really scaring the crap out of all of us. At this point I was scared, frustrated at being in this situation, and suuuuper annoyed at having undergone 20 weeks worth of shots to stay pregnant, just to be induced, especially when I was currently in active labor (did I mention that part?). The induction was done because they needed to get Oliver out like STAT (that’s medical talk).

I still had my plans of an all natural birth so I said sure, load me up on Pitocin, but please no epidural. I’m not so sure that ignorance was bliss in this case as much as it was just, er, ignorance. Oh well. I got through it. Baby O was born au natural, just like his big brother, and soon the whole ordeal was behind us.

But we never really figured out what happened. I was basically sent home with a, “Well it all worked out!” kinda attitude.

With this pregnancy, I really wanted/neeeeeeeeded some answers. I won’t bore you with too many details, but here is the deal.

As best as anyone can tell, my body hates being pregnant past 30 or so weeks and tries to go into spontaneous labor. However, when Progesterone shots do their job and I stay pregnant past 34 weeks (yay), then I develop HELLP Syndrome (Boo. Hell is in the acronym and that’s no joke).

HELLP Syndrome is confusing, and despite constant doctor appointments and research on my own this pregnancy, I still don’t get it. But basically, it’s an a-typical form of preeclampsia. It’s typically diagnosed by high blood pressure, protein in the urine, headaches and swelling. Well guess who didn’t have a single one of those symptoms? That’s right. Me.

Not only did I not have those symptoms, but my blood pressure was low. Like, crazy, scary, almost didn’t have a pulse – low. So that is why my nurse and my OB didn’t think anything was wrong when I said I felt crummy. Honestly, they probably just thought, “Dude, you’re pregnant. Your’e not supposed to feel great.” But anyways.

Once I was admitted with Oliver, the lab work revealed other symptoms of HELLPS that I did have, like a really low platelet count.

But back to this pregnancy. I’m doing the shots again to prevent preterm birth, but I’m also being watched like a hawk for the development of HELLPS. It is not a guaranteed thing that it will happen again, but it’s good to know that if something goes south, I have a team of people who are ready to jump to action.

I’ve also realized what was making me feel so crummy last time really wasn’t the shots, but a combination of the fact that I have Fibromyalgia, and that I was experiencing early symptoms of HELLPS. With Fibromyalgia, my body hyper-reacts to pain, so when I get my shot I don’t just feel it in the injection site but all over my body. That is why I was feeling flu-ish. This knowledge doesn’t fix the problem, but I have been able to be more proactive this pregnancy as a result. I rest more. I’m constantly on a heating pad or ice pack. And I make sure I stay active. Continuing to move and exercise my body is the key to fighting Fibro, whether I’m pregnant or not.

This pregnancy, I’ve been bugging my OB and Nurse Midwife about why this stuff has happened to me. I’m healthy, take care of myself, and don’t seem like the “type” to have such issues. The basic response is that there really is no reason, as far as anyone can tell. Its not something I’ve done or haven’t done. I couldn’t change my diet or take a different supplement to guarantee better outcomes. Believe it or not, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding pregnancy and birth.

I’ve made my peace with these answers. For awhile, I was simply frustrated and scared. But now, I realize that all of these complications are, for better or worse, a part of my story. A part of the story of who I am and the amazing reality of my kid’s existence. I mean, seriously. I’ll never forget walking out of the hospital with Oliver and just marveling over the gift of life. His. Mine. All of it. Sometimes the path we have to walk is hard, paved with pain, illness and difficulty. But when the end result is life, then who are we to not love our story?

My experiences have shaped me in such a profound way that cannot be overstated. It softened me towards others, while it strengthened my inner resolve. It humbled me before a God who I’ve had to learn to trust in not just the good times, but the bad as well. It’s shown me that all good things come at a cost, and that I’m a fool to think that I don’t deserve to struggle just like everyone else. But it’s also taught me that the struggle doesn’t define the journey, it sharpens it, and brings into focus what really matters.

I can't believe this kid isn't going to be the baby anymore. I love these kids so much!
I can’t believe this kid isn’t going to be the baby anymore. I love these kids so much!

One thought on “My Experience With Preterm Birth, Progesterone Shots, and Hellp Syndrome

  1. Thank you for this! I too think my body doesn’t like to be pregnant past a certain point. I’ve never heard of HELLPS, but I will make sure that I keep that in the back of my mind.

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