Hegen Mum of the Month - July 2021
What she thought was a painful bra and pregnancy weight gain turned out to be something far more health-threatening. Brave Mom and Yogini LC had to undergo medical test after medical test while pregnant before finding out that it was pulmonary embolism. Still, she counts herself lucky despite the severity of her condition and is thankful to be able to deliver her baby safely by C-section. This is her story.
How did you first find out about your medical condition?
The Thursday before Circuit Breaker started, I was teaching a yoga class and suddenly felt intense pain in my back and neck. I thought my bra was the culprit as I had put on some weight from the pregnancy. When I got home, the pain was debilitating.
My husband Jeremy called an ambulance to take me to NUH. COVID-19 cases had just started to spike at that time. There, I was swabbed and had to sign a release form consenting to the X-ray during pregnancy because it was mandated for all patients with respiratory symptoms and I had been coughing. I cried, thinking of the potential risks to my unborn baby from the radiation. Thankfully the swab test came back clean.
The A&E doctor had already suspected that I could have Pulmonary Embolism (PE) - blood clots around blood vessels supplying the lungs. Because I was pregnant, the doctors decided to run non-invasive tests first, and if blood clots were detected the treatment would be the same and I would be spared a CT scan, a test that involved much more radiation.
All the tests came back clean and I requested to be discharged - the doctor agreed reluctantly but told me to monitor my symptoms. She scheduled a zoom consult on Monday.
On Sunday, I had a bowl of froyo and coughed up blood.
So I had to undergo the CT scan. Doctors were very concerned because if left untreated, the condition could be fatal. 25% of PE sufferers don’t exhibit symptoms and just die!
Unfortunately, multiple and extensive emboli was found around my lungs. I was immediately re-admitted to the hospital. I had not brought a single personal item with me because I had not expected to be admitted.
The next day, circuit breaker began. There was to be no visitors.
What an ordeal you had to go through! So what was the medical treatment given for PE?
The treatment for PE is blood thinners. These prevent new clots from forming and existing clots should generally dissolve. For pregnant women, blood thinners that do not cross the placenta cannot be taken orally; they can only be administered subcutaneously, i.e. through jabs.
I had to have them twice a day until 6 weeks after the baby was born. It is extremely time sensitive and each jab is to be taken 12 hours apart. My morning alarm couldn’t wake me up as much as the pain from the injections. Sometimes, a poorly chosen injection site would harden and form a massive bruise. Even now, the discolouration on my thighs remain.
This must have been tough on you mentally as well, especially as a pregnant Mum.
In retrospect, I think I was lucky to have been diagnosed. The outcome could have been much worse and maybe I wouldn't be alive today if I had not found out when I did. After the diagnosis, I also switched my obstetrician to one in NUH so my condition could be managed.
Yes, there was always a fear that I wouldn't make it out of the delivery suite alive but here I am! I’m extremely thankful for Prof Biswas and team who took great care of me and successfully delivered baby Oliver.
That’s such a blessing. So how did the birth experience turn out for you?
Due to my health condition, I had to undergo induction and stop the blood thinner jabs 24 hours before the delivery. There was no option to allow Oli to come whenever he wanted. But coincidentally my water bag broke the day I was scheduled for the induction.
Unfortunately the cervix did not dilate sufficiently and Oli's heartrate started to fall. I was offered a C-section and said yes; I just wanted Oli and I to survive!
It was a more traumatising experience than I expected; even though there was no pain, I was shivering badly from the epidural. The doctor and nurses were pumping my belly hard and fast to help push the baby out. I could not move an inch.
Thankfully everything went well and I was able to bring a very healthy baby home with me two days later.
We’re also happy that it turned out the best way for both Mum and babe! What’s life been like for you postpartum?
Breastfeeding and expressing milk is definitely one of the biggest challenges I faced despite having a great support network. Both my sisters breastfed their kids for over a year and gave me lots of great tips. My nanny was very pro-breastfeeding and would make lactation boosting meals and help me hand-express after every pump. My initial yield was incredibly poor.
For the first couple of months I pumped 8 times a day for 30 minutes each. I almost went into depression because it felt never ending. Oli managed to latch on better after the second month but I still kept up my pump schedule as much as I could.
I’m very grateful for Jeremy for washing all the bottles and pump parts so I had one less thing to worry about. Safe distancing measures also helped to keep me at home and protected my supply.
What are some of the learnings you had during this time?
Honestly women go through a lot to be able to produce milk to feed their babies. I personally feel that Mums do pay for breastfeeding their babies – with our time and our bodies. I have been extremely lucky with circumstances and to have the strong support of people around me in this breastfeeding journey. I hope that society and the workplace will make it easier for women who want to breastfeed and can help them to continue doing so even after their maternity leave ends.
I also learnt about the joy that comes from witnessing my baby grow and develop! I frequently read a book to Oli called I thought I saw a dinosaur! One day I asked him, "Where's your dinosaur book?" He immediately crawled over to it! It was such a pleasant surprise to bear witness to his cognitive development and experience how he can understand and connect with us so well.
How did Hegen products make a difference to you in your journey as a first time parent?
My in-laws gave us Hegen bottles and they are the prettiest! The notches are easy to read and very accurately marked so I always know how much milk I'm giving to Oli. Now that he's drinking less milk, I use the Hegen storage bottles to keep his snacks and fruits for when we go out. Best part is they stack easily, saving lots of space in the modern home.
What were some of the ups and downs about becoming a parent in these pandemic times?
Parenting is never easy and being a first time mum I'm not sure if COVID19 made it harder or easier. While we are not able to travel and expose Oli to many new experiences, working from home has given us so much more time with him than we would have had with daily commutes to the office.
Smaller group gatherings also allow us to keep the little one engaged instead of being overwhelmed by more people. We missed the chance to attend physical parenting and antenatal classes during the pregnancy as these were all postponed, but virtual zoom classes worked just as well and we did not have to jostle with others on public transport!
So it sounds like things have all been pretty well-balanced! Of course with the exception of the PE nightmare. Having gone through that, what's your advice for Mums or Mums-to-be in that area?
Stay positive and make sure you buy insurance as early as you can! Having access to support groups or supportive people are important too. Make sure you are in close touch with loved ones, friends or find other mamas who can lend an ear and can help you get through tough times together.