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Tag Archives: preeclampsia

Ooops!

I was once called for a referral. A few days old preterm baby having seizures that occurred within the first few hours of life. Baby was having seizures despite the anti-convulsant that was already given. The baby was already referred to a neurologist before I stepped into the picture. Baby was worked up and his electrolytes showed low sodium (112). (The normal level is 135 – 145; if the value is lower than 135, that’s considered hyponatremia. If value is less than 125, baby can have seizure that will not be controlled by anticonvulsant until the problem is corrected). In this case, it seems the most likely cause of seizure was identified. Thus, the immediate thing for me to do was to correct this abnormality and hope that it will eventually stop the seizures.

So after 48 hours, the sodium level was already raised to near normal. The good thing was, seizure already stopped. So I guess the baby’s urgent problem was resolved.

The question that bothered us was, why did the baby have severe hyponatremia? It is a rule of thumb that the electrolyte picture of a baby within 48hrs from birth generally reflects that of the mother. Unless that baby also has a congenital abnormality such as in cases of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). The baby in this case did not have physical signs highly suggestive of CAH, and the newborn screening eventually was normal, so this as the cause was easily ruled out. So, this made me then thought of the mother’s electrolyte status.

I interviewed the mother when she visited her baby at the NICU. I asked her if she was on prolonged intravenous fluid administration, if she was taking medications. She revealed she was on prolonged furosemide “maintenance.” This was given by an internist she consulted. BINGO! Seems I nailed the culprit with mere few questions. So I went on further with my interview. I asked why was she on prolonged furosemide intake. She said, she consulted the internist because she had edema (swelling) of both her lower legs. I further asked, “at what months of pregnancy did she notice the onset of edema, of hypertension. She did not know she was pregnant then when she had that consultation. Then my next question was, “is your menstrual cycle irregular?” And she replied YES! I was then flabbergasted and felt sorry for the mother, most especially for the baby. Why?

Let me reconstruct the story for a clearer understanding. Here was a woman with irregular menstrual cycle. She became pregnant but was not able to realize it because of her irregular schedule. Then later in the pregnancy, she developed edema of both lower extremities. She consulted an internist because of the latter, who also incidentally discovered she was hypertensive. The internist did not know the patient was pregnant; he did not do pregnancy test nor abdominal ultrasound. Pregnancy was remote from his consideration, thus he did not do these tesst… even if the woman was already showing signs of PREECLAMPSIA. So he gave furosemide. But since the edema was unresolving, she kept on taking the drugs. Few days ago, she was having abdominal pain. She saw another doctor, an OB-Gyn, who requested for an ultrasound. HALLELUJAH of all hallelujahs, she was indeed PREGNANT. And since her blood pressure remained uncontrolled, she was scheduled for emergency CS delivery. Since she was on prolonged furosemide intake, aside from it removing water from the body, furosemide also eliminates electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Since she was already hyponatremic, so was also the baby whose blood supply comes from the mother via the placenta.

The rest of the baby’s course in the neonatal ICU was unremarkable thus I signed out from the service after making sure baby was ready for discharge.

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When One of the Twins Die In Utero

Did you always think that when a mother conceives twins, triplets, quadruplets or more, all of the fetus will be born alive? As morbid as it maybe, some fetus/fetuses die prematurely even before being born. Some may die within the first, 2nd or 3rd trimester (3 months). And their death can bring about complication/s not only to the mother, but to the remaining twin as well.
The effect of the fetal death to the surviving twin may vary according to the timing of the death. In a data published 1994, loss of one twin at the first trimester does not impair the development of the surviving fetus. (Some are completely resorbed in a condition termed as “vanishing twin syndrome.”) In the second trimester however, this is associated with increased risk for the survivor as reflected by a high incidence of growth retardation, premature labor and perinatal mortality.
An observation of twin pregnancies where single fetal death occurred after 20 weeks of gestation, the mothers were known to have preeclampsia which may also prompt babies to be delivered prematurely. The surviving twin aside from being delivered prematurely, they are also observed to be with intrauterine growth restriction. This could be an effect of the death of the other twin, or that and the effect of preeclampsia wherein the blood flow to the fetus may become diminished. This in turn causes diminished delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the baby thus. Head MRI and ultrasound of these survivors revealed some neurologic injury. Fortunately, in these mothers, there was no detected abnormality on coagulation profile.
A similar observational study was also done among twin pregnancies where a single fetal death occurred after 20 weeks of gestation. The study showed that the main cause of the fetal death was twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. The survivors were also delivered prematurely and later also died after birth because of the same cause. (TTTS is due to abnormal communication between the blood vessels supplying the placenta of both, leading to shunting of more blood to the other twin while deprivation of the other one. One may die immediately while still in utero, while the other may survive or end up hydropic; or both may survive with severe physical discrepancy — see my other blogs on hydrops fetalis). 
Another in depth observation was done among twin pregnancies complicated by single intrauterine fetal death after 26 weeks of gestation. Chorionicity of the twin pregnancies was noted (see illustration below on the types of twin pregnancy according to chorionicity).
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(Image courtesy of  http://www.health.sa.gov.au/ppg/Default.aspx?PageContentMode=1&tabid=75)
Often times, the surviving twin was delivered prematurely, and that baby ended up with intrauterine growth restriction. The mother on the other hand had preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, both of which may also lead to the growth restriction of the surviving twin. In cases of monochorionic pregnancies, again twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome afflicted the babies. Some of the twin eventually died as well in utero (before being delivered), while others after birth. Also, ultrasound of the baby’s head should cerebral anomalies in some.
Even if one of the twins survive after the death of the other, and gets delivered, it is not reassuring that he will live and be discharged as well baby as his outcome may be compromised by the complications of premature birth, or presence of neurologic injury.

References:

1. Prömpeler HJMadjar HKlosa Wdu Bois AZahradnik HPSchillinger HBreckwoldt M. Twin pregnancies with single fetal death. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1994 Mar;73(3):205-8.

2. Axt RMink DHendrik JErtan Kvon Blohn MSchmidt W. Maternal and neonatal outcome of twin pregnancies complicated by single fetal death.J Perinat Med. 1999;27(3):221-7.

3. Aslan HGul ACebeci APolat ICeylan Y. The outcome of twin pregnancies complicated by single fetal death after 20 weeks of gestation. Twin Res. 2004 Feb;7(1):1-4.

4. Chelli DMethni ABoudaya FMarzouki YZouaoui BJabnoun SSfar EChennoufi MBChelli H. Twin pregnancy with single fetal death: etiology, management and outcome. J Gynecol Obstet Biol Reprod (Paris). 2009 Nov;38(7):580-7. Epub 2009 Oct 14.

 

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A Mother’s Request

A Mother’s Request.

 

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A Mother’s Request

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(Photo courtesy of http://www.information-on-surrogacy.com/how-to-give-an-injection.html)

A 32-year old woman lost three fetuses via miscarriages. She didn’t know then why it happened. This time, she’s pregnant for her fourth. This time she was worked-up and diagnosed that she has anti-phospholipid antibody syndrome (APAS). This is a condition where the mother seems to be reacting against her own self, forming blood clots all over her body, including the placenta. To be able to make the pregnancy viable, mother has to be maintained on anti-coagulants during the course of pregnancy – including aspirin (at a certain period only) or daily injections with heparin. Fetus can have growth restriction, mother can have severe hypertension, among other else.

The mother had been having daily aspirin intake to prevent blood clots. However, in the most recent days, it had to be shifted to heparin injections as aspirin seemed not to be working well. Baby’s status had to be monitored daily. When it was noted that baby’s status was deteriorating, though it was a painful and hard decision, baby had to be delivered even if he was premature (with the risk of the baby dying, AGAIN!). Parents are too aggressive for the survival of the baby. They’ve been spending a lot (my guess, more or less a million pesos) just to make this pregnancy successful. Understandable, this will be their first live born baby, after three pregnancy losses.

Baby came out, wrinkled, tiny, with a shrill cry. On the latest ultrasound, it was estimated that baby is 838 grams (classified as extremely low birth weight — babies weighing less than 1000 grams). In the western countries, what they usually do is, within the 1st 15 minutes from birth, they intubate baby, instill surfactant, then provide nasal continuous positive airway pressure respiratory support. I was tempted to do the same. The surfactant was already available. But then I remembered what was more important was baby’s battle with infection. Thus I prioritized baby to undergo skin-to-skin contact with the mother to acquire the latter’s skin bacterial flora that will populate baby’s intestine and trigger his immune system. I can always administer surfactant a little later and it won’t cause the baby too much harm.

While baby was on his mom’s chest, mother was crying loudly. We understood that as cry (not just tears) for joy. After 4 pregnancies, she was finally able to deliver a live born baby. In between sobs, she was asking me to do all my best to take care of baby. That she had been waiting for her own baby…

Suddenly, the toll was on me, I panicked at the expectations of the mom. She repeatedly asked me if baby can lie beside her at their room. That was how she longed for baby. How could I defy her wish when I realized (1) how long they waited for the baby, (2) how much they want to have their own child, (3) how much expenses they incurred to make this pregnancy successful, among other else. Suddenly a lump formed at my throat, making me swallow hard. (And I was burning in fever due to exudative tonsillitis at that time). I told her I will try my utmost skill to make baby survive, as much as possible, with minimal if not no deficit at all.

At 15 minutes, when the baby started to have nasal flaring, that’s when I took baby off from his mother, brought him to the NICU for further care.

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