Where it all started?

On March 12, 2014 the car I was in was involved in minor fender bender, the second one within a few months. This time around we were hit from behind, there was very little damage to both cars and everyone walked / drove away. However this meant a trip to my doctor the next day just to check. I was excited to see my little Bean again but a bit nervous having to explain that I was involved in a traffic accident again. They gave me a non stress test, basically they monitored Bean’s heart beat for 40 minutes. With the exception of one little blip where the heart beat was not found or simply dipped everything was fine.

I do not know if this was the first sign of things to come but it does stick out to me. I had asked the nurse why the blip happened and she said that the heart rate goes down when baby is sleeping. Ok, I understand that, but off the chart? It only happened once so I was no too concerned.

I was told to stay away from traffic accidents.

On March 26, I went for my scheduled appointment. They took my blood pressure twice, but it came out normal.  Then my fundus was measured. (basically the uterus was measured but from the outside). The measurement usually correlates with the week of the pregnancy, so if you are 34 weeks pregnant your fundus should measure 34cm. Mine was measuring at 23, it grew from 19 but the problem was I was 25 weeks pregnant. Of course there are some arguments that this measurement can be inaccurate and that it can vary depending on who is measuring. The nurse however was flustered at the measurement. The Doc then came to do the ultra sound. Bean was measuring at 23 weeks. Defiantly IUGR. I would be monitored closely and my next appointment was in two weeks.

On March 30th I was woken up by a brutal headache. I have never experienced migraines before, but I figured if I ever had one this would have been it. It was so bad I could not go back to sleep for several hours. I decided that if the headache was still around in the morning I would call in sick to work and head over to the doctor. It was gone by the morning and I went to work. In the afternoon shortly after lunch I got a mild headache,  it stuck around for a few hours, and then for a few hours more after that but subsided by the evening. The next morning I woke up and for some unknown reason check my weight. 96.3 kg. I was also dealing with the same mild headache. It lasted all day. I headed to the doctor after work to report this persistent headache.

The nurse called me in and asked me what was wrong. I told her I had a constant headache and without further questions she took me straight to take my blood pressure. She took my blood pressure three times on my left arm, scrunched up her face, told me to relax and then took it twice more on my right arm. My blood pressure was mildly high. The doc then talked to me and asked how my back was doing, any pains in my arms/shoulders and if there was anything else I needed to tell him. I told him I did have lower back pain and that the night before my severe headache I had a really bad pain in my right shoulder. I figured I’d also tell him about the pains around my tummy every time I rolled over in my sleep. He prescribed a weak headache medicine, a patch to put on my back to help with the pain and anti contraction medication and sent me on my way.

I seriously started to suspect pre-emclampsia.

The next day I was still dealing with a mild headache but not as bad as before. I also emailed both my mother and mother in law and told them about my high blood pressure and my suspicions. I also messaged my Japanese friend to ask her if she would join me at my next appointment (which was less than a week away) because I suspected some big medicial terms and complications were going to be thrown around.  That night I skyped with my mother and once again shared my suspecions just in case it did escalate. I didn’t want her to be caught by surprise, but I also was positive that the outcome will be OK.

The following day, two days after I had gone to the doctor, I woke up with the mild headache. Two days of medication and this headache was still around. Little read flags were waving in my head. I wondered where my weight was. 98.6, a 2.3kg (about 5lbs) increase in my weight over two days! I may be pregnant but there is no way that was normal. I remember reading that sudden weight gain was a symptom of pre-emclampsia and that anything over 2 pounds within a week should be suspect. If two pounds was suspect, then 5 was downright criminal.

I went into work and did some research to confirm my suspicions and to translate some terms into Japanese to prepare myself for a visit to the doctor. I asked my co-worker to call the clinic for me and tell them of the headaches and weight gain and ask them if I should go in. When I told my co-worker about my sudden weight gain she asked me, “did you eat too much?” I honestly wondered in what world you could eat too much and gain 5 pounds over night. I calmly informed her that “No, I didn’t eat too much.” She didn’t seem to think that the weight gain was worth mentioning, but I urged her to do it anyways. The nurse she talked to told her that I should go in that morning, so I took some time off and headed out to the doctor.

They took my blood pressure again and did another non-stress test. My little Bean’s heart rate was faint but strong.

The doctor talked to me and my husband and said that I may have “Toxiema” which was another word for pre-emclampsia. My doctor’s clinic is a small one and not equipped to handle a complication such as mine, further more it didn’t have an NICU and so if my little one was born per-maturely the clinic would not be able to handle it. He also suggested that I needed counseling and needed to be monitored for my weight gain. (Honestly I wanted to roll my eyes at this, what do they all thing I am doing? Sitting in font of vats of haggen das and stuffing my face? This is Japan I can’t even get a pint of haggen das if I wanted to…) He did say there was a possibility of being hospitalised in order to be monitored.

The doctor referred me to the city hospital which had an NICU. He wrote a letter for the doctor there and told me to go the following morning.



Went to my appointment in hopes of finding out gender….

When I first found out I was pregnant I immediately joined as many baby sites as I could and downloaded a handful of apps for my phone. The one I ended up using the the most was “babycenter.ca”  That was the place I went to to share excitement, anxiety, fears, and questions, it was my online support group even though I didn’t post much.  It was great to be able to see what other pregnant ladies were going through. Opinions varied and sometimes judgment was passed but for the most part it was a friendly place. We saw people come and go, we consoled each other when life wasn’t going great and gave a shoulder to cry on when our little ones were lost through miscarriage or other.
This is what I posted when Bean-chan was diagnosed with IUGR:
Instead I found out my little one has Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). I’m 25w+1 and LO is 22w+3. The last two appointments baby was about a week and a half behind, the doc said it was ok. It has been 4 weeks since my last appointment and LO has only grown two weeks worth. My weight went up by 5 pounds but my circumference went down by 1 cm, though my fundus went up which is good. I am scheduled to go in again in two weeks. From what I read online, there seems to be a lot of positive posts from ladies who had the same problem, but a lot of scary information as well. Looks like the chances of a premature birth and c-section are high. I’m feeling a little down about the news and lost any desire to shop or set up for baby out of fear that it will all go sour >.< Has anyone else experienced this?

I remember the first time I noticed that our little bean was smaller than expected, it was around week 16, she was measuring around 15 and then again around week 18, she was measuring around 17. The doctor never said anything and after some research of my own I discovered that SGA, small for gestational age, is not that big of a worry if it is within a few weeks and that sometimes the baby will just catch up later on.
When I went to my week 25 check up I was super excited because I thought I could finally find out the gender, but well, we couldn’t see her little bits because she was still super little and the doc couldn’t get a clear view. This was also the day he told me Bean-chan had IUGR.
When I got home that night I looked up everything I could about IUGR. The thing about having a baby in Japan when you don’t speak the language that well and when the doctor doesn’t speak English is that you end up depending a lot on your own research skills. I took what the doc told me and then used the internet to expand on it.  During my research I came across possible reasons for IUGR which included:
  • Mom smokes
  • Mom drinks
  • Mom has diabetes, gestational or otherwise
  • Mom has hypertension, gestational or otherwise
  • Mom has pre-emclampsia
  • There is a problem with the placenta
  • Baby has a chromosomal problem.

I had none of these problems… Drink? I stopped drinking the moment we decided to try to conceive and I only drank after that if good old aunt flow showed up and would stop as soon as she left. I had never smoked in my life so that was out. I was keeping an eye on gestational diabetes because, well, I am overweight and I have always kept an eye on possible diabetes even before I got pregnant. Hypertension,I had never in my life had problems with blood pressure and in fact every doctors visit my blood pressure came out perfect, so it wasn’t that. Pre-emclamp what?…. had to do research on that, but I had none of the symptoms. Problem with the placenta, I’m sure the doc would have said something by now. Chromosomal problem… that was all that was left and at age 35, I guess the possibility was higher.

In my studies I learned about symmetrical and asymmetrical IUGR, I learned that one would rather have asymmetrical IUGR because it meant that the nutrients and growing power was going to the brain first. Symmetrical usually meant that the IUGR  started early and or it was a baby with a chromosome abnormality. The doctor never said anything about symmetrical or asymmetrical but judging by all the ultra sound pictures, our little bean was pretty symmetrical. I was slowly realizing what the future may hold for us and to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was ready. I knew I would love our little one regardless, but the responsibility was what was scaring me.

Not wanting to believe that Bean-chan had a chromosome abnormality I went back to researching that pre emclampsia thing.
These are some of the symptoms that I found….

  • Severe or persistent headache
  • Vision changes, including double vision, blurriness, seeing spots or flashing lights, light sensitivity, or temporary loss of vision
  • Intense pain or tenderness in your upper abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Protein in your urine
  • More than slight swelling
  • High blood pressure
  • sudden weight gain

I also found out that it is more common in first time pregnancies, women under 15 and over 35 years old, and women who have a BMI over 30. But it can also happen to perfectly fit and athletic women too.

Basically I found out that there is still a lot of research that needs to be done about pre-emclampsia and that not that much is really known about it.

I stored all of this info in the back of my mind and started watching for any hints or symptoms that may indicate that I pre-emclampsia. I am so glad I did.