Placenta accreta may be a new term for some, but for pregnant women and their doctors, it can be a life-threatening complication.
According to the Mayo Clinic, placenta accreta occurs when “blood vessels and other parts of the placenta grow too deeply into the uterine wall,” which can cause severe blood loss after the baby is delivered.
Katie Sullivan, a nurse practitioner from Bethany, Connecticut, was seven months pregnant when an ultrasound revealed she had the condition.
“My first thought was I already know that risk -- 7 percent chance of death,” Sullivan told WFSB.
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“Knowing the pregnancy was complicated, by such a devastating diagnosis, it was extremely challenging,” she added.
Risk factors include multiple cesarean-sections, advanced age, smoking and high blood pressure, according to Dr. Michael Paidas of Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Sullivan had undergone two C-sections before she developed the condition.
“[Placenta accreta] ranks among the top three causes of maternal mortality, worldwide,” Paidas said. “It definitely has something to do with disruption of the uterine lining, and you can imagine the more and more Cesareans you have, you will disrupt that lining. Any procedure where you have disrupted the uterine lining -- multiple DNCs, for example, or if you've had any ablation procedures to the uterine lining.”
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Sullivan had planned to undergo a third C-section and prepared for the worst, including writing letters to her children.
A week before her scheduled procedure, however, Sullivan began bleeding. She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where she underwent surgery and required several units of blood.
Her baby boy, Calin, was delivered successfully and in good health.
“The name Calin actually means powerful warrior,” Sullivan said. "We both survived accreta."
Despite surviving the ordeal, 27-year-old Sullivan had to get a hysterectomy, meaning Calin is her last natural child.
“Accepting that was very difficult,” she said.