Prepare for a positive birth with The Birth Class

Episode 474

Chantal – endometriosis, IVF, anxiety, HG, amniocentesis, spontaneous labour

The gender pain gap has been in the news cycle recently with the Victorian government announcing an inquiry into women’s pain. Chantal’s story mirrors the experience of thousands of Australian women; a history of painful periods that had been dismissed. She was diagnosed with stage three endometriosis when she had trouble conceiving naturally. After a laparoscopy and no success with natural conception, she started the IVF journey and talks at length about the emotional and mental challenges she faced during four failed embryo transfers. She conceived on the fifth cycle and was bedridden for the first trimester with HG which was dismissed by her obstetrician. After a week-long hospital stay for fluids she chose a new obstetrician and despite his support throughout pregnancy, in the third trimester suggestions of a planned caesarean or induction to prevent stillbirth prompted Chantal to avoid her appointments. She went into spontaneous labour at 41+1 and after a quick and intense labour she birthed her baby girl without intervention.

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“Our wedding was postponed a number of times because of Covid but then as soon as we were married we started trying. It didn’t happen as quickly as I expected and then I started tracking my cycle more carefully because everything had always been so regular for me. About five months after we started trying I went to my GP and the reassured me that if I was under 35 it was completely normal to take 12 months to conceive. I felt like I was being gaslit because my gut was telling me something wasn’t fine. I went back a few months later and explained that I wasn’t happy to wait and I wanted to be referred to a fertility specialist. Within five minutes of being in the specialists’ office, he told me he thought I had endometriosis and I was diagnosed with stage three after a laparoscopy.

“I’ve never had long or heavy periods but I always had a lot of pain and I’d have bloating all month long. I was angry about all the times I’d been dismissed by doctors and scared about what it meant for my fertility journey. My specialist gave me six months to try and conceive naturally ost-surgery and then he started preparing me for IVF. I got 15 eggs which became three embryos and they were all classed grade A. The first transfer didn’t work and I was really shocked. Afterwards I had to always be with someone because if I was by myself I’d just fall to pieces. I did another egg collection and got 15 eggs and then we got seven embryos which was a much better result. We did another fresh transfer and again, no success.

“I spoke to my doctor about anxiety medication because from all my reading I knew that less stress would assist the IVF process. By the time we did the third transfer I was on medication and I was functioning better; I was more level headed and not so emotional all the time. We had four failed transfers before I started thinking it may never happen for us and that’s when I really fell apart, I was in fight or flight at work and I really questioned what I was doing. My GP encouraged me to take time away from work to lower my stress levels and I did – I took a term off work and planned to go into the next cycle feeling much more chilled. When we did the fifth embryo transfer I felt it in my gut that it would work, and it did. I did a pregnancy test and there was a very, very faint line. Two days later the blood results came back and I was most definitely pregnant.

“By eight weeks I was bedridden; I couldn’t even get up to have a shower. I’d called my obstetrician to explain how sick I felt and he just dismissed it as normal morning sickness. That was really hard and I started to feel depressed because I felt like no one was listening to me. At 12 weeks my mum stepped in and came and took me to the hospital. I wasn’t vomiting a lot but when I did it was so intense that I couldn’t control my bladder. They put me straight on a drip and admitted me and I was in hospital for five nights and I was diagnosed with hyperemesis (HG). That was when I decided to get a new obstetrician.

“I started to feel much better at 16 weeks and by week 18 the nausea had subsided completely. At our 20 week scan they picked up a soft marker for Down’s Syndrome and they explained it was a very small chance. We spoke to genetic counsellors and made the decision to have an amniocentesis which was really hard because it comes with risks of miscarriage. Thankfully it came back fine but I didn’t enjoy pregnancy; I had excruciating back pain that prevented me from walking, I couldn’t exercise and I had to take everything really easy.

“I wanted minimal interference for my birth but I was open to intervention if necessary. When I told my obstetrician about my back pain he suggested a caesarean which was when alarm bells went off but I just fobbed him off. When I casually mentioned that both my husband and I had been over 9 pounds he grew more concerned but I felt really informed and empowered. He kept sending me for growth scans but I wasn’t measuring big so I started getting quite annoyed because I really felt like he was trying to put the fear into me. He continued to suggest a planned caesarean at 40 weeks, referencing the size of her and how challenging my journey had been. This was happening from 38 weeks onwards and he eventually started talking about induction to prevent stillbirth. It really disempowered me and I left every appointment in tears. I avoided my last few appointments and just focussed on bringing my stress levels down.

“I went into labour at 41+1 and after hours of mild contractions, she started having intense contractions 45 seconds apart. They went straight to hospital and Chantal opted for gas, pethidine and the bath for pain relief. Five hours later I started considering an epidural but the midwife suggested a vaginal examination and I was already 8-9cm. Not long after I started making really primal noises and I could tell I was transitioning. I went to the toilet to wee and my waters broke and I was ready to push. My husband carried me to the bed so I was leaning over the bed and then they moved me to my side and then my back and then Tali was born.

“She cried but was really chilled out. I was still in shock but I felt like I could take it all in. I needed the syntocinon because I was haemorrhaging despite the fact that I wanted a physiological third stage. I need to get my hospital notes to see how much blood I lost.”

Topics Discussed

Amniocentesis, Anxiety, Endometriosis, HG, IVF, Private obstetrician, Spontaneous labour, Vaginal birth

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