When Pregnancy Becomes A Sticky Business…

Welcome back to Risky Baby Business, our Saturday series here at More Cowbell! If you’re new over here, the previous posts in this series can be found here.

Those of you who are regular readers know that the road to pregnancy was a rocky one for me. I gave myself shots in the belly for almost a year, from the time I tested positive for pregnancy until 8 weeks after my delivery.

“Back in olden times” women like me would have died. Modern medicine is amazing at helping women to carry babies to term, even when they have serious issues.

I’m one of the lucky ones. It all turned out well, and I feel blessed despite  the tears and the $12K+ I spent before abandoning my dream of a child. As I mentioned in last week’s post, the news of our infertility hit us where it hits everyone – in the heart, the psyche and the solar plexus. We cried buckets and carefully packed away our baby dreams.

A month after we started chasing new dreams, we conceived. I don’t know if these two events are related or not. I ain’t in charge of these things. But lowering my stress levels certainly didn’t hurt.

What was pregnancy like for me?

Believe it or not, I LOVED being pregnant. I was so happy to BE pregnant, once I got over the initial angst. But, the day I found out?? I was out of my mind with worry.

  • My first call was to my BFF, who’d forced me to pee on a test stick the day before.
  • The second was to my doctor to get a blood test.

I needed a positive blood test to get a prescription for Lovenox, and I needed Lovenox FAST to keep me from getting a blood clot.

Two of the most common clotting disorders that interfere with pregnancy are Factor V Leiden (which I have) and “prothrombin mutations” like MTHFR. The protocol for these are Heparin or Lovenox injections into the skin around your belly button – daily in the first trimester and twice a day in the second and third trimester as your blood volume builds.

Note: A doctor might change this from patient to patient, so don’t fret if that isn’t your schedule.

How does pregnancy affect blood clotting?

Some of you probably scratching your heads about why I’d be so freaked out to get my hands on the shots (rather than avoiding them like the plague). If you have a history of blood clots or a clotting disorder (I have both), these factors make you more likely to develop another blood clot.

Pregnant women with these factors have an increased chance of small blood clots developing within placenta tissue which can lead to a miscarriage at any time in the pregnancy.

Since more clotting factors are in a woman’s blood during pregnancy, a pregnant woman is six times more likely to develop blood clots, even without this kind of medical history. Also, because the uterus compresses the veins during pregnancy, the blood flow slows down as it moves through the vessels and may lead to blood clots.

For more info, start here. If you have more questions, please leave them in the comments.

What is the difference between Heparin and Lovenox?

If you are a person with these disorders, or in our circle of family and friends, you’ve heard of both these medications. Many more people have heard of Heparin as it’s often used before or after a surgical procedure to prevent people from forming a blood clot.

Heparin leaves the body more quickly than Lovenox and for this reason, most doctors will switch a pregnant woman from Lovenox (if she’s on it) to Heparin sometime around 32-34 weeks of pregnancy. Some women do Heparin all the way through.

If a woman goes into labor while on these medications, no other meds (such as an epidural) will be administered for several hours until the anti-coagulant is out of the mother’s system. There is a drug that can be used to reverse the affects of these anti-coagulants in case of an emergency, but in normal deliveries, you simply wait until your medical professionals are certain the medication has left your system.

It takes 12-24 hours for Lovenox and 4-6 hours for Heparin to leave your body. This is why so many pregnant women are moved to Heparin toward the end of a pregnancy. Do speak with your doctor about these things.

What to watch out for when taking these medications

I did not have any issues while taking Lovenox, but I was extraordinarily well-monitored. It is important to tell your doctor if you have any unusual bleeding while on either Lovenox or Heparin, even for something that seems innocuous like your gums. It’s often a sign your dosage needs to be adjusted.

What else do you keep in mind when taking Heparin or Lovenox? (Source: MCG Health)

  • Take the exact dose prescribed.
  • Take your heparin at the same times each day to keep a good level of medicine in your blood. If you realize a dose has been missed, that dose should be taken as soon as possible. However, if you do not remember until it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular schedule
  • Do not double the next dose or take an extra dose to “catch up” because it may cause bleeding.
  • Notify your dentist, pharmacist or any new doctor taking care of you that you are taking heparin or Lovenox.
  • Store these medications at room temperature away from heat and direct light.
  • While you are taking this medication, avoid sports or other activities that may cause you to be injured. Call your doctor if you experience any falls, blows to your body or head, or any other injuries, because you may have bleeding inside your body without your knowing about it.
  • Use a soft toothbrush and floss gently.

What about the actual shots?

I’d be lying if I told you they didn’t hurt. They burn like someone put a hot poker under your skin. But they keep your baby (and you) alive, so you do them. I did find a few tricks that made them more bearable.

  1. It helped me to pinch the skin at the shot site before injecting.
  2. Sometimes, in a particularly sore area, ice made a difference.
  3. I preferred to inject slowly – it seemed to burn less than just depressing the plunger.
  4. Think of your belly button as the center of a clock and your chin as the number 12…I found my shots hurt less at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock than they did at 6 o’clock and 12 o’clock. I don’t know why, but for me, this was absolutely true.
  5. It seemed to hurt me less to inject into a bruised area than to pick a whole new patch of skin. I injected in those 3/9 o’clock areas the entire 48 weeks.
  6. Company helped. I don’t know why. If it was just a hard day for jabbing my tummy with a needle, it helped to do it by the side of the bed while talking to my honey.

If I just creeped you out, I apologize profusely. This series is about helping pregnant ladies.

Pregnant ladies who worry about big issues, especially  those who jab themselves with a needle every day, often  feel very (VERY) alone. They don’t want to worry their loved ones and don’t always know what questions to ask their doctors.

That fear and loneliness, during what is supposed to be a sunshiny time in your life, is why I started this series.

Here’s our little blessing at her baptism.

If what I’ve described above has you nodding your head, please comment and share your experience. If you had a different sort of pregnancy, please share that too. (If you’re a man reading this post, my hat is off to you!)

Here’s wishing you a great Saturday…
Jenny

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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36 Responses to When Pregnancy Becomes A Sticky Business…

  1. K.B. Owen says:

    Wow, Jenny, you are an amazing woman! I’m so glad you’re sharing this so that other women who go through this understand their condition better and don’t feel so alone. How terrific to have such a happy ending! Love the pic.😀

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL, Kathy…I’m no more amazing than any other mom. We just do what needs to be done, no? I love that picture and I treasure the happy ending because I really, really didn’t expect it.🙂

      Like

  2. Thank you Jenny! Glad I stopped over today🙂

    I didn’t realize you had Factor V AND the blood clotting disorder. And if you told me this before….I was not in the right mind to be reading and retaining emails at that time….

    This advice will help me tremendously!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Me too, me too! I have the auto immune clotting disorder thingy and will be on Lovenox throughout my pregnancy (which will hopefully be starting in 3 weeks) and as the doc says 2-9 months after, depending on my results. I have some other hormonal issues to get through before we get preggers. But with oral meds, steroids and next week I get to start a hormone stimulater – self injected into my belly (I will think of it as practice) hopefully we will be on our way to babyhood soon soon soon.

    Thank you for posting about the daily sticking – I will try the pinching and will be paying attention to my belly button clock 🙂

    Thank you again. Oh and I will probably have you on speed dial when I get pregnant. Ha!

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    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Tiff, I absolutely want you to put me on speed dial when you’re pregnant. It’s a marvelous time – you will feel so powerful and special. Not to be pimping, but if you get pregnant, you need to go back and read some of the other posts. They should help. The main thing is to manage your worry.

      Factor V is a blood clotting disorder and I have a history of DVT’s and pulmonary embolism. Because of that, the doctors monitored the hell out of me. As you know, it was a blessing to know all this BEFORE I tried to get pregnant.

      You keep at it, girlfriend. My husband simply could not jab a pregnant lady in the tummy so I was on my own there, but he did keep me company and it helped. Get your dude in on the act as much as he’s able to be. It also helped to talk to the baby while I did it (in those later months when I was feeling more sure about her).

      Like

      • Hooray for a speed dial friend🙂

        Sean said he will jab me if I need him to do it. We will see what he does next week when he sees the needles for the hormone injections. I am not sure I want to associate him with pain during the pregnancy. Ha! I think just having him there to ice the belly or make jokes will help too🙂

        I just read one of your earlier posts. That reminded me about something my brain is doing right now. I wanted to wait until we were totally in the clear before we start buying baby stuff, like you guys did.

        But something has changed. It’s like a tiny manic voice in the back of my head that is saying ” If there isn’t anything in the house for the baby – he/she won’t think we are really expecting this one to work out and therefore won’t survive.”

        Is that NUTS?

        Of course I’ve had a migraine level headache on and off for the last 4 days on account of those freeeekin’ fertility drugs. Maybe that is where the voice is coming from.

        Sigh….. I think I will meet the voice inthe middle and buy one thing for the baby BEFORE we are in the clear. So I can hold it before I go to sleep and pray to the universe. It will be my calming object.

        Like

        • Jenny Hansen says:

          You’re NOT nuts. (And in case you hadn’t figured it out, I wrote this particular post for you after I got your email.)

          We designated a stuffed animal I got from my mom and broke down at 15 weeks and bought a home heart-rate monitor (which didn’t work because Baby Girl hid out behind my placenta). But, we’d bought something and it did make me feel better on a really weird level.

          I frustrated people to no end with my no cards and no presents rule. I didn’t even allow a baby shower until we passed the 32 week mark when we knew a baby could live no matter what. Others thought I was being weird and negative but it helped keep me sane.

          Like

  3. Since I’m not likely to get pregnant, I skipped over the details of the stomach shots, but once again I loved your post. You do this so well. I’m sending the link to a cousin who had a bit of trouble with her first and is afraid to try again.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL, David…I don’t blame you for skipping over the stomach shots! I would’ve liked to do that myself.🙂

      I hope the post helps your cousin and do tell her to feel free to ask me questions here or send me email at jennyhansensmail (AT) aol (DOT) com.

      Like

  4. tomwisk says:

    The child is lovely.

    Like

  5. I love that picture of your family! I’m way past having babies and never experienced anything close to what you did, but I still enjoy reading your journey because I see how enthusiastic and positive you are now and that just makes me smile. To know that you went through hell, basically, and can be this witty and lighthearted? My hat off to you!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I appreciate it, Tameri. But truly, I’m one of the lucky ones. At least I got a baby and nobody died. I have friends and family who’ve been trying for years and were not as lucky.

      I’ve got no complaints. Plus, it’s way to much energy to be crabby…I’m too lazy for that.🙂

      Like

  6. Amber West says:

    First of all, I love that picture of your family so much.

    Second, I am so glad you are writing about this. I am not one of those who had to take those steps to be pregnant, but I know many who have. I know they do feel alone. I know some who have lost several pregnancies. I know these women would value the information you are sharing. Particularly the way you share it.

    Hugs!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I love that picture too, Amber…one of my all time faves.🙂

      I have friends and family who have lost 2 babies, 5 babies, 11 babies…it’s heartbreaking. And amazing that the doctors today can do so much. Thanks for taking time to comment!

      Like

  7. Jenny —

    I’m Tiffany’s mom here. Not writing-world-Margie.

    Thanks for writing this blog for Tiffany. You did a fabulous job explaining the good and the icky.

    Everyone in the Support Tiffany During Pregnancy Tribe will read and learn. Tiffany’s Tribe will be uber-strong!

    Loved your family picture. Your daughter is precious. Wish you lived closer so I could hug her, and you.🙂

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You are a fantastic Tiffany-Mom. I missed my mom SO much when I was pregnant (she passed 5 years before). A great mom is such a comfort.

      It’s wonderful and VERY special that y’all are reading up on how to support your girl, plus Tiffany is learning to set the boundaries she needs to stay sane during the baby marathon. I’m very proud of her too – this high-risk business ain’t for sissies!

      Hugs back! Can’t wait to give you one live in July.🙂

      Like

      • Jenny – –

        I didn’t know about your mom. I’m sure she’d be so proud of you. I’ll give you a giant other-mom hug in July.

        Thank you again for the blog. You’re a Strong Mama. I know Tiffany will be a Strong Mama too. 🙂

        Like

  8. Another Wow Jenny! I’ve never heard of this. As I’ve said in the past, I really need to get out more! LOL! It never ceases to amaze me what you and others endure in order to have a child. What a wonderful thing you are doing by sharing your challenge. And what a beautiful family you make! Happiness exudes from your photo.🙂

    Like

  9. Hugs to you, Jenny (and that darling little girl), to Tiffany, and to Tiffany’s awesome mom.

    Jenny, you were SUCH a determined trooper. I know Tiffany has the same “can do” power within her.

    Like

  10. Laura Drake says:

    You’ve been holding out! I never saw that amazing photo of the three of you! I just thought of your mom, smiling down, watching you all — you’re so blessed.

    Thanks, Jenny, for the obvious help you’re giving to others.

    Hang in there, Tiffany (and Mom) persistence WILL triumph!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Yep, my mama’s definitely smiling. It’s part of why I’m so determined to finish this memoir and get it out there. Even if only 20 people read it, it’ll be worth it to me.🙂

      Like

  11. Sherry Isaac says:

    Hey Jenny,

    Gorgeous photo.

    I had to take Heparin after surgery, a shot in the arm. Yes, it burns. No, 8 days does not compare to a whole pregnancy, so I won’t even touch that. I did, however, get a whole lot of IVs for a different condition.

    For those like me who have trouble getting shots, my naturopath taught me a trick that helps me no matter the cause for the needle. I wiggle my toes, and if the shot is particularly painful, I wriggle the toes of one foot, then the other, back and forth. It helps to focus on something other than the needle.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Sherry, and that is an excellent tip! I think distraction is key to getting through the burn, so to speak. Heparin burns even worse than Lovenox. Damn lifesaving drugs…

      Like

  12. Julie Glover says:

    This is amazingly valuable, Jenny. You do such a great job of pulling together a weath of information and presenting it in summary form. I was unaware of these clotting issues. But I thank God and the medical field that my son and I are alive and healthy today. My placenta was stuck between baby and the exit sign, and 100 years ago I would have likely died in childbirth from hemorrhaging and my son as wel. My advice for any woman who has a higher risk pregnancy? Learn what you’re dealing with and be compliant! Hearing your shot story and then seeing your beautiful baby is a reminder that these measures are worth it.

    Like

  13. Excellent post, Jenny!

    I took heparin with both of my pregnancies (the ones that didn’t result in very early losses anyhow) for anticardiolipin (antiphospholipid) antibodies. My risk of blood clots was nowhere near as serious as Jenny’s. There wasn’t risk to me so much as to the baby. My body could create small clots that would obstruct the blood flow in the placenta. That could result in baby not growing very well or dying. Many women suffer multiple early miscarriages before being diagnosed with these antibodies (in my opinion, if you have 2 miscarriages in a row, you should definitely badger your doc to check for these antibodies).

    The heparin taking wasn’t fun. There were days I could barely face it and would get hubby to give me the shot whenever I could. But, in the end, it also wasn’t that bad either. There was some pain and the bruising was a little embarrassing (imagine having to explain to somebody catching sight of it that you take shots and are not getting knocked around by your hubby). I always knew that I was doing all I could to protect my baby. It’s one of those things that can seem so awful while you’re in it but you do get through it.

    Some years ago, I came across a study (I think it was from Japan) showing some women spontaneously cleared the antiphospholipid antibodies after pregnancy. So, I have hope that I may not need medication if we are blessed again. I know I’ll ask to be tested right away (even if I have to start heparin while I’m waiting to be tested) if I become pregnant. But, if I still have the antibodies, I’d willingly take the medication again. It’s worth it by far.

    Thanks again, Jenny, for all your research and information. A lot of this stuff doesn’t really get talked about in wider circles. It can be hard to find people who understand what it’s like. You rock!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Sonia, I completely root for you to get another one! And I hope your bod has cleared those antibodies. I had things I liked better about both Heparin and Lovenox, but Heparin sure does burn worse. YOU are a rockstar mommy!!

      Like

  14. Looks like I have baby-making-cheerleaders🙂 Give me an F ! Give me an E ! And the rest that follows is Fer-til-ity! *shake the pompoms*

    Ok, I know. Silly. But it is nice to have folks and gals to talk to, and I absolutely appreciate it.

    Instead of buying a baby thing, I think I will just hang on to my stuffed vintage E.T. and pray on him a bit. Then when it comes time that we are preggers and then if we get to the point where we can actually hear a heart beat – yup – I think you guys did it right when you bought the heartrate moniter. We will look into getting one of those badboys. Well…depending on how much they are.

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  15. Great write-up, Jenny.

    I spent the whole 9 months worrying needlessly. It was the best needless worrying I’ve ever done, worth every headache, worth every stressfully moment, worth the trips to the dentist to have my teeth put back in place from grinding them constantly. “We” had none of the major trauma you had to go through. ‘course, I know someone with a slightly different viewpoint to mine because I was on the easy side of the bloated, nothing fits, kicks all night long side of “we.”

    She looks beautiful, worth the shots – which again is easy for me to say on my side os “we”!

    Cheers!

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  16. Pingback: The Importance Of Boundaries To A High-Risk Pregnancy | Jenny Hansen's Blog

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