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.
- It helped me to pinch the skin at the shot site before injecting.
- Sometimes, in a particularly sore area, ice made a difference.
- I preferred to inject slowly – it seemed to burn less than just depressing the plunger.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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…