Vasa Praevia: The Silent Killer of Healthy, Full Term Babies
- Categorized in: RED ALERT
It's been accurately described as: the baby sharing the womb with a time bomb. While the parents-to-be have no idea at all that anything is wrong...
I remember the terrifying horror like it was yesterday: the day when our newborn baby, Marcus, died. We lost a perfectly healthy, full term baby boy to vasa praevia. Totally unexpectedly, as is most common. It wasn't diagnosed till Marcus was being delivered. This is also very common.
With Marcus, it had been an uneventful pregnancy: there were no signs that anything was wrong. I went into labour, and began to give birth. But suddenly I started to bleed violently from my vagina. The doctor and nurses were also distressed, and I know they did everything they could. But nothing could have saved my son: Marcus died the same day he was born. You see, it was he who had been bleeding so rapidly -- not me. I learned that Marcus lost more than half his blood supply in just a moment or two. He couldn't maintain his blood pressure, or body temperature. His kidneys stopped functioning. Every organ in his tiny body was shutting down. And then my son, who had been so perfectly healthy just before he was born, died in my arms.
That was in 1971. What’s shocking is that, nearly 40 years later, vasa praevia -- the condition that caused my baby’s death -- is still going largely undetected. An estimated 1 in every 2000 or 3000 healthy, full term babies continue to die as a result. Yet today, this tragedy can be so easily prevented.
In 1971 nothing could be done, because we didn’t have ultrasound technology back then. But today, all it takes is a harmless, transvaginal ultrasound and colour doppler test to detect vasa praevia.
Undetected, vasa praevia results in fetal death 90 ~ 95 % of the time. But when it’s detected – so easily, and long before birth – a caesarean section is performed, and the infant survival rate is nearly 100%.
What is more tragic however, is that it remains not routinely looked for. What I fail to understand is that ultrasound technology is routinely used to detect birth defects at the 16-week mark. And it’s wonderful that they can do that. But surely, the very life of the unborn baby is of far greater importance…
I urge all pregnant women to ask your doctor for this ultrasound test. I urge all doctors to advise your pregnant patients about vasa praevia. And if, gentle reader, your friend or family member is pregnant, please tell them about it.
What is Vasa Praevia and how can these babies be saved? Read the next page...