Placenta accreta – a risk of cesarean section

Posted on August 3, 2009. Filed under: Cesarean, Placenta accreta, Pregnancy, uterine rupture, vbac | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This is a very good article from vbacfacts.com.

“There is this idea that if you don’t VBAC and you schedule a repeat cesarean, that you will be safe from complications.  This is because during a “VBAC counsel,” women are often told of the risks of VBAC, namely uterine rupture, but they are rarely told the risks of repeat cesareans in their current and future pregnancies.

Abnormal placental implantation is one risk of cesareans that only present themselves when you get pregnant again.

Women who expect to only have two children, and thus opt for a repeat cesarean, might think that not VBACing is the safer, and more controlled choice, for them.

But what happens if you get pregnant again?  Now you have had two cesareans, your risk of placenta accreta (where the placenta grows through the uterus), placenta previa (where the placenta grows over the cerivx), and placental abruption (where the placenta prematurely separates from the uterine wall) all go up.  And here women think they are making the SAFER choice by having a repeat cesarean.

This news article from Canada illustrates this point.

I’ve underlined parts for those who like to skim.”


Complications worry MDs

Surgery carries risks, doctors say

By Sharon Kirkey, Canwest News Service August 1, 2009

Dr. Jan Christilaw was in the operating room the day a routine incision was made into a young mother’s abdomen to deliver her baby.

What happened next, Christilaw says, “is something we never want to see.”

Normally, the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus after birth. It’s lacy almost, and not like solid tissue. “You can take your hands and sort of scoop it up, it’s like breaking cobwebs as you go,” says Christilaw, an obstetrician and president of B.C. Women’s Hospital and Health Centre in Vancouver.

But the placenta had eroded through the wall of the uterus, a condition known as placenta accreta. As soon as they stretched the opening of the uterus to deliver the baby, “the placenta started bleeding everywhere,” Christilaw says.

They couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. The woman was losing two cups of blood every 30 seconds.

The only way to stop the bleeding was an emergency hysterectomy.  The woman was in the operating room for eight hours and lost 15 litres of blood.

It used to be that obstetricians might only ever see one or two cases of placenta accreta in their lifetime. Although still rare, obstetricians across Canada say one of the most feared complications of pregnancy is increasing as a direct consequence of the nation’s rising cesarean section rate.

Virtually all placenta accretas occur in women who have had a previous C-section, and the risk increases with each additional surgical delivery. The placenta attaches to the old C-section scar. Scars don’t have a proper blood supply to feed a placenta, so it keeps burrowing into the uterus until it finds one, sometimes pushing through the uterus completely and into the bladder or other organs.

The condition can be detected by ultrasound, but not always. “You almost never see it in a woman who has not had a C-section,” Christilaw says.

Today, about 28 per cent of babies born in Canada are delivered by caesarean. In 1969, Canada’s rate was five per cent.

More than 78,000 caesarean sections were performed in Canada last year, making it the single most frequently performed surgery on Canadian women.

“We don’t know what the ideal rate is,” says Dr. Mark Walker, a high-risk
obstetrician at the Ottawa Hospital and senior scientist with the Ottawa
Hospital Research Institute. “I think it’s fair to assume it’s lower than
where we are now.”

Walker says changing demographics — older first-time mothers, more multiple births from fertility treatments, more mothers with hypertension, diabetes, obesity and other health problems — are not enough to explain an almost doubling in the C-section rate since the early 1990s.

Neither is there evidence to support the idea that women are seeking
C-sections on demand.
Studies from Ontario suggest less than one per cent of caesareans are for “maternal request.”

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada says the vast
majority of caesareans are done for medically valid reasons. But there are concerns that too many are being ordered because labour isn’t progressing quickly enough, and that thousands of “routine” interventions are now being done that increase the odds of a woman needing a surgical birth.

What’s more, the number of women who give birth vaginally after a previous C-section is dropping dramatically, meaning more and more women are having repeat C-sections.

Dr. Michael Klein calls it the industrialization of childbirth, where, in
today’s risk-averse society, women in labour are being treated “as an
accident waiting to happen” and where doing something is always better than doing nothing.

“Physicians and society have helped women basically believe that childbirth is no longer a natural phenomenon, but an opportunity for things to go wrong,” says Klein, emeritus professor in the departments of family practice and pediatrics at the University of British Columbia.

“But the fundamental issue is, we aren’t improving outcomes by doing more C-sections. For the first time in Canada, we are seeing the key indicators for mothers and babies going in the wrong direction.”

Risks to babies range from accidental lacerations when the surgeon cuts into the uterus, to neonatal respiratory distress. Research suggests two times as many babies born via C-section will end up in an incubator with water on their lungs, or with serious respiratory problems compared to babies delivered vaginally, because a C-section interferes with the normal hormonal and physiological changes associated with labour that prepare a baby to take its first breath.

Risks to women include higher risks of hemorrhage requiring a hysterectomy, major infections including blood infections, wound infections and bladder infections, and blood clots in the lungs — and every C-section increases the risk for another.

“If you have a caesarean section for the first birth, the probability of
having one the second time around is huge, because of the difficulty women have in getting a doctor to look after them once they have a uterine scar,
” Klein says.

The worry is that the scar will pull apart during labour, causing a uterine
rupture.

“If you have a catastrophic rupture, you can get into big trouble,”
Christilaw says. “You can have a negative outcome for mom or baby. In severe situations, the baby can die or become damaged — but that’s a very rare outcome.”

Her hospital is encouraging more VBACs — vaginal births after caesarean — in carefully selected women. “In those women who attempt a VBAC, our success rate is well over 80 per cent.”

But less than one in five women in Canada with a previous C-section
delivered vaginally in 2007-08. Eighty-two per cent had a subsequent
C-section.

Christilaw says the only thing preventing Canada from seeing “horrific”
complication rates from C-sections is the fact women are not having as many babies as they once did
.

“A C-section can be a life-saving manoeuvre for a mother or baby. Nobody is saying differently,” she says. “What we’re trying to say to people is, a C-section is not a benign thing. If you need one, that’s different. But you should not be doing this unless you absolutely have to.”

C-sections are frequently the end result of a cascade of interventions that
often starts with inductions.

Tens of thousands of women in Canada have their labours artificially induced every year, often via intravenous infusion of artificial oxytocin. Oxytocin is naturally produced by the human body. It’s what creates contractions in labour. Today in Canada, one in five women who gives birth in hospital is induced.

What doctors fear are stillbirths. But alarmed by the rising rates of
inductions, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada
recently urged doctors not to consider an induction until a woman is at
least one week past her due date
.

Claudia Villeneuve says that women are getting induced “if they’re two,
three, four days overdue.”

“Inductions are rampant,” says Villeneuve, president of the International
Cesarean Awareness Network of Canada. “You have a perfectly normal mom who comes in with a perfectly normal baby, and now you put these powerful drugs into her system to force labour to start.”

The “humane” thing is to offer an epidural, she says. With an epidural, a
woman can’t feel pain in the lower half of her body. But epidurals slow
labour, sometimes so much that labour stops.
“Now you have to get this baby out,” Villeneuve says. Two-thirds of first-time C-sections are done for “failure to progress.”

Klein says epidurals are too often given before active labour is
established.

“The majority of women today get their epidurals in the parking lot.”

Kayla Soares had been in mild labour at home for 24 hours when her
contractions suddenly stopped. Doctors told the Edmonton mother she would have to be induced. She was three centimetres dilated when they started the oxytocin drip.

“It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in the world,” she remembers. “I
wasn’t having contractions at all and then they put me on the oxytocin and every half-hour they would boost it up, so the contractions were coming every minute, pretty much. It was like going from nothing to being in crazy, absolute labour, and in so much pain.” Eleven hours later, she was still just three centimetres dilated. “That’s when they said it was enough, and they were doing a C-section.

“I didn’t want to do it. I was asking, could we just have more time?”

Three weeks later, she still couldn’t get out of bed without help. Her
incision had become infected. “It felt like I was ripping apart every time I
moved. It was a pretty brutal recovery.”

Soares had her second baby in June. “I was dead set on having a VBAC,” a vaginal delivery after cesarean. “It was a fight, an uphill battle the  whole time with doctors.” One obstetrician asked her her shoe size. “She said that because I was a size five and smaller framed that I definitely was going to have another caesarean and that a VBAC wouldn’t happen. She said that because I was a ‘failure to progress’ the first time I’ll be a ‘failure to progress again.’”

Two weeks before her daughter was born, Soares started going in and out of labour. “They had me convinced it was causing stress to the baby even though the tests said everything was fine. They had me convinced it was enough, because I was overdue and they said my incision was going to rupture,” she says.

“They just kind of scared me into having another C-section.”

© Copyright (c) The Windsor Star

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C Section With an Inverted T Incision and Face Presentation

Posted on July 1, 2009. Filed under: Birth, Cesarean, Face First/Mentum Presentation, inverted t incision, Pregnancy, vbac | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I have procrastinated writing this post. It is the post that I most wanted to write from the moment I my cyber friend Pam dreamed up the idea of writing a blog. I have put it off because I needed to organize my thoughts and my statistics and references and people. Well, really not MY people but the people who are out there that are dealing with having an inverted t incision scar. I feel the pull to get it all down and typed out and saved somewhere that is easily accessible on the internet though so it’s time to stop procrastinating. I just want to make sure that if there is a woman out there googling ‘inverted t incision’ she finds the answers to some of her questions because there is not a lot of information out there. I feel that if I can at least put everything I know in one place maybe someone else will have an easier time than I did when I was trying to learn everything I could.

My quest for inverted t incision knowledge began with my own birth story. In short, we ended up with a cesarean after a very long natural labor that resulted in an inverted t incision because of my son’s face first presentation. So there is no confusion about what the face first presentation is as some people confuse it for ‘face up’ or OP (occiput posterior), I have included some pictures below.The first picture shows what a normal vertex occiput anterior baby looks like in utero. The second picture shows how the baby hyper extends it’s neck when presenting face first. The third shows the different ways the baby can present. My son was Left Mentum Transverse (LMT).

Optimal Fetal Position Occiput Anterior

Optimal Fetal Position Occiput Anterior

Example of face first in utero, shows hyperextended neck

Example of face first in utero, shows hyper extended neck

Diagram of fetal positions, my son was LMT

Diagram of fetal positions, my son was LMT

Here is an article written by a woman who delivered a face first presentation. I added it into my article because I am scared that one day the link will not work. The link is HERE. Below is the article…

Face Presentation is a relatively uncommon labor presentation (only about .4 percent of births) when the baby is head down but has its neck extended, as if looking down the birth canal, rather than with its chin tucked into it’s chest.  The chin or the nose presents first (very rarely the brow), not the top of the head.

Presentation refers to the part of the baby first entering the pelvic structure on it’s way out the vagina.  A vertex birth (head first) happens approximately 95 percent of the time.  The options (in order of occurance) are: Vertex, Breech, Shoulder, Face, Brow

Attitude is the relationship of the baby’s extremities -arms, legs and head – to his main body.  A fully flexed baby is compact and compared to poorly flexed or extended.   A fully flexed vertex presentation makes for the smallest diameter of the baby’s head exiting at all times.  If the baby’s head is only partly flexed, a larger diamer will have to come through the birth canal, making for a longer labor and more difficult exit.  (Trust me on this!)  If the baby’s head is Fully Extended, the baby is Presenting by Face.  This sounds very scary when described, as the head is bent backwards till it is resting on the back shoulders.  It appears like the baby is going to break it’s neck coming out!

Labor: The top of the baby’s head will be resting (uncomfortably!) on the mother’s backbone.  Labor will likely be slower since the face is not an ideal canidate to dilate the cervix.  Mom is probably going to be in a bit of extra pain.    In my case, once I past transition I had no urge to push since the head was not hitting the proper nerves.  (I don’t know if this is always the case or not)   I found this very disconserting since I knew from past experience I should be wanting to push.  The diamater of the head as it presents is about the same as a vertex birth (abt 9.5 cm).  However, while the presenting parts may be equal, for the face presenting baby – the full width of the head is to follow!    When a baby is vertex, the head bones actually mold together and overlap, making the head easier to push through and out of the birth canal.   Face presentations have no such luck.

Having an angel-faced baby is akin in size to a breech birth!!  However, as long as the baby is face up – chin facing the mom’s bellybutton – there is no danger.   With a breech birth, the danger is the head getting suck in the birth canal after the body has sucussfully exited, possibly with the cord pinched.  With a face first baby, the head comes out first – so there is no danger of asphyxiation.

Please note that angel-faced baby’s are routinely C-sectioned in hospitals.  Any baby that is sunny-side up “fits the requirement for a c-section”.   Moreover, since labor will be longer and mom will appear to be ‘hung up’ at stages – some will say there is a faliure to progress.  (Again, this is simply because the nose does a poor job of dilating the cervix.)  Please give labor a try – these babies can and do fit!  It’s worth the extra effort.

The Prognosis: Since Angel babies are born sunny-side up (face and throat facing upwards toward the ceiling) the baby needs to be suctioned at once, so no amnioatic fluid is asperiated into the lungs.  Since the baby is born with his neck pushing against the mother’s pubic bone, there is sometimes a fear that the child will suffer from breathing difficulties (edema around the throat), but this rarely happens.  Although the baby is terribly bruised during the labor (imagine using YOUR nose to force through the birth canal!) the prognosis for mommy and baby (assuming they have a caring provider that allows them to birth vaginally) is fine.  The face will be swollen for a day or so.  90 percent of angel-faced baby’s deliver vaginally!!!   Mine did!  At over 9 1/2 pounds too!  With a big ole face like a dinner plate!

If the chin is facing the Mom’s tailbone:  (Posterior)  Then the prognosis is not so good.  Even midwives agree that if you have a face presenting baby with a “mentum posterior”, vaginal delivery is almost impossible.   Often the chin will get hooked on the tailbone, and the baby is wedged in the no-mans land of the birth canal.   Happily of all face presentations, only about 30 percent are posterior and many of them rotate before they get stuck.

Vaginal Delivery: Remember, 90 percent of all face presentation babiess deliver vaginally!!  The reason for this is most face babies aren’t diagonosed until very late in the labor when it is already apparent that baby is coming down that birth canal, doctor training or no!  Be aware that if a hospital rountinly uses sonograms during labor, or if your doctor is doing frequent vaginal exams, they will discover your baby is facing the heavens and may request a preemptive c-section (because of the small danger a baby may asphyxiate on it’s own amniotic fluid.)  You need to decide what you feel the risks of this are.  I had my angel baby vaginally, natrually, and at home.  And it’s a decision I feel blessed I made.

Material gathered from:  Spiritual Midwifery, by Ina May Gaskin & Gentlebirth

Also some cool midwife books that I don’t own but that my midwife brought over the day after Stealth Baby’s birth to show head position, rotation and generally talk about what happened the night before while I was in labor land.

Most face first presentations are delivered vaginally as they aren’t diagnosed until the baby is descending. In order for a baby to deliver face first, it would need to be mentum (chin) anterior. Face first labors tend to be much more painful for the mom and much slower since faces don’t dilated the cervix very well. Only 0.4% of babies will present face first. In my situation, the doctor didn’t catch that my son was face first and she even tickled his head to stimulate his heart. She must have felt his cheek or forehead. Often times doctors will realize the presentation when they check and the baby sucks their finger. Sometimes the mouth is mistaken for the anus and the baby is misdiagnosed as being breech. The causes of face first presentations can be a weak abdominal wall and the pelvic shape. Other times it’s an OP (occiput posterior) baby who just happens to stick their face in the pelvis at some point during labor.

It has been said that the problem with the face first presentation isn’t really the face but what follows. In our case, my son had a 14.5 inch head that had the face engaged the pelvis would have had to pass through the pelvis unmolded. I am sure that wouldn’t have happened. I do not really believe that women can grow babies they can’t birth but in a situation where a rather large head must birth unmolded, it makes me wonder. Regardless, because his face presented transversely, he was unable to engage past a -3 station anyway. This article discusses face first presentations in more depth.

My face first presentation was diagnosed once the c section began. He was wedged in such a way that he couldn’t go forward and pulling him back out was very difficult as well. This resulted in the additional vertical cut into  the contractile portion of the uterus. Interestingly enough, as only 0.4% of babies present face first, only 0.4% of cesareans are inverted t incisions. They are typically saved as a last resort in emergency situations are extremely difficult deliveries that require more room to maneuver within the uterus.

When a cesarean delivery starts out with a horizontal bikini cut as mine did and then is given the additional vertical cut, usually the cut is small and stays in the lower segment of the uterus. These kind of scars are generally considered safe to VBAC although finding a provider may be difficult. My operative report does not indicate how long the vertical cut was, sometimes the doctor does include that information. Mine only says that it was cut into the contractile portion of the uterus. Sometimes the t extension does go into the fundus or the top of the uterus. This is more representative of  a classical incision and is considered riskier.

Because of the increased amount of scar tissue and a scar in the contractile muscles, the recommendation from ACOG is that women with inverted t incisions should not TOL (trial of labor) in future pregnancies. My doctor also told me that I should deliver at 36 weeks after an amniocentesis to check for lung maturity. While the third trimester risks of amniocentesis are low
, I have a big problem with purposefully delivering a preterm baby by elective cesarean. My son was born at 41 weeks and 1 day. He was 8lbs and 5 oz. He was healthy other than the birth trauma and breathing issues related to our cesarean. He obviously needed to gestate that long. At 36 weeks, he would have been 5 weeks and a day early. He definitely would not have been ready to be born.

This early delivery recommendation stems from the increased risk of uterine rupture. There is an increased risk but it may not be as high as some doctors make it out to be. The rupture rate for a low horizontal cut (bikini) is about .5% and I have heard doctors say there is a 15% chance of rupture for an inverted t incision (offering no info to back up that claim and not responding when I challenged it). I have read online where doctors say 4-9% but with no references or studies proving that range.

Ann Frye says “.As far as the type of incision goes, the mother who has a low transverse uterine incision is at the lowest risk for scar-related problems such as dehiscence and rupture. Those with classical or T-shaped incisions are at more risk for rupture, which tends to be more traumatic than the usually benign scar disruptions which occur in women with low transverse incisions. While some types of incisions pose more risk, the highest risk is still probably around 5% (some scars are more rare and limited data is available. From looking at the existing data, 5% seems to me a generous estimate of risk for all types of Cesarean scars, with the order of risk as follows: low transverse [0.5% Haq, 1988; to 2% Clark, 1988], low vertical [1.3% Enkin, 1989], classical and inverted T [probably about the same for both: 2.2% to 4%, depending on the study], upright T and J-incision [probably somewhat higher, but no specific data is available].). Women with an upright T, J-shaped, or classical incision or those who have experienced previous uterine rupture may want to birth in the hospital, although finding a practitioner that will assist them to have a VBAC will be more difficult. However, in these cases scar disruption is **most likely** [emphasis the author’s] to occur during pregnancy with accompanying fetal distress and possible death, or not at all. ” The references are vague here as well.

The Landon Study (2004) found that the rate of rupture for inverted t incisions is 1.9%. I tend to trust this study more than anything a doctor tells me or any other study. The reason is because it seems to be the largest one I can find. Most women with inverted t’s do have repeat cesareans so there are not many large studies. This particular study included a total of 17,898 women who had TOL after cesarean. Of these, 14,483 had a prior low transverse incision (bikini cut) and the rupture rate was 0.07%. Of the total 17,898 women who had TOL, 105 had inverted t incisions, j or classical incisions. Two of these women ruptured equaling a 1.9% rupture rate for inverted t, j and classical incisions combined. All of them either showed up late in labor or simply refused repeat cesareans. The outcomes for these two women and their babies were not included in the study.

For me personally,I am comfortable with TOL after inverted t in a supportive environment with fetal monitoring. If I have a successful VBAC, I am comfortable home birthing the next one. I have found a doctor that will TOL with me. His only requirements are venous access (hep lock but I don’t have to have the IV if I don’t want it) and continual electronic fetal monitoring. I can live with both under the circumstances. I will have no time constraints on my labor, limited staff interruption, the use of a tub and wireless portable monitoring, a doula, my Bradley Method trained husband and the comfort of knowing if my uterus blows that my doctor is there waiting in the hallway. There is a 0.095% chance of the baby dying in the event of a uterine rupture. Outcomes are greatly improved when the cesarean can be performed within 20 minutes of the suspected rupture. For me, I can VBAC comfortable knowing these percentages. I think that the option to VBAC for moms with inverted t incisions should be based on the mothers comfort level and knowledge. I hope that this post can help moms make a more educated decision. I will add new information as I learn it.

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