Former BC Women’s patient Shelley Adams, like many women, experienced pregnancy loss and despite having gone through six traumatic miscarriages, she never gave up hope.
The first time Shelley learned she was pregnant was while still in the newlywed phase of her marriage back in 1995. It was a happy time and she couldn’t wait to start her life as a new wife and mother. The sad moment came at 13 weeks of pregnancy when she suffered from a hemorrhage. Her husband found Shelley passed out after returning home from work, and called 911 and she was then immediately rushed to the hospital. And from that moment on, life became difficult for a very long time.
After her first miscarriage, both Shelley and her husband were completely devastated. She was in shock, but Shelley knew that she wanted to be a mother. She would go on to have two more miscarriages within the year before being referred to BC Women’s for treatment.
The team at the Recurrent Pregnancy Loss clinic monitored Shelley, and through testing determined that she had some form of Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome (APA), an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system makes antibodies that attack and damage tissues or cells. During this time, there still wasn’t a lot of information about recurrent pregnancy loss and so Shelley was referred to participate in various clinical trials as part of the research occurring at BC Women’s to hopefully find answers.
Shelley spent nearly four years in the program, and was able to do so because of the care and support she received from the staff. It was a very lonely and emotional time for Shelley, where she had feelings of being less than the other happy moms with their children. She was never able to experience the joy of pregnancy with the looming threat of that being taken away from her at any given moment. She couldn’t even put herself through the simple act of shopping for maternity clothes or entertain the thought of a baby shower. Shelley was grateful for the attentive care at the hospital, both medically and emotionally through grief counselling and other psychiatry services.
Despite having suffered through three more miscarriages, Shelley wanted to try one more time as she didn’t want to have any regrets and needed to be at peace that she’s tried everything she could. With the seventh pregnancy, Shelley decided this will be her last ditch effort. As part of the research that Shelley participated in, she was treated with intravenous immunoglobulin therapy, where antibodies from donor blood plasma is intravenously circulated through the body.
It wasn’t the easiest pregnancy, as Shelley hemorrhaged at just six weeks into the pregnancy and later developed gestational diabetes. She was again thankful that she was able to easily access care at BC Women’s Diabetes clinic.
The turning point came at 18 weeks when her membranes ruptured and had to be admitted to the hospital on strict bed rest and monitoring. The goal by the hospital staff was to have Shelley make it through to 24 weeks, at this time she was also given the bleak reality that there is a less than five per cent chance of survival for her pregnancy even if she went to full term. She fortunately surpassed the goal of 24 weeks and delivered a tiny baby girl 11 weeks prematurely, named Karis who weighed in at 2.5 lbs.
After five long years, Shelley and her husband finally became the family that they dreamed of and we’re happy to report that Karis is now a beautiful healthy 16-year-old. Shelley advises to other women who are going through a similar experience that there can be hope and even though it can be a scary awful lonely time, get the support you need and allow yourself to go through the different emotions. Also, don’t forget your partner, who may also be suffering silently. As alone as you may feel, you don’t have to go through this alone.
To find support on pregnancy loss, visit our list of resources.