Every mother-to-be eagerly anticipates the day she brings home her healthy baby. But sometimes pregnancy doesn’t go the way the way it should – free of complications and risks. For these expectant mothers the specialized monitoring and clinical care of the Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) team can mean the difference between life and death.
Jenn McMillan was one of those moms. Her routine prenatal bloodwork showed critical levels of an antibody against the fetal red blood cells.
MFM specialist Dr. Tracy Pressey and her team were alerted to Jenn’s condition. “If an antibody of concern is detected on this blood test, patients like Jenn will be referred to us for counsel and to initiate weekly or twice weekly ultrasound surveillance and monitoring for signs of fetal anemia.”
Most of them won’t require transfusions, but Jenn was a rare case. “Jenn had anti-Kell antibodies and required four Intrauterine Fetal Transfusions (IUTs) starting at 26 weeks,” explains Dr. Pressey.
In an IUT, under direct ultrasound guidance the needle is inserted through the maternal abdomen and uterus and into a specific blood vessel within the fetal abdomen. This vessel is mere millimeters in size. Upon confirming proper positioning of the needle, a pre-determined volume of donor blood is transfused over a period of minutes. The placement of the needle, flow of transfused blood and fetal heart rate are all continuously monitored through ultrasound during the procedure by specially trained MFM experts.
Although B.C. has MFM clinics across the province, BC Women’s Hospital is the only one performing the lifesaving transfusions — and is one of just 10 Canada-wide.
Jenn says she can’t adequately express how grateful she is for Dr. Pressey and the MFM team.
“During one of the most difficult times in our lives, Dr. Pressey was there to ease our worries and to explain what to expect throughout the pregnancy,” says Jenn. “It was evident how much she and her whole team cared about us… Keira wouldn’t be here without them.”