Stepping in early to save a life

An unexpected pregnancy leaves a mother worried about her baby’s future, until the experts at Norton Children’s Hospital Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialists step in

An unexpected pregnancy leaves a mother worried about her baby’s future, until the experts at Norton Children’s Hospital Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialists step in.

Carrie and Jeff Schreck were the proud parents of four beautiful children when they unexpectedly found out they were pregnant with their fifth. During Carrie’s fourth pregnancy with son Cole, she developed complications from a blood disorder that affects the unborn baby. She knew from the beginning of this pregnancy that she may have the same issue.

The condition, called anti-Jka, causes a mother’s body to create antibodies against the blood of her fetus, which ultimately leads to the destruction of the baby’s blood. While most cases of this condition are mild and require only monitoring, Carrie required more intervention to save her baby.

At her 10-week checkup Carrie learned the anti-Jka condition was going to affect her pregnancy. Immediately, her care was transferred to Thomas N. Tabb, M.D., with Norton Children’s Hospital Maternal- Fetal Medicine Specialists, a practice that cares for women with high-risk pregnancies. Dr. Tabb had cared for Carrie during her previous pregnancy, but she hadn’t required his assistance this early on.

By 20 weeks, Carrie was scheduled for her first fetal blood transfusion. The delicate procedure requires a precise amount of a donor’s blood and a skilled hand as a large needle is inserted into the pencil-sized umbilical cord and delivers blood that is not susceptible to the antibodies.

“This procedure has to be done very carefully. Even the slightest amount of too much blood and the baby can go into heart failure,” Dr. Tabb said. “Every time you complete a procedure like this, early delivery is also a concern. Given that the first couple of transfusions were required so early on in the pregnancy made this a much more complex and sensitive condition to treat. We rarely have to perform in-utero blood transfusions on babies so small and underdeveloped.”

Carrie would face 11 attempts at fetal blood transfusions during her pregnancy, and eight would be successful.

“There were days that the baby would not cooperate and would be moving and kicking way too much for Dr. Tabb to try the infusion,” Carrie said. “When it came to the baby’s safety, he was aggressive but not risky and we appreciated that. We would just try a different day.”

Carrie was closely monitored throughout her pregnancy with weekly ultrasounds to check on the baby’s progress.

On June 21, 2014, Carrie and Jeff welcomed a healthy baby girl, Eliza. After spending only 24 hours in the Norton Children’s Hospital neonatal intensive care unit for monitoring, she went home on time with her parents.

“It was a challenging time for sure but a blessing too. There are very few parents who get to see their baby grow every week. We knew her so well before she ever even arrived!” Carrie said. “Having care close to home, with a staff we trusted and knew so well, made the entire experience that much better.”

About Norton Children’s Hospital Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialists

With a team of seven physicians, Norton Children’s Hospital Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialists is dedicated to providing comprehensive care for women experiencing high-risk pregnancies, such as carrying multiples, premature labor, maternal hypertension, diabetes and other pregnancy-related conditions. These specialists also provide diagnoses and counseling for genetic disorders, birth defects and inherited conditions.

As a highlight, the practice offers a comprehensive Diabetes and Pregnancy Center for expectant women with pre-existing diabetes and/or gestational diabetes. A team of on-site certified diabetes educators works with patients and their families to provide monitoring and education to help manage and control diabetes effectively during pregnancy.

Norton Children’s Hospital Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialists cares for women in Greater Louisville and Southern Indiana, as well as at outreach offices in Ashland, Owensboro, Paducah and Leitchfield, Kentucky, and Madison, Indiana. They deliver babies at Norton Hospital and Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Louisville.

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