While pregnancy can be one of the happiest times in your life, it doesn't always go according to plan. A subchorionic hemorrhage is a pregnancy hiccup you don't anticipate, but it doesn't have to be the end of the road.
*If you're at all queasy reading about bleeding or medical stories, skip this article. Also, this article is not meant to be a substitute for medical diagnosis or evaluation. It is one person's unique experience. Please ask a medical professional if you expect that you have a subchorionic hematoma.
It should have been one of the best times in my life-- it was the weekend of my sister's wedding, and I just found out that I was in my first trimester-- just about 8 weeks pregnant with my first baby. But I noticed a little bit of spotting, which kind of put a damper on things. Was it a symptom of an early miscarriage?
I didn't give it too much thought and enjoyed the weekend. But the next week, after I went out to dinner with a friend, I noticed a large amount of vaginal bleeding when I went to the bathroom.
Since this was my first pregnancy, I didn't even consider that seeing massive blood clots could be anything other than a miscarriage. My husband was out of town, and I felt utterly alone. After weighing the medical options, I figured there wasn't much for me to do at that point, so I had a long, sleepless night waiting for my doctor's office to open the next morning.
I remember driving to the doctor the next day, feeling really angry when I was hearing some ad on the radio about babies or diapers. Didn't they know how much I was suffering?!?! But I kept driving and pulled myself together when I got to the OBGYN's office.
At least, I pulled it together until I saw my sister who came to sit with me. At that point, I was a bit of a mess. I was surrounded by so many glowing pregnant women with their perfectly round bellies or newborns waiting with their moms in what felt like a cruel joke at the time.
Then came the moment of truth- the ultrasound. The grand finale of my pregnancy, so I thought. But instead of death, I heard the quick heartbeats fluttering with determination deep within my belly.
Tears welled in my eyes when I finally heard that long-awaited sound. There it was. A strong warrior heartbeat beating inside of me.
I hadn't miscarried-- I had a subchorionic hematoma. And ultimately, we were going to be okay. Yes, the sight of the little blood clot sharing space in my uterus with my raspberry-sized baby wasn't ideal. But it wasn't hopeless, either. I had heard the sounds of life.
Even though women experience vaginal bleeding in about 16-25% of pregnancies according to studies, it's not exactly something you'd bring up in everyday conversation. Since a subchorionic hematoma only occurs in about 3% of pregnancies, many first-time mothers have no idea that this condition even exists.
Googling terms like "subchorionic hematoma" or "subchorionic hemorrhage" can be mildly terrifying, to say the least! Subchorionic literally means between the chorion, which is the fetal membrane and a hematoma is a blood clot. So a "subchorionic hematoma" is a blood clot in the uterus, which is not harmful to the mother, and in most cases, it's not harmful to the baby either. Within a few weeks or months, most subchorionic hematomas just go away on their own.
Assuming there isn't a more serious condition, or possibly placenta previa (a completely different condition), the most difficult part, at least from the mother's point of view, happens when the hematoma morphs into a hemorrhage. So instead of a blood clot on the inside, you have full-on bleeding on the outside. It's almost like the heaviest period you've ever had, but worse. You have no idea when your bleeding will hit.
Some physicians might recommend bed rest, which would spare you any type of potential accidents. But I personally had no physical restrictions with my pregnancy. Check with your physician if you have any questions about what types of activities you should and shouldn't do. A subchorionic hematoma usually occurs in early pregnancy, especially the first trimester, and then it gradually goes away.
Everyone's story is different, but I experienced bleeding for several weeks after my initial incident. It definitely lessened over time. After my first trimester, I could comfortably leave the house without fear of another accident, for the most part. I had one surprise and final bleeding sending me to the hospital around the 26 weeks mark. But once again, hearing that heartbeat in the ultrasound reminded us that our little one would be okay. And we would be, too.
I'm over a decade removed from the stress of my subchorionic hemorrhage experience, but I'll never forget all of the life-giving words from mothers who had gone before me. I soaked up every positive story of mothers and children who had made it through those stressful weeks. Granted, not everyone's story had a happy ending, but even in those situations, seeing the resilience and strength of these women gave me such hope.
For every story ending in happy baby coos, I heard another of loss. But I clung to all of the stories. No matter what happened, they made it through this time, and so would I. One way or another.
Our daughter's name means "Famous Warrior," and I often think about some of the earliest days of her life. If she can survive sharing a room with a hematoma that was bigger than she was at the time, anything is possible!
Now that she's eleven, the only times I ever think of that difficult first pregnancy is when I talk to other moms who might be going through the same thing. So many of those challenging, uncertain memories come flooding back. But now I've made it to the other side. Trust me: it gets better!