Placenta Accreta: Multiple C-Sections Can Kill Mother


Al-Kahn jump-started the high-risk program at Hackensack after one of his patients nearly died in 2004. The woman had had only one previous Caesarian and the placenta in her second pregnancy had implanted right on top of her scar.

"She started bleeding at 35 weeks and we took her into the operating room to deliver the baby," said Al-Kahn. "It got to the point that she went into shock and needed 33 units of blood. We intubated her and she was three days on a ventilator. She lost half of her bladder and it took 12 hours in the operating room to save her life."

"I said to myself, 'God save this individual so she can live to be with her two kids and her husband,'" said Al-Kahn. "I never wanted that to happen again."

Since the program was started in 2005, Al-Kahn has seen more than 60 patients with the risky condition. Both mortality and the number of transfusions have dropped, he said.

George, who had four other high-risk pregnancies because of preeclampsia and diabetes, was referred to Hackensack after her own doctor saw something ominous on an MRI.

"I could just see her trying to maintain a professional exterior and see she had more concerns than she wanted to let on," said George. When she learned she had placenta accrete, she prepared for the worst and got her affairs in order.

"It was very difficult," said George. "I'm the type of person that tends to think it's not going to happen to me. I didn't want to deal with the what-ifs. But we had to have that conversation. It was so surreal."

Her doctor sent her straight to Hackensack where George was given magnesium and steroids to encourage the baby's lung development. In the middle of New Jersey blizzards on Dec. 27, Hannah was delivered by a long Caesarian cut from the sternum to public bone.

There was never any danger to the baby, who was born in 45 minutes, but doctors were worried about George, cauterizing every blood vessel using hypothermic techniques so they could slowly peel away the placenta from the bladder.

"I feel so grateful," she said of her now 3-month-old daughter. "Hannah is amazing and has really brought this family together in such a way, I can't explain it."

But George said that her experience is a warning to other women who opt for Caesarian sections when surgery is not medically necessary.

"A Caesarian should never be done to accommodate your schedule or because of your fears of pain," she said. "It's an unnecessary trauma to the body and it should not be treated as an alternative to natural childbirth."

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