For most parents, pregnancy is a joyous, happy time. For Megan Guzman, now 25 weeks pregnant, pregnancy has been filled with trepidation.
It all started about 10 weeks ago when doctors learned that Megan’s unborn son, Eric Arthur, had a condition so rare that it affects only about one in 4,000 pregnancies – fetal bladder obstruction. If undetected and untreated, it is almost always fatal.
“In Megan’s case, when you looked at [her] little one’s bladder, it was super, super enlarged,” Sina Haeri, M.D., a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at St. David’s Women’s Center of Texas told KHOU.com. “It had backed up the urine up the kidneys.”
According to Dr. Haeri, fetal bladder obstruction reveals itself right around 15 weeks, when the placenta stops producing amniotic fluid.
“After the placental production cuts off, the baby is unable to empty out the urine,” he said. “Eventually, that water around the baby gets lesser and lesser. That compression on the baby’s chest causes the lungs not to develop. That, in turn, leads to almost 100 percent mortality in the baby.”
Tests on Megan showed that the baby’s genes and kidneys were normal, so doctors were able to go through her abdomen to place a shunt in little Eric’s abdomen.
“We put a shunt or tube between the bladder and the amniotic cavity inside the uterus to bypass the blockage and let that fluid exit,” Haeri said. “It saves the kidneys and it provides a cushion for the baby’s lungs to develop.”
But while the surgery does have the potential to save the life of a baby suffering from fetal bladder obstruction, the procedure comes with its very own set of risks, some of which could lead to permanent complications or even loss of the baby.
“There’s always a chance of hitting a blood vessel, or hitting an organ,” he said. “The baby can often pass away from the procedure, or have irreversible damage, but those are risks that the couple takes to provide the benefit to the baby.”
Megan and her husband were willing to take the risk, if it meant giving their baby a chance to live. But they definitely worried about the outcome of the procedure, and whether or not their son would survive.
“I was very scared and very terrified that he wasn’t going to be able to make it, because there was a lot of risk in the procedure,” Megan told KHOU.com.
And, as it turns out, little Eric did just fine. In fact, things went so smoothly that Megan says she was honestly “amazed.” Now, ten weeks later, Megan’s baby is being closely monitored, and it seems that everything is going very well. Megan says she is now trying to keep her sights set on her October due date and is hopefully trying to enjoy the rest of her pregnancy with a little less fear.
Of course, there will be more to deal with once little Eric is finally born. Though the shunt has saved his life, it has not corrected the problem; it’s simply given him the ability to develop normally inside the womb. Once born, he will need bladder obstruction surgery to permanently correct the problem.
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