Deciding to have a baby is a major life milestone, but about 10% of women in the U.S. have difficulty getting or staying pregnant.
Andrea Curran, RN, who has been a Labor and Delivery nurse at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns for 14 years, was excited to start a family of her own. After getting married in 2014, Andrea and her husband, Jeremy, immediately began trying to have a baby.
After six months with no success, they met with a fertility specialist. Unfortunately, their test results showed it would be unlikely for her to get pregnant naturally. They would need to explore alternate options to grow their family.
“All I could think about was how after so many years of trying to be responsible and not getting pregnant before I was ready, now I couldn’t get pregnant at all,” says Andrea. “I questioned every decision I had made leading up to that point.”
Moving on to IVF
After trying some less invasive options, Andrea and Jeremy decided that in vitro fertilization (IVF) was their best option for becoming pregnant. IVF is the joining of a woman's egg and a man's sperm outside of her body in a laboratory. The fertilized egg is then implanted in the woman’s uterus.
“To say I was terrified that it wouldn’t work was an understatement,” says Andrea. “I could not fathom that we may not have the family we so desperately wanted.”
The Currans did three years of IVF that included multiple egg retrievals and unsuccessful implantations — but these hurdles did not stop Andrea. Her family knew how much she wanted to have a little one of her own and she was blessed to have her niece donate eggs. Once they added the donated eggs to the IVF process, Andrea became pregnant.
“Describing this journey in a few sentences does not truly embody the hoops, time, injections, money and hoping we had to go through for years,” says Andrea. “But once we found that I was finally pregnant after so long, it was all worth it.”
Since 2014, more than 1 million babies have been born via IVF in the U.S., according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. However, IVF increases the chance of certain complications during pregnancy, including gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, vaginal bleeding and premature birth.
“I understood that IVF increased the possibility of complications, but I was confident in the care I would receive at Sharp Mary Birch,” Andrea says.
A challenging delivery
Andrea’s water broke suddenly when she was nearly 26 weeks pregnant. Not yet in her third trimester, she rushed to Sharp Mary Birch and was immediately admitted to the Perinatal Special Care Unit (PSCU). The doctors and nurses did everything possible to extend the time her son grew inside her while avoiding infection and other complications.
They gave her magnesium to protect the baby’s brain and steroids to support the lungs. During Andrea’s stay, a perinatologist — or doctor who specializes in complicated pregnancies — did a growth scan at the beginning of her hospitalization and before delivery, confirming that her baby had grown six ounces.
After 15 days in the PSCU, Andrea went into active labor. She was 6 centimeters dilated but her son was breech. This means the baby is in the bottom-down position, instead of head-down, which leaves baby’s head to be delivered last, risking their head or shoulders becoming wedged against the mother’s pelvic bone. Because of this, Andrea was taken in for an emergency cesarean section — or C-section — delivery.
Kyler was just 2 pounds, 6 ounces when he was born at 27 weeks and 6 days.
“It was a long and scary process from the moment of being admitted into the PSCU, but I was supported every step of the way,” says Andrea. “The doctors and nurses cared for me like I was a family member.”
NICU to now
Kyler began his 59-day stay in the NICU supported by a team of experts. Even though he was born prematurely, he never had to receive oxygen therapy and surpassed the expectations of the NICU caregivers.
As a Sharp Mary Birch nurse who splits her time between Triage, the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) and Labor and Delivery, Andrea got to experience her departments from a different perspective.
In the NICU, she witnessed the benefits of hydrotherapy, a handling technique used in physical therapy treatments performed in warm water to promote brain development and motor patterns in babies born earlier than 32 weeks. She also greatly appreciated the specialized dietitians that monitored the feeding tube in Kyler’s nose and belly and worked alongside the lactation team to get her milk supply on track.
“One day, they made a sign that said ‘love’ and the V was Kyler’s footprint,” says Andrea. “I was welcomed with notes from nurses that cared for Kyler while I was gone that said he got plenty of feeding and snuggling.”
After experiencing the high level of care at Sharp Mary Birch firsthand, it was a given that when Andrea had a miraculous natural pregnancy less than one year later, she would deliver there again. Andrea and Jeremy welcomed their daughter, Riley, at Sharp Mary Birch in 2019.