An unexpected Mother's Day arrives after a very difficult pregnancy [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
Now weighing just a bit more than six pounds with a shock of dark hair, she is ready to deliver a bouquet of disarming smiles Sunday, a few leg kicks and arm waves thrown in for variety, as families gather to honor all those who have brought life into the world.
Athena's arrival is its own timely tribute. Her middle name is Eleni in remembrance of her great grandmother,
"We had trouble getting pregnant, so from the beginning she was our miracle and, with what we went through, we're both here so somebody was definitely watching over us," Maria said, gently stroking her daughter's chest beside her husband,
As they settle into life as new parents, the couple can't help but recognize just how close they came to tragedy.
Previously diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Maria was enrolled in the high-risk pregnancy program at
The complications she experienced during pregnancy, which has still not been fully explained, included massive swelling that caused more than 40 pounds of rapid weight gain, starting with her lower body and progressing to her lungs and heart, impairing her circulatory and respiratory function.
"It was difficult breathing, and they had me on oxygen; they said I was very close to going into heart failure," Maria said.
Intensive therapy that continued for a full two weeks after delivery eventually turned the situation around, but not without a cross-discipline effort that included specialists in cardiology, nephrology, endocrinology and neonatology.
While hers is an extreme example, Maria's situation is becoming increasingly common.
As with other medical problems, the risk for postpartum depression increases if early symptoms of distress such as anxiety go untreated.
A career spent working with women in high-risk pregnancies left Dr.
When multiple specialties get involved, Daneshmand said, patients can quickly become overwhelmed. The sheer number of medical appointments alone can lead to miscommunications between patients and providers and also between one specialist and another. Transplant medicine, which routinely spans many medical specialties, has long turned to nurses acting as care coordinators to make sure that patients' stress levels aren't increased simply by the massive amount of scheduling and follow-up that their treatment plans require.
"The idea is to have one person who's really managing these complex patients round-the-clock," Daneshmand said. "Yes, you can always send an email to your doctor if you have a question, but it's just not the same as having someone that you can talk to on a regular basis to bounce any questions you have, to make sure this person is navigating all of the different paths you have to take to ensure a healthy pregnancy."
Coordinators also have the time it takes to screen expectant mothers for the early signs of depression, referring those who are struggling to counselors for therapy early. A collaboration with a local nonprofit to get these appointments done quickly without the need for time-consuming health insurance approvals is in the works and is to be announced mid-month.
Mental health maintenance, he said, needs to become more proactive during pregnancy if rates of postpartum depression are to be reduced.
"I honestly think that is one of the biggest areas that we're unfortunately failing in," Daneshmand said, addressing conditions nationwide. "They're talking about it, but they're not always willing to do something about it."
But the need to do better, he added, goes beyond mental health and beyond delivery. Women who experience significant complications during pregnancy face significantly worse odds of complications later in life. Women who develop gestational diabetes before they give birth have been shown to have a 50 percent greater chance of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. And those who deliver prematurely and also have a high blood pressure complication called preeclampsia have significantly greater risk of heart disease in the future.
The industry, Daneshmand said, is moving toward a "fourth trimester" model for women to make sure they get the follow-up care they need after delivering.
"We have to make sure we are following them more closely to make sure that we are more preventive rather than reactionary," he said.
Of course, on
She doesn't know it yet, but Athena's family is particularly accomplished at helping families raise mimosas every second Sunday in May. Her grandfather,
This story originally appeared in
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