Birth Story: HELLP syndrome leads to birth at 28 weeks

Posted in Birth Stories.

Brittney's hand against her tiny baby's foot

While premature birth can be a source of fear and uncertainty for expectant mums, Brittney’s story is a powerful reminder of the strength and resilience of both mother and baby.

Diagnosed with preeclampsia and life-threatening hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelets syndrome (HELLP), Brittney shares her story with Mum’s Grapevine about delivering her baby girl Frankie at just 28 weeks.

While the road ahead wasn’t easy, Brittney’s story is a testament to the power of hope and the amazing advances in neonatal care.

An instant connection

Brittany and Shannon in hot air balloon

Brittney initially wasn’t interested in starting a serious relationship when she first matched with Shannon on Tinder, but that all changed when Shannon convinced her to meet in person. They hit it off immediately, eventually moving in together and getting married in February 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They had a small backyard wedding at Brittney’s parents’ house and it was the most perfect day.

Brittany and Shannon's backyard wedding

Before getting married, Brittney and Shannon unexpectedly fell pregnant in 2019. Unfortunately, it was an ectopic pregnancy in Brittney’s left tube, she was fortunate enough to keep her tube, however, the pregnancy ended with a methotrexate injection.

Later, in November 2020, they bought their first home together and decided it was time to start trying for a baby again.

‘I felt like giving up’

Brittney and Shannon celebrate their baby

Brittney continued to test for pregnancy each month, bringing more disappointment. After a whole year of trying to conceive and no luck, Brittney and Shannon headed off to the doctors for testing if everything was ok.

“We got the results from those and everything returned normal, so we continued on for another six months trying but still only got negative pregnancy tests. I went back to the doctors and got a referral to see a gynaecologist who prescribed me letrozole to hopefully help me hyper ovulate.

“After two months of that medication where the gynaecologist was sure it would have worked, I went and had a procedure called a hycosy sonogram which showed my left tube was scared from the ectopic but my right was in working order.

Brittany holding her positive pregnancy test

We tried another three rounds on the medication before finally on the last month when I felt like giving up and was ready to have a break from trying we found out I was pregnant with our beautiful little girl Frankie!”

‘They diagnosed me with preeclampsia’

Brittany pregnant looking in mirror

At 25 weeks gestation, Brittney felt that her baby had been moving less and headed to the hospital to get monitored and make sure that everything was ok. At the hospital midwives discovered that Brittney’s baby was doing just fine, however, they also found out that Brittney had very high blood pressure and was diagnosed with gestational hypertension. Given medication to manage the condition she would be monitored weekly.

Just a few short weeks later on the 24th of March 2023 at her weekly monitoring appointment, they diagnosed Brittney with preeclampsia.

Brittany pregnant at 25 weeks looking in the mirror with bare belly bump

“On Friday the 24th of March the level of protein found in my urine was 46 and they diagnosed me with preeclampsia. My next appointment after that was Thursday the 30th of March and I was having severe rib pain, the level of protein found in my urine was 500 and my blood pressure was sky high diagnosing me with severe preeclampsia.

“I was admitted into the hospital where everything just got worse and worse before they then transferred me to Royal North Shore from Gosford pending that we may need to deliver bub early.”

Hospital machine showing readings for Brittany's high blood pressure

“Upon getting more blood results they then discovered my liver and kidneys were being affected along with very low platelet levels so was then diagnosed with HELLP syndrome and was being rushed into surgery to have her.

“If I never went to the hospital at 25 weeks for that reduced movement my next appointment was not meant to be until I was 28 weeks which ended up being the day I had her which is so scary to think about but it was almost like my baby girl gave me that indicator that something was wrong!”

A safe arrival

Brittney and Shannon with their newborn

“My sweet little girl Frankie due June 26th made her arrival at a very early 28 weeks on Monday the 3rd of April
She made an early appearance due to me having severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome which came on within a matter of a few days, both of us are doing really well with bub in the amazing care of the Royal North Shore NICU.

“So grateful that my little darling being so small has proven so far how mighty she can already be with only receiving positive news with her progress so far, her platelet levels which were very low as a result of HELLP syndrome from me have even gone up on there own meaning we have avoided her having to have a blood transfusion”

Frankie is kicking goals

Brittney having a first hold of baby Frankie

Since her abrupt birth, Frankie has been kicking goals and moving closer to coming home. On the 14th of April she was able to get her PICC line removed and has now been having feeds of breastmilk with fortifier.

Brittney has been enjoying lots of kangaroo cuddles with her very tiny girl who lost her umbilical cord during one of the cuddles.

Brittney and Shannon cuddle baby Frankie


Safe arrival of baby Frankie 28 weeks

On 21st of April, Frankie now weighed in at just over one kilogram and had her first real cry, which was music to Brittney and Shannon’s ears.

We can’t wait for the day that Brittney is able to share with us that their little warrior girl is coming home.

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