Mom with sickle cell recounts her journey to motherhoodMonday, June 21, 2021
SONYA-CAI Burrell was always warned by her health-care providers that she should avoid getting pregnant, because she has sickle cell disease and pregnancy can cause serious complications. So when, at 29 years old, she found herself pregnant in 2017, she knew that it was a very big risk to bring the pregnancy to term.
“I was worried because all the doctors kept saying I'm not supposed to have children because I have sickle cell disease, because your heart can give out and things like that,” she related to All Woman just ahead of Sickle Cell Awareness Day on June 19.
Sickle cell disease is a condition in which the red blood cells in your body are shaped like a sickle (like the letter C), causing them to sometimes block blood flow and cause pain, infection, damage to organs and even strokes. Because the sickle-shaped cells tend to die quicker, there tends to be a shortage of red blood cells in persons with the condition, making them anaemic. Both mother and child are at an increased risk of complications during a pregnancy with sickle cell disease, as the genetic condition increases the risk of the woman developing obstetric complications such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and severe anaemia.
“I was concerned about that, but surprisingly, throughout the pregnancy I didn't have a lot of complaints,” Burrell shared. “I didn't really have morning sickness or anything for long. For a little while I did have some aches and pains, but they didn't last very long.”
The biggest hurdle she would face on the road to her baby was delivery. She was scheduled for a caesarean section because of the distress that can be caused to both her and her baby during a vaginal delivery, but limited resources took that option off the table.
“By the time I got to the hospital they said they couldn't cut me because my blood type is rare and they didn't have enough of that blood on hand, so I would have to push. So I pushed,” the mother shared.
It was a big risk and a traumatic delivery, but Burrell gave birth to her daughter Zuri on December 27, 2017. Born a few days after her due date, the cherub was healthy and weighed six pounds and six ounces. The mother, however, was not in the clear just yet.
“I went up to the ward the night after I delivered, but the next morning I had to go back down to the delivery room because I was at risk of having a seizure,” she said. “But thankfully I didn't.”
The post-partum period was also a challenge for the first-time mom. “I didn't have any sickle cell episodes, but I lost a lot of weight and my hair fell out. And because sickle cell is already an anaemia issue, I was always weak. I never had energy. I was falling asleep at work and repeating words. I had no energy.”
Zuri is now three years old and carries the sickle cell trait, which does not and will not affect her development. Her mother is thankful that despite the bumps along the road, her pregnancy and delivery went well, and she is able to share precious moments with her baby.
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