Maternal-fetal medical team gives mom best hope for motherhood

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Veronica Hopkins’ first pregnancy ended in heartbreak, with a stillbirth at 23 weeks.

Her second pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 16 weeks when her cervix opened completely.

“I just thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore,'” Hopkins said. She felt she did not have the level of medical care and expertise she needed. She was over 35 with two failed pregnancies and felt her health care provider was not providing answers.

She then decided to switch providers to UC Davis Health and its world-class maternal-fetal medicine team, which specializes in high-risk pregnancies. It turned out that would give her the best chance of becoming a mother.

Scarlett at the NICU last Halloween.

She found a true partner in Carolyn Reyes, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at UC Davis Health. Reyes reviewed Hopskins’ medical history and autopsy report of the stillbirth – and gave Hopkins the hope she needed.

“Dr. Reyes knew so much, and she was so sweet and generous,” Hopkins said. “I just knew I could trust her.”

Hopkins was tested and treated for a blood clotting disorder which, if left untreated, can lead to complications and stillbirth.

“Then Dr. Reyes let us know that we were free to go ahead and get pregnant,” Hopkins said. “I got pregnant in a month.”

A miracle microphone for premature babies

This time extra precautions and protocols have been taken, including bed rest. At 12 weeks, her medical team added cerclage, a procedure in which the cervical opening is closed with stitches to prevent or delay premature delivery.

Scarlett comes home
Scarlett at her NICU graduation.

About four days before 22 weeks, Hopkins began to feel pressure. She was at risk of going into premature labor. She was admitted to UC Davis Medical Center and her waters broke two days later.

She was then taken to the operating theater to have the strapping removed.

The team continued to monitor her and worked diligently to prevent the birth of her child. But baby Scarlett had other plans. She was born at exactly 22 weeks, a micro premature weighing only 470 grams (about one pound).

Scarlett spent 3.5 months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at UC Davis, a designated Level IV (highest level available) nursery for the Sacramento area. Scarlett took milestones in NICU, including learning to eat, breathe without oxygen, regulate her own temperature, and weigh at least four pounds. She was sent home 18 days before her official due date.

To say we are blessed is an understatement. I thank UC Davis Health for providing comfort and support during this time. -Veronica Hopkins

Scarlett still suffered from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), an eye disease in which abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina, which occurs in babies born prematurely. But she was closely watched from home.

Her ROP completely regressed on its own, but when healthy blood vessel growth stopped around her peripheral vision area, the team suggested laser surgery to prevent abnormal blood vessel growth. She had surgery at just 10 and a half months, which ensured that ROP would not return.

Scarlett is now an active and happy 13 month old girl. Hopkins is still impressed as Scarlett talks, sits up, and crawls into the house.

“To say we are blessed is an understatement,” said Hopkins, who now receives Scarlett’s pediatric care near his home at the UC Davis Health Roseville Clinic. “I thank UC Davis Health for providing comfort and support during this time. When you need a specialist or are going to be in the NICU, you want a team that is medically and scientifically motivated, but also able to handle the emotional side. I found this at UC Davis.

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