A Sera Prognostics Inc., The Pregnancy Company® interview with Jenny McCormick, Senior Editor of PreemieWorld and Operations Manager of the Alliance for Black Families, covers her pregnancy experience, preterm birth and the impact behind The PreTRM® Test for future pregnant mothers.
Jenny, mother of two boys, preemie mom, advocate for prematurity awareness, maternal health and supporting preemie families.
Sera Prognostics Inc., The Pregnancy Company®: Tell me about your pregnancy early on through to when you gave birth. If you have had multiple pregnancies, please do the same with them.
Jenny: My firstborn son, David, was born on his due date and in perfect health. Other than morning sickness that seemed to last up to one month before David was born, my pregnancy was, thankfully, uneventful. My second pregnancy with my second son, Joshua, began like my first pregnancy, uneventful. I was healthy and felt great with Joshua. Things changed drastically, however, when I went to a routine check up with my nurse practitioner. It was at that appointment where she couldn’t pick up my son’s heartbeat. I was 26 weeks pregnant and terrified. They placed me in an ambulance and rushed me to the nearest hospital. What felt like minutes, I was prepped for an emergency cesarean surgery. At 26 weeks gestation, my youngest son, Joshua came into this world and was immediately sent to the NICU where he spent his first 129 days of life.
Sera Prognostics Inc., The Pregnancy Company®: What did your obstetrician tell you with each pregnancy challenge? Were you warned about the potential for preterm birth? Were you given resources or sent to a high-risk pregnancy doctor (Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor, also known as an MFM)?
Jenny: Due to being in my 30’s while pregnant, my obstetrician kept a close eye on my pregnancy but never warned me about the potential for a preterm birth. I was given pamphlets regarding high blood pressure and types of natural supplements/herbs to avoid while pregnant among other medical pamphlets but he never really explained what a preterm birth could mean to me and my family and the outcomes for preemies like Joshua.
Sera Prognostics Inc., The Pregnancy Company®: What did you know about preterm birth and infant/family outcomes prior to your experience with it?
Jenny: I was completely oblivious to preterm birth. I had no understanding of what it entailed and how grave the outcomes could be. Statistical data was not provided to me during pregnancy and I never believed that having a micro-preemie could happen to me.
Sera Prognostics Inc., The Pregnancy Company®: Fast forward to today when Sera Prognostics has the PreTRM® Test that can tell you if you are at risk for preterm birth when you have a normal asymptomatic singleton pregnancy and via a single blood draw between 18 and 20 6/7 weeks of gestation (126-146 days). Having had that tool, how do you feel that you could have changed how the pregnancy played out in an unexpected early delivery?
Jenny: The PreTRM Test, if it identified me as being at higher risk, could play a vital role in preparing me for a preterm delivery. Not having warning signs, symptoms nor knowledge of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit left me incredibly vulnerable. Had I had this test, I would have at least been able to mentally prepare myself for the possibility of a preterm birth through education and research. It would also provide a heads up to my obstetrician who would then be apt to order more tests and follow ups to cover all bases in the event that preterm delivery could be avoided.
Sera Prognostics Inc., The Pregnancy Company®: Give us an update on how you look back on that experience and what you want pregnant people to know about having a premature baby and what it means to be able to ask their provider for this test.
Jenny: Looking back, I’m not sure how my late husband and I got through it all. Having a medically fragile preemie in the NICU changes who you are at your core. We watched our son fight many battles his tiny body just wasn’t prepared for. His brain hemorrhaged his second day of life and he was given a 15% chance of survival. When Joshua’s medical team met with us, we were given such a poor prognosis. “He will most likely not walk due to his brain bleed and if he does walk, he will probably have a limp. He may be blind, deaf and have many disabilities. He will probably go home (if he survives) on oxygen and a feeding tube.” Hearing these words from the medical team broke my heart. While in the NICU, Joshua had acidosis, PDA, ROP and we watched him fight to breathe and learn to feed among many other complications along the way, not to mention watching him scream during every painful eye exam and needle poke, and the stress of having to leave him in the care of strangers when we couldn’t be there. It’s a terrifying journey filled with many hard days and the journey continues even long after the NICU days. Today, Joshua is 10 years old and is an absolute miracle! He is thriving despite the residual effects of his preterm birth. Joshua is delayed in many areas and has been diagnosed with ADHD and Autism. He wears glasses and is followed closely by an Ophthalmologist. Joshua continues to receive therapies to help him along the way.
If I had prior knowledge that a premature delivery could happen to me, I would have prepared the logistics. I would have researched. Most importantly, I would have mentally prepared myself for the possibility of delivering early. Preparation is key! Preparation allows you to grasp an understanding of what needs to happen. It allows you to find your strength to advocate for yourself and your baby. It allows you to push your doctors to perform additional tests and follow you more closely. Ultimately, preparation gives you a leg up by fortifying you with invaluable knowledge to give you the power and strength to face the daunting challenges you may face in the NICU.
My doctor said it best, “Even if you do everything right, there are no guarantees with pregnancy. You need to hope for the best, but prepare for the unexpected.” The PreTRM Test can help you do just that. ASK your obstetrician for the test. Remember, PREPARATION IS KEY!