When Danielle Shaw thinks back on her second pregnancy, she recalls how everything seemed to be going smoothly.
“I had a very healthy and active pregnancy with no complications, and an unmedicated and uncomplicated childbirth with a midwife,” she said.
Following the birth of their baby boy, Danielle and her husband AJ were happily adjusting to their “new normal” as a family of four.
But just two weeks after the birth of their son, everything changed.
Danielle began to experience an extremely severe headache, which she initially did not find too alarming. When the pain became debilitating, her husband encouraged her to visit the emergency room.
Two computerized tomography (CT) scans confirmed a diagnosis that Danielle never expected: she had a cavernous sinus thrombosis (CST), a rare disorder in which a blood clot forms within the cavernous sinus. Danielle spent nine days in the hospital, including two surgeries.
“At a time where I should have been focused on my newborn son and my two-year-old son, I was in a hospital bed not knowing when I would hold my babies again,” she said. “It was the most fragile I have ever been in my life.”
Even though this was Danielle’s second pregnancy, she was not aware of the increased risk of thrombosis in pregnant and postpartum women. She had never heard of cavernous sinus thrombosis.
“Even if you are otherwise healthy and your birth went smoothly, thrombosis is still a risk factor,” Danielle shared. “It is important to be aware so that women know to take the signs and symptoms of a blood clot seriously.”
Following her discharge from the hospital, Danielle joyfully reunited with her two sons, but she continued to experience the physical and emotional affects of her diagnosis.
After discharge, her treatment plan included six weeks of intravenous antibiotics to clear the infection as well as anticoagulants for the next eight months to help prevent blood clotting.
She also faced the emotional toll that thrombosis had on her life.
“We are forever grateful to our family and close friends who put their own lives aside to help us in any way they could,” Danielle recalled. “But this whole experience completely overshadowed the entire newborn period of my son’s life, which is something I struggle with.”
She said her healthcare team is confident about a positive prognosis in the future, but cautions that her thrombosis risk is high if she becomes pregnant again.
“I am lucky to have escaped the ordeal with no lasting effects,” she said. “I am so thankful that my husband prompted me to seek medical attention when he did and that the doctors took me seriously. This can happen to anyone—even the healthiest of individuals.”