Doctor Ignored Her Concerns…What Happened Next Is Scary
While is is wise to seek the advice and counsel of a qualified physician, it is also important to remember that medical information isn’t inherently incorrect simply because you researched it yourself. Lesley Neadel learned this lesson twice after her doctor ignored her concerns and placed her unborn baby in fetal distress during two different pregnancies. Her story starts with a simple rash and ends happily, but could easily have ended in tragedy.
When 36 weeks pregnant with her first child, Lesley began to experience intense itching she thought to be PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy). Though potentially maddening due to the itch it creates, PUPP is benign and treated with creams, aloe and oatmeal baths. Her doctor assured her her rash wasn’t PUPP and sent her home with hydrocortisone cream. But the itching got worse.
Further research convinced Lesley she had intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, or ICP. Unlike PUPP, ICP is not benign and can harm or even kill a developing fetus. ICP can cause premature birth and increases the risk that waste material from the baby’s intestines will contaminate the amniotic fluid. This waste, known as meconium, can be inhaled during delivery and cause the baby to have difficulty breathing.
Lesley’s doctor, however, dismissed her fears again. This time, Lesley insisted on being tested for ICP despite her doctor’s reassurances. Her test results indicated she did have ICP and labor was immediately induced to protect her baby, who was born healthy at 39 weeks. Testing of the amniotic fluid, however, revealed that Lesley’s baby had been in distress before her delivery and that meconium from her baby’s intestines was present in the amniotic fluid.
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Four years later, Lesley was pregnant again and still with her previous doctor. At 30 weeks, the itch of ICP returned, and Lesley went to the doctor knowing that the condition often recurs during later pregnancies. Her doctor was again skeptical but testing revealed the ICP had, in fact, returned. Lesley’s doctor put her on a low does of medication and declared further blood testing unnecessary. This time Lesley got a second opinion.
The second doctor increased Lesley’s medication dosage, at which point the itch finally abated. Lesley was now allowed to request blood tests whenever she wished, as well. She did exactly that at 35 weeks and doctors again suggested that it was time for induction. She agreed and again delivered a healthy baby girl.
Ironically, Lesley liked her doctor precisely because of her calm, and laid back demeanor. Unfortunately, the line between mellow and dismissive is a fine one, and Lesley failed to see when her doctor crossed it. So much so that she continued to see the same doctor for another four years, ultimately allowing time to make her forget how frustrated her physician had made her during her first pregnancy.
Though Lesley’s story has a happy ending, ICP results in still birth in up to 15% of pregnancies. Lesley could have become part of that statistic had she not done her research. Sadly, not all stories end as happily as Lesley’s. Bronte Doyne, for instance, died at the age of 19 when doctors didn’t believe her cancer had returned and told her to stop Googling her symptoms.
Lesley and Bronte both highlight the importance of educating yourself and seeking a second opinion. While information you find online should never serve as a substitute for the advice of a qualified medical professional, it can be an asset to it. The best doctor’s are those who refuse to ignore their patient’s hunches and concerns. They also welcome second opinions and sometimes even recommend them. If your doctor simply tells you to stay off the computer, it may be time for a new physician.