When complications of her pregnancy endangered her life and her babies’ lives, she used the experience to teach other moms how to better communicate with medical caregivers
Crystal Duffy went into her high-risk pregnancy like many other mothers, trusting in her doctors and expecting the best outcome. As many expectant mothers learn, things don’t always go as planned. In Duffy’s case, at 21 weeks, she had a “gut” feeling something was wrong. She talked to her doctor and underwent tests that showed that her twin daughters shared a single placenta. Duffy never knew that the crucial information about one or two placentas could mean the difference between life or death, for her babies and herself.
Duffy, who was age 29 at the time, was experiencing an uncommon but serious complication of pregnancy called placental abruption, which occurs when the placenta separates from the uterine wall before delivery. If untreated, the condition could result in the babies not getting enough oxygen or nutrients, which could cause premature birth or stillbirth. For the mother, the risk is hemorrhaging and bleeding to death during delivery.
Duffy and her doctors collaborated and determined that she should undergo an in vitro surgery to correct the problem, and they decided she should deliver her babies early, at 30 weeks. Duffy’s delivery went as well as could be expected, though she spent two months on extended bed-reset and her premature infants spent 38 days in NICU. The traumatic experience of finding out about her life-threatening pregnancy complication and then having to make crucial decisions to save her life and the lives of her children proved a transformative experience for Duffy and her family.
To help other mothers and families facing similar situations, Duffy wrote a book, Twin to Twin: From High-Risk Pregnancy to Happy Family. Duffy’s twin daughters are now four years old, and they are healthy and happy sisters to her oldest daughter, who is six, and Duffy feels her emotionally, physically and spiritually transformative experience has given her the strength, knowledge and inspiration to help others through their journey of a high-risk pregnancy.
Duffy’s book gives practical advise to mothers regarding how to communicate with their doctors and form a partnership with them. She also advises mothers to learn everything then can about their pregnancy and possible complications, so that they are prepared if something does go wrong. Duffy urges mothers to speak up, ask questions, and to trust their inner feelings about their pregnancy, since they know their bodies better than anyone else. Through the book, Duffy aims to equip mothers to handle all aspects of their pre- and post-natal self-care, from dealing with anxiety to finding creative outlets and otherwise staying mentally healthy while home caring for a newborn.
Taking a challenging episode of her life and making it into a positive is part of Duffy’s message to other mothers. She has become an advocate for mothers experiencing high-risk pregnancy, and she now dedicates herself to educating other mothers, by serving as a patient advocate on advisory boards at hospitals and through TV appearances and involvement in raising awareness for campaigns such as of Preemie awareness month in November and Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) Awareness Month in December. She is also a leader in a movement #ChangeTheConversation, which encourages doctors and mothers-to-be to communicate more effectively, to improve pregnancy and delivery outcomes.