Scarlett at the pumpkin patch this year

Maternal-fetal medical team gives mom best hope for motherhood


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

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

“I just thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” Hopkins said. She felt she was lacking the level of medical care and expertise that she needed. She was older than 35 with two failed pregnancies and felt that her health provider wasn’t providing answers.

Then she decided to change her medical provider to UC Davis Health and its world class maternal-fetal medicine team, which specializes in high-risk pregnancies. Doing so, it turned out, would provide her with the best shot at motherhood.

Scarlett dressed as a ladybug for Halloween
Scarlett in the NICU last Halloween.

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

“Dr. Reyes knew so much, and she was so soft spoken and kindhearted,” Hopkins said. “I just knew I could trust her.”

Hopkins was tested and treated for a blood clotting disorder, which, if not addressed, can cause complications and stillbirth.

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

A micro preemie miracle

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

Scarlett going home
Scarlett at her NICU graduation.

About four days shy of 22 weeks, Hopkins started to feel pressure. She was at risk for going into preterm labor. She was admitted to UC Davis Medical Center and her water broke two days later.

She was then taken to the operating room to remove the cerclage.

The team kept monitoring her and worked carefully to keep her child from being born. But baby Scarlett had other plans. She was born at 22 weeks exactly, a micro preemie weighing only 470 grams (about one pound).

Scarlett spent 3 ½ months in the UC Davis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), a designated Level IV nursery (the highest level available) for the Sacramento region. Scarlett reached successful milestones in the 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 had retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), an eye disease in which abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina, which happens in babies who are born premature. But she was monitored closely from home.

Her ROP regressed completely on its own, but when the healthy blood vessel growth stalled around her peripheral vision area, the team suggested laser surgery to prevent abnormal blood vessel growth. She got the surgery at just 10 ½ months old, which ensured the ROP would not return.

Scarlett is now an active and happy 13-months-old. Hopkins is still in awe that Scarlett is talking, pulling herself up and crawling around the house.

“To say we are blessed is an understatement,” said Hopkins, who now gets Scarlett’s pediatric care close to 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 driven, but also capable of handling the emotional side. I found that at UC Davis.”