Preeclampsia: Knowing the Signs and Risks

Pregnancy was normal at first, just the usual morning sickness and fatigue. 

At 23 weeks pregnant, I felt a change in my body. I spent days in and out of hospital to be told the same again and again,”everything is fine, we can hear the babies heart beat” blah blah blah. But I just knew something wasn’t quite right hence why I just kept going back and back. They found +1 protein in my urine and high blood pressure time and time again, yet they would still send me away.

A very unwell few weeks passed with intense headaches and dizziness. Some days worse than others. I even brought one of those blood pressure monitors for home to keep an eye on my blood pressure as suggested by my midwife. It was always sky high so I thought the monitor must have been faulty or something. I just put it down to normal pregnancy symptoms, after all I had already been to the hospital numerous times.

I got used to the same routine. I had my check-ups with my community midwife who would send me over as an emergency to the hospital for further testing. Turns out the home blood monitor was correct after all. Same old though, the hospital doctors would always just send me back home with the same advice, just a new day “we think everything is fine, come back if you feel any worse”. It was getting more difficult to understand what they meant because every day I was getting worse. They just needed the bed.

At 32 weeks, my measurements were starting to show as abnormal. My baby hadn’t seemed to grow since my 27 week check-up. Again, same old routine. Community midwife, hospital, home. Hours of stress and worry for nothing.

At 34 weeks pregnant after no growth still. The hospital finally decided to investigate further with a scan. Everything cameback relatively normal and baby seemed to be cooking away nicely.

Can you guess where I was at 36+6 weeks? Good guess, back in the same old dingy hospital. But this time was different. I could not even sit in a room with a light on, I couldn’t bare speaking to people because my head hurt that much. My blood pressure was through the roof. The nurse actually said “I’m going to check that again, I don’t think you would be as calm as you are now if it was that”. Shock, same result again. Isn’t it amazing how different someone can look on the outside but actually feel on the inside. By this point my legs and feet were so swollen that they look like they could burst. All I could see was flashing lights every direction I looked. And, feeling the constant urge to just vomit. I remember thinking- honestly if these bloody doctors send me homes as a ‘paranoid parent’ one more time then I am going to scream.

But this time something didn’t feel right. The midwife was barely talking whilst taking my observations and I could see the shear shock in her eyes when taking my blog pressure for the third time.

The next few hours went by in a bit of a blur. I know there was conversations between myself and the doctor about worse case scenarios that I never thought possible. A still born? miscarriage? birth defects? It was too much to take in. One minute, I was being told everything is just perfect. Then suddenly all this. How could this be? Why is this happening? What did I do wrong? Is this my fault?

There it was, at 36+6 weeks I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.

Preeclampsia is a condition that occurs only during pregnancy. It usually starts half way though pregnancy (20 weeks). Symptoms include; severe headaches, vision problems, severe heartburn, pain just below the ribs, nausea, vomiting, feeling unwell or sudden increase in oedema (swelling of feet, ankles, face and hands.)

My contractions were intense from the moment they induced me. This was the beautiful moment we had been waiting for to give birth to our baby boy. I always dreamed of having a water birth but it wasn’t long before I was linked to machines galore. Our babies heart beat kept dropping lower and lower. At one point,  I couldn’t even see my birthing partners there was that many nurses and doctors in the room. I finally had an urge to just push. Screaming “I need to push”. The nurse said it’s not possible, you are only 2cm dilated. I had one focus only. That was to get my baby out alive and I already lost all trust in doctors opinions. I remember turning around to the doctor and saying “if I said I need to push, I need to push”. The nurse re-checked and surprise, surprise. I jumped straight from 2cm dilated to fully dilated. So, I was ready to push. I pushed once. There was his head. Then again a second time. And there he was. That’s all it took for our baby boy to come in to our world.

He was placed straight in my arms. His skin against mine. My heart was full of love and happiness. How could I make something so precious? The room felt silent as if it was just me and my son in the room and in that moment nothing else mattered. My baby boy alive in my arms.

It wasn’t long before they took my little boy away from me rushing him to the neonatal unit. Our little boy was alive but in that moment I forgot about how unwell he really was. Low birthweight, low temperature and low blood sugars.

Seeing other parents in the post-delivery wardholding and feeding their babies was heart breaking. Their biggest worry was what time their babies next feed was while ours was if our baby was going to survive.

I guess you’re wondering if he survived? Of course he did. He survived every single high and low we encountered within the next few weeks to come. He’s our miracle baby. He’s our Joshua.

The muscle cramps I had for days after we’re agonising as if I was paralysed and my blood pressure has never been normal since. Doctors are not always right. People need to be more aware about pre-eclampsia. It is life-threatening for the baby and mother. If I didn’t persevere and follow my gut who knows how our birth story could have planned out. Be careful. It’s not just one life, it’s two to think of.

Although most cases of pre-eclampsia cause no problems and improve soon after the baby is delivered, there’s a risk of serious complications that can affect both the mother and her baby. There’s a potential risk that the mother will develop fits called “eclampsia”. These fits can be life threatening for the mother and baby.

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