Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pregnancy and Preeclampsia - My Story

I had preeclampsia and eclampsia during both my pregnancies. A friend of mine shared a story about her pregnancy with preeclampsia. I wanted to share mine. This is Preeclampsia.org's description of what preeclampsia is.

"Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, it is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.

Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late pregnancy), though it can occur earlier. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and toxemia are closely related conditions. HELLP Syndrome and eclampsia are other manifestations of the same syndrome. It is important to note that research shows that more women die from preeclampsia than eclampsia and one is not necessarily more serious than the other.

Preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading global cause of maternal and infant illness and death. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 deaths each year."


Pregnancy

I got pregnant in 1999. I had a normal pregnancy and was gaining a "normal" amount of weight. All my blood tests were turning out normal. I keep saying normal because everything that followed wasn't normal.

In the last two months of pregnancy, my feet started swelling. I was told that swollen feet are normal during pregnancy. But the swelling would not go down by the next morning. It is hard to describe the feeling of looking down at your feet and having no ankles. This swelling is called edema. I was swollen around my stomach and my arms. I was told that is normal. (bah!) I was gaining 6-10 lbs a week when previously I had been gaining 0-.5lbs a week -- all water weight. When the nurse checked my blood pressure on one of my weekly visits, she noticed my blood pressure was getting high. I was tested for protein in my urine, which is a symptom of preeclampsia. When that came back positive, I was told I had preeclampsia. I was 37 weeks along. I was instructed to have my labor induced. After going home to get some clothes, I went to the hospital.

I was given pitocin to induce my labor. I was in so much pain. They gave me an IUD, which is like a "lite" version of an epidural. Random memories of that day include a woman in another room was screaming her head off. I remember apologizing to everyone. As if it were my fault that I was delivering my baby early. I didn't want to cause a fuss or scream, and I kept trying to cover my privates. My ex was tired and was given a cot to sleep next to my bed. Strange to be thinking these things.

I had a beautiful boy. He was small. They had used a pump to help me delivery on his head, so it was all cone-looking. I remember thinking how fragile he was. I was so tired and sore. I never really processed the fact that I had preeclampsia. I read later on that it could have been deadly to both me and Micael.

My second pregnancy came on very quickly. Again, everything was "normal." Then, at about 34 weeks, my feet started swelling feet again. My blood pressure was supposedly normal and I was told I was fine.

My ob/gyn's exact words were: "Preeclampsia doesn't usually occur in second pregnancies."

I told my ob/gyn that I wasn't feel good and that I was having a lot of headaches. She said I was fine. At 36 weeks, I woke up and my vision was blurred and I only had my peripheral vision. I called the doctor and she told me to come in. She said I probably had a cold and gave me a prescription for Robitussin. She said me to get blood work too, but again I was told I was "fine, and preeclampsia doesn't usually occur in second pregnancies."

The pharmacy was two blocks away. While sitting there waiting for my prescription, my I lost my tunnel vision. My father-in-law and sister-in-law, who accompanied me to the ob/gyn, said that I started having seizures. I don't remember most things after that. I was sent to a hospital in another city because it had a neo-natal intensive care unit.

I remember waking up in the ambulance. Shifting in and out of consciousness. I felt them use the scissors on my maternity dress to take off my clothes. I remember thinking, "I really liked that dress." It was white with bright blue flowers on it and thin straps. I remembering thinking: What was happening to me? Where was I going? I should have been in my local hospital. I was being driven a full 45 minutes away. I opened my eyes to see an oxygen mask being applied, and the fear at seeing such a strange thing and having these people, whether they were men or women I am not sure, touching me and putting stuff on me was a scary experience.

I slipped in and out of consciousness, but I gave birth naturally a few hours later. I am so thankful I survived and that my baby survived. We were in the hospital for two weeks. He was there a week longer than I was. He was put on an apnea monitor for three months because his breathing would stop.

My post-birth ob/gyn visit revealed that my ob/gyn would not have been able to deliver my baby in the hospital in my home town anyway because they took away her right to deliver babies there. I felt and still feel so betrayed that this information was never given to me. I feel so angry that my son could have died because "preeclampsia" was not supposed to happen again, at least according to her. She was patently false. If you have preeclampsia during your pregnancy, you will most likely get it again.

Please, check out your ob/gyn/midwives, etc. If you feel bad, don't let them say nothing is wrong. It's not normal to exhibit these symptoms. Even swelling feet. If the swelling does not go down while you sleep and they are elevated, that is NOT normal. If your vision is affected and your head hurts more than usual, it is not normal.

My sons are now 8 and 9 years old, and I am grateful we all survived these experiences.

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