May is Preeclampsia awareness month. This is such an important topic to talk about and one that is close to my heart as I suffered with this condition in my first pregnancy.
First up though – Preeclampsia the facts:
- Preeclampsia is a condition that affects some pregnant women – around 6%
- Usually (but not always) Preeclampsia occurs during the second half of a pregnancy and up to six weeks after a baby has been born
- In 1-2% of cases the condition can be extremely severe
- Not much is known about the causes of Preeclampsia although it is thought to be linked to a problem with the placenta.
Preeclampsia symptoms – Important to note that you can display any/all or even just one of these:
- High Blood Pressure
- Protein in urine – also known as proteinuria
- Severe headache
- Visual disturbances (blurred vision/flashing lights etc)
- Severe heartburn
- Pain just below the ribs
- Nausea / Vomiting
- Sudden swelling (also known as oedema) in the feet, ankles, face or hands
- A general feeling of being unwell
I was about 28 weeks pregnant with my first child when I started to feel a bit odd, just generally a bit unwell. However, you do feel a bit rough sometimes when you are nearing the end don’t you? Anyway, I thought that this was all fairly normal and as there were no specific symptoms to put my finger on I just carried on. At one of my midwife appointments my bump was measuring a bit smaller than they expected (this was ten years ago – not sure they even measure now!) so I was packed off to have a scan and to see what was happening in there. ‘Nothing out of the ordinary’ was the verdict, although my baby was measuring quite small for his dates apparently. I was to be measured every two weeks by the midwives and that was that. There was no mention of Preeclampsia.
At around 35 weeks I became really unwell but without the classic symptoms of Preeclampsia. I had some nausea and vomiting (not unusual as I also suffered with Hyperemesis ) but my blood pressure and urine remained normal at my midwife check. I was suffering with headaches but was told this was a side effect of my vomiting and to up my fluid intake. I had no swelling or pain so I was told to just carry on. In my gut, my instincts told me that something wasn’t right and at 36 weeks, after experiencing flashing lights and floaters (that’s what they call it!) in my vision, I admitted myself to the pregnancy assessment unit and demanded to be seen. I was admitted and blood tests were taken. It was only then that the doctors agreed that I was probably suffering with Preeclampsia and I was kept under 24 hour monitoring and bed rest on the ward for about five more days. I was only eighteen and I had never even heard of Preeclampsia and this was the first time any medical professional had even mentioned it to me. I had no idea what it meant and it wasn’t until at 36+4 days that my blood pressure shot up and my urine came back full of protein. I had an emergency induction and thankfully, little Zakary was born healthy and happy at 00:20 that night. Blood tests confirmed that my body had been and continued to be under a great deal of strain and I was kept in the hospital for a further four days post-partum.
My Preeclampsia story has a happy ending but unfortunately, I know of others that didn’t. If you are pregnant and don’t feel right, please listen to your body and your instincts. I’m sure that if you displayed any of the obvious symptoms such as high blood pressure or protein in the urine, then your midwife or doctor will take the necessary steps to keep you safe and well. However, not everyone experiences the typical symptoms and if, like me you just don’t feel quite right, then please speak up and insist that you are checked out properly. It could save both your life and your baby’s life.