I had preeclampsia in one form or another three times. The first time, I was
Post On Friday, June 21, 2002 By
I had preeclampsia in one form or another three times. The first time, I was 23, single and broke. I didn't know what was wrong, just that I needed to stay in bed, on my left side, for six weeks. When the baby was born, I was all too happy to be on my feet and rid of preeclampsia.
Six years later, married and working, I had a healthy, normal second pregnancy. All the books on pregnancy said preeclampsia mostly occurs in first pregnancies, and since I didn't have it in the second, I knew I would never have to worry about it again.
I was wrong. During the delivery of my third child, my blood pressure soared and I had to have an emergency C-section. After a three-day hospital stay, I was sent home to care for my baby and two older children. My blood pressure was still elevated, but the doctors didn't seem concerned, and I knew that preeclampsia resolved after the baby was born, so I wasn't concerned. I was wrong again.
Two days post-partum I began to experience horrible pain under my right rib, and my right shoulder was so painful I couldn't nurse on my right side. The Percoset I'd been prescribed for my C-section barely touched the shoulder pain. A week post-partum a public health nurse came by and my blood pressure was 180/120. She immediately called my doctor and they readmitted me to the hospital. My blood pressure fluctuated wildly, I was having horrible night sweats, with continued pain. The doctor who delivered my baby came to see me and looked annoyed. She told me there was nothing wrong with me and released me the following day. My regular doctor argued to keep me, but was overruled. At 5'2" and normally 135 lbs., I weighed over 200 lbs. a week after having the baby. I gradually got better, though the night sweats continued for two weeks and my blood pressure stayed high for six.
I needed to know what was wrong, what had happened to me, so I took to the Internet and typed in "preeclampsia + shoulder pain" and the page started spilling out the word HELLP HELLP HELLP. I clicked on the first site and read, and as I read, I cried. Here was the explanation for what had happened to me. To confirm it, I ordered my hospital records and carefully compared the criteria for HELLP against them. I had had HELLP. I had been lucky. In the worst cases, the blood won't clot and the mother bleeds to death, or she loses her baby. I didn't have anything nearly so traumatic. Still, when my son's first birthday arrived, I couldn't bring myself to celebrate it. It was not a day I wanted to remember.
When I learned we were expecting our fourth child, I was scared to death. I found the best doctor I could and was his worst nightmare