Post On Friday, June 21, 2002 By Donahue
I had different forms of pre-eclampsia in 2 of my 3 pregnancies. With my first preganacy, at age 33, I noticed that my feet were really swelling at work one day, at about 31 weeks. My doctor told me to come in first thing the next morning for a blood pressure check. When I went in, my BP was elevated and there was some protein in my urine. He told me to go straight home and lay down on my left side, and not to go back to work. Since it was the last day before a week off for the December holidays, I called in and went home.
Like many women, I didn't take my bedrest very seriously at first and would get up to cook, throw in a load of laundry or a quick trip to the store. On visiting the doctor several days later and finding my BP even higher, he ordered a biophysical profile and non-stress test. The baby showed some early signs of growth retardation, and I was sent home with strict orders not to be on my feet for more than 20 minutes a day total. 10 days later, at 33 weeks, my water broke and I went to the hospital. I went through a trial of labor, but was unable to push effectively enough. Coupled with rising blood pressure, they took her by c-section. She was amazingly 5 lbs. 8 oz, and the only problem she had was jaundice.
My second pregnancy at age 35, went by smoothly, with no PIH symptoms at all. My water broke early again, at 35 weeks, and she was delivered by c-section because of breech position.
My third pregnancy, at the age of 39 was also going smoothly. The baby was due 1/12/01, a few weeks after my 40th birthday. I was monitoring my blood pressure at home just to be cautious and detected no problems. Because of the early deliveries of my first 2, my doctor put me on bedrest at about 28 weeks. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I ate some of my mother's leftover turkey and stuffing, which was a real treat for me. That night, I had what I thought was terrible heartburn and stomach pain. I vomited and felt much better. Though my mom is very careful with food, I assumed food poisoning. I reported the symptoms to my doctor, who agreed with me.
Over the next few days, I had several reoccurrances of the stomach pain and vomiting, always at night. I figured it was still after-effects of the turkey coupled with the baby pushing on my stomach. I began having pre-term contractions Wednesday night and was admitted. I vomited once at the hospital. They put me on medication to slow the contractions and encourage development of the baby's lungs. I was sent home on Friday, at exactly 34 weeks gestation, but told that I'd probably be back before the weekend was over. How true!
Early Saturday morning, I began having contractions again, 5 minutes apart, and the stomach pain had returned, even more painful than before. We returned to the hospital and my contractions stopped, but the pain didn't. My blood pressure was slightly elevated, and they did some blood work. When palpating the spot on my right side, just above the baby, the pain was worse, and they felt a swelling. The head perinatologist happened to be doing rounds that morning and they called him in for a consult. He did an ultrasound and saw a mass that he said was probably either my liver or a twisted ovary. He believed that I had HELLP syndrome and would have to be delivered immediately. My doctor was already on the way in, and by the time he got there, the blood work had confirmed the diagnosis. They (finally!) gave me a shot of demerol for the pain and within a half hour, I was under general anesthesia for a c-section and exploratory surgery (to check my liver).
I spent 2 days in intensive care, on magnesium sulfate and cortisone injections. My baby was 4 lbs. 11 oz and was in NICU. I couldn't see her until the second day, when the NICU nurse wheeled her isolette upstairs to see me and let me hold and try to nurse her. My platelet count dropped to 20,000 and every time they drew blood, I got a terrible bruise. By the time I went home, my left forearm looked like it had been badly beaten. On Sunday night, my platelet and liver enzyme numbers turned the corner and I started feeling much better. I was released Wednesday and my new daughter (my third girl!) came home the next day.
She had some problems breastfeeding at first, because she was so small and sleepy, but is now a healthy, 9 lb. baby at 3 months old, smiling and cooing as I type this!