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If you've had a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy in a prior pregnancy, deadling with a subsequent pregnancy can be emotionally difficult. Preparation is the key to a positive emotional and physical experience, with the best possible outcome.
Learn: Ask your health care professional for a write-up of your prior pregnancy. Focus on what happened to your body and how your symptoms manifested. Have a preconception check up with a specialist who can test for underlying conditions such as clotting disorders or chronic hypertension. The more you know about what happened to you, the more you can be aware of signs and symptoms should they repeat themselves. Read about all the various signs and symptoms in case preeclampsia presents itself again, but perhaps differently.
Rally Your Support Group: Every pregnancy ends with Mom needing additional help. Add a pregnancy complication and you may wish for a small army at your disposal. Line up the folks you know you can count on and trust to fulfill certain duties while you cannot and keep them informed of your health status. Not only will they be better equipped to help you, but sometimes it takes another perspective to see things - like changes in our appearance that may signal key symptoms.
Create a Sanctuary: If bed rest is in your future, start preparing the area in which you plan to spend the majority of that time. De-clutter it as much as possible and leave only the things that let your mind and body relax. Perhaps spruce the room up with a calming new paint job or some aromatherapy candles. Start collecting the things you know will help get you through the time, too - like books, movies, music, crafting supplies, a laptop computer, etc.
Be Proactive: Take control of the things you can - your diet, routinue, stress levels, etc. Get yourself in the best possible physical condition before you get pregnant, including lowering your BMI (body mass index) if you are overweight. After you're pregnant, self monitoring by using a portable blood pressure cuff and keeping a journal of your symptoms can help your health care provider by providing trends he/she would not otherwise see during your regular visits. But be careful, obsessing over every BP reading or pain can also be problematic. Your health care provider can guide you on how much information to gather.
Have an Emergency Plan: Know what you will do if your symptoms suddenly become severe. Do you live alone? Do you have access to emergency services like 911? What if you are out shopping or at work and become incapacitated? If you have other children at home, do you have childcare providers on standby? Make a list of all necessary numbers that anyone could use during an emergency and post them in your house, in your vehicle and carry them on your person. A medical ID bracelet or necklace is a great way to ensure this info is always with you. At home, program your speed dial with emergency numbers or utilize an alarm system with emergency medical services.
Stay Positive: History doesn't always repeat itself. Although a previous history of preeclampsia is the largest risk factor for getting it, you still have a greater chance of NOT getting it again. Your attitude may be the only thing left in your control at some point in the pregnancy, so make sure you're making every effort to enjoy this time and focus on the outcome - a healthy baby.
In the end, there are no guarantees to whether or not you will develop a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy like preeclampsia. But getting healthier, knowing your history, knowing yourself, knowing the facts and being prepared can help ensure that you've done everything possible to sway the odds of a safe and healthy outcome in your favor.
11th Annual Texas Conference on Health Disparities
Ft. Worth, TX
June 9-10, 2016