Lessons learned from pre-eclampsia and HELLP

Post On Monday, January 28, 2013 By Laura

Lessons learned from pre-eclampsia and HELLP

Four and a half years ago, my son was born at 31 1/2 weeks, at just over 3 lbs, due to severe pre-eclampsia.  Unfortunately, after delivery, my pre-eclampsia worsened and I developed HELLP post-partum.  Despite the harrowing experience, I count myself very lucky - my son has minor preemie developmental issues, but is otherwise healthy and I recovered after two rounds of mag sulfate, a week in hospital, and a course of beta blockers.

A year later, we made a hesitant decision to proceed with a second pregnancy, and luckily the pre-eclampsia did not reoccur.  I took low dose aspirin daily under the recommendation of my doctor during that pregnancy, which worked for me personally.

I've often been asked what my lessons learned were from my first pregnancy:

1. Regular prenatal care saves lives.  I was very lucky that my midwife caught my high blood pressure and hunted me down after the results of my protein test were available.  She probably saved my life and my son's life.

2. Pre-eclampsia is not uncommon and often does not have any obvious symptoms.  I felt great, very healthy with no health concerns.  Very glad it just so happened that the hospital where I delivered had a level 3 NICU and a highly vigilant OBGYN practice.  Just thought it could never happen to me.

3. The magnesium sulfate treatment is a necessary evil.  I cried when I heard I was being re-admitted for a second course of mag sulfate after delivery and begged them repeatedly not to administer it again.

4. C-Sections are not always required.  While the situation was time-sensitive, I was able to be induced and have a medication-free birth.  

5. I was not prepared for the feeling of despair when I was wheeled out of the hospital empty-handed.  My son was in the NICU for his first month of life.  I was one of the lucky ones, my son was alive, and for that I was (and am) very grateful.  Families and caregivers of preemie parents or bereaved parents should consider providing extra support for this specific event.  Perhaps some hospitals do, but mine didn't; they just discharged me per the "normal" process.  

6. Kangaroo care for preemies helped me as much as it helped my son.  It's a scary environment, and I was completely overwhelmed when I first visited my son.  From the start, our NICU had us involved as much as possible, and we started kangaroo care with our son on his first day of life.  

7. NICU nurses are angels on Earth.  How they have the emotional and physical stamina to do what they do over a 12 hour shift day after day, I'll never know.  In addition to doing their day job, they helped my husband and I with the shock and taught us how to care for our preemie child.  I'll never be able to thank them enough.

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