Surviving Postpartum Preeclampsia & Making ER Changes

Post On Wednesday, April 13, 2016 By Kristin

Surviving Postpartum Preeclampsia & Making ER Changes
My second son was born a few days before Christmas. The delivery itself went smoothly and our son was healthy. We were home in time for Christmas Eve. That night I tried to go to sleep, but every time I would lie down I had a pounding headache. When I stood up again, it would subside. I figured it was just from the stress of being in a hospital and because our newborn was waking up every few hours.  
The next day, while sitting with my mom and sons at home, I suddenly had the worst headache of my life. My mom quickly told me to check my blood pressure with my dad’s blood pressure machine. She had been researching what could be the cause of my headaches the night before. It was 189/110. My husband and I rushed to the ER. 
That moment was the beginning of a nightmare of misdiagnoses and ER doctors minimizing symptoms. I told them I was three days postpartum and had the doctors call my obgyn at the hospital where I delivered. My obgyn said it was most likely postpartum preeclampsia and that I should be put on a 24-hour magnesium drip to prevent seizures. The ER said there was no protein in my urine, ruled out her input, and planned to send me home that night. My blood pressure had reached upwards of 196/110. They only decided to admit me once I started throwing up and at my husband’s insistence.
I was at risk for a seizure during that entire time. My husband and I kept telling the doctors and nurses it was postpartum preeclampsia. We were told preeclampsia doesn’t occur postpartum. Finally I had had enough and my husband and I fought for me to be transferred to Labor and Delivery for a magnesium drip (a full two days after my obgyn had suggested it). 
The nurses in Labor and Delivery said I should have been transferred there two days ago. I was at risk for seizure and was placed in a bed with padding on the rails for when or if I seized. The nurses were angry it took so long for me to be transferred there and got a patient advocate involved.  
A few days later I was released with blood pressure medication. My blood pressure went back to a normal level six weeks postpartum. 
According to Mayo Clinic, postpartum preeclampsia can develop as late as six weeks postpartum. Left untreated, it can result in seizures and in the most severe cases death. I did not have blood pressure issues before or during either of my pregnancies. It only occurred 72 hours after my second pregnancy.  
Advice from my experience:
  1. Advocate: Trust your intuition. If you feel like something is not right, question it. If you feel like you are unable to advocate for yourself because you are too sick, ask your family or friend to be your advocate. Our hospital also had a patient advocate. The Labor and Delivery nurses made us aware of this and we got her involved. 
  2. Buy a blood pressure monitor. They are available at most drugstores. You can also bring them to your obgyn appointment to see how close it reads to their blood pressure monitors.
  3. Pay it forward: After our experience with the ER, we met with the hospital directors. We wanted to make sure that no pregnant/postpartum woman went through what I went through. They made changes. The ER staff was put through additional training on maternal hypertension and preeclampsia. My case was used as a confidential case study during training. Labor and Delivery was to be involved in ER cases involving pregnant women going forward.
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