A Preeclampsia Birth Story

Post On Monday, December 19, 2016 By Mandy Fredericks

A Preeclampsia Birth Story

I remember it like it was yesterday. The day I went in for what I thought was a routine prenatal checkup turned out to be one of the most emotional, scariest days of my life. I certainly never expected to end up in the hospital in tears. The remaining five weeks of my pregnancy thereafter were much of the same.

The Diagnosis:  

Thirty-two weeks pregnant and feeling somewhat okay, I headed to the doctor’s office on my lunch break for a routine checkup. I told my coworkers I’d be back soon and left my work on my desk. I hadn’t been experiencing any major issues at the time so there wasn’t any reason for me to think I wouldn’t be returning. Although there was a bit more weight gain than I was expecting, I wasn’t overly concerned. I knew many women who gained more weight than they’d like during their first pregnancy so I figured that’s all it was; however, I was starting to feel uncomfortable. I remember thinking that I shouldn’t be feeling that uncomfortable yet. I still had several weeks to go. It was one of the questions I was going to ask the doctors while I was there. I figured they’d let me know if it was a problem, but I assumed there wasn’t. On I went. 

My appointments were normally quick, just simple measures like blood pressure and urine samples. I had no clue that these two tests were about to turn my entire world upside down. My BP readings had always been normal prior to and during my pregnancy.  This day was different. It had skyrocketed. I thought to myself, “Was work stressing me out to cause this?” “Is it a false reading?” The nurse checked it again. Still abnormally high.  I was starting to get a little worried but not so much just yet. She started asking me questions about my vision and headaches. I answered no to all of them and told her that I had been feeling okay. The next step was to test the urine sample. This was the ultimate indicator that led to my diagnosis. There were high levels of protein found. The doctor said you have to get to the hospital now. I, obviously in disbelief or denial, (not sure which),  told her I couldn’t because I had to get back to work. Her response was, “You aren’t going back to work anytime soon. You have preeclampsia.”

What is Preeclampsia?  

Preeclampsia is diagnosed by high blood pressure, proteinuria (protein in the urine) and edema (swelling) during pregnancy. It’s a dangerous condition for both mother and baby and can become life-threatening if not properly managed. (You can find more information here about the condition.)  

I couldn’t believe it. I had researched so much about pregnancy, what to do and what not to do. I thought I was fully prepared; however I was not prepared for this.  What I failed to research were pregnancy complications. I always ignored those chapters in the pregnancy books. I recall reading briefly about preeclampsia but I also read it was rare. I never assumed it would happen to me.

Surely enough, this just added to the already-difficult pregnancy I had experienced in the earlier months. The first five months were hard, with extreme nausea. I had even ended up in the hospital once for dehydration. In my sixth month, the nausea had dissipated and I was finally feeling better. But now this? I couldn’t catch a break. Not only was the beginning of my pregnancy tough, the end is going to be tougher than ever.

The doctor had explained that the only cure for preeclampsia was delivery of the baby and that the goal is to get me to 37 weeks to then be induced. She explained the danger to my baby and myself if I didn’t watch my blood pressure and stress levels, which could result in an even more dangerous life-threatening situation. Preeclampsia places great strain on major organs such as the kidneys, liver, and brain. I was put on bed rest for the next five weeks. I went outside and called my husband. I cried and cried, a lot, and I told him he needed to meet me at the hospital. I was scared for myself, but more so for my baby. How did this happen and what is causing this? I have always been healthy so this really caught me off guard.

The next five weeks were grueling. I could only go up or down the steps once a day. My husband had to make me lunch before he went to work and bring it up to me to keep me from pushing myself. I’m one who loves to move, needs to move, always working, always accomplishing something. It was extremely difficult for me to do nothing at all, but I had to for myself and my baby. My husband and mom were so supportive during this time. I appreciate all that they had done for me. I don’t know what I would have done without them.

More Worry and Weight Gain

I was gaining weight much too quickly. (Sudden weight gain is a symptom of preeclampsia.) I was so swollen and I was extremely uncomfortable. Every day, I was scared. I was scared I’d develop eclampsia, a severe complication of preeclampsia which causes seizures. I thought of my baby every minute of the day, praying that everything would be ok. Did I move too much today? Is my baby getting enough oxygen? Am I going to wind up in the hospital again? These were just a few of the questions I asked myself on a daily basis. There was not a moment that went by where I didn’t worry about my baby boy as well as my own health.

Many stress tests, hospital visits, and 24-hour urine samples at home were warranted.  I was pricked by needles and given ultrasounds more than ever at this point. I never lost sight of the 37-week goal and I couldn’t wait until that day. I wanted my baby safe, with me. 

My original due date was May 12, but was now scheduled for April 22. I was trying to keep as positive as possible, but I was worried, really worried.

Delivery Day is Finally Here:

After a lot of doctor’s visits, occasional hospital stays, urine samples, blood pressure readings,  tears and worrying, I had made it to 37 weeks. Looking back at the below picture with my mom at the hospital reminds me of how uncomfortable I was, how much weight I had gained, and how difficult the entire journey was.

I couldn’t wait to have my baby. I was induced at 11:00 a.m. My BP remained stable and my beautiful healthy baby boy was born at 4:00 a.m. the next morning, 6 pounds 11 ounces. It was long, tiring and scary. There weren’t any issues at birth, and I’m very grateful for that.  I’m thankful for a great team of doctors to provide me with support, good care, and careful monitoring. It does break my heart, however, that may baby didn’t get to come when he was ready. 

It took me two years to feel like myself again. I had finally lost the weight and my body felt like it used to. The condition itself definitely leaves its mark. I did go on to have another baby years later. I thought long and hard about it. It wasn’t an easy decision. Once you have preeclampsia, you are more at risk of developing it again, but doctors had told me it happens often with first pregnancies. I thankfully had a very easy pregnancy the second time around, no issues, no preeclampsia, but I can safely say I am done with pregnancy. I have been blessed with two beautiful boys.

The Impact of Preeclampsia

I will never know why I developed preeclampsia and I worry about the toll it has taken on my body. Although delivery is the only “cure,” it doesn’t end there. Recent studies have shown that women who have had preeclampsia during pregnancy are at double risk for heart disease and stroke later in life. 

Raising Awareness:

It’s important women are made aware of this condition so they know the signs and symptoms. Sometimes you don’t even know you have it, like me. I luckily kept my doctor’s visit that day because if I had gone any longer it could have been much worse. I’m not even sure how long I had been walking around with the condition.

Last year, I raised funds for The Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. Many of my family members donated and my mom and stepmom joined me in the walk. I was so happy to take part in such a great cause and have family by my side.

I will continue to be an advocate for further research and education on this condition in which there is still uncertainty as to its cause. Too many women and babies have lost their lives to preeclampsia. Raising awareness is important. Acknowledging and showing support towards women with this terrifying illness is necessary.

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