What is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and postpartum and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. This is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine; other symptoms include swelling in the hands and face, headaches, visual disturbances and sudden weight gain. Preeclampsia affects the mother’s kidneys, liver and other vital organs and if undetected or untreated can lead to seizures (eclampsia), stroke, organ failure and death. The cause of preeclampsia is still unknown and the only cure for the condition is delivery. Approximately, 5-8% of pregnancies are affected by preeclampsia. There are several types of preeclampsia including HELLP syndrome and the condition is a leading cause of preterm birth, responsible for about 76,000 maternal deaths and half a million infant deaths worldwide annually.
How did preeclampsia impact me?
Due to having a history of preeclampsia I have a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or a stroke 5-15 years after being diagnosed with this condition. I am a preeclampsia survivor because my doctor knew the signs and reacted quickly. Now more than ever I want to raise awareness because it is important that other women know the signs and symptoms because sometimes you don’t know you have symptoms, like me. I believe that raising awareness is important because too many women and babies lose their lives to preeclampsia. I will continue to support other moms and be an advocate for further research and education on this condition.
At my 34 week growth scan baby girl was still breech and my blood pressure was high. Although my doctor wasn’t concerned about my blood pressure being high because he thought I had “white coat syndrome “he wanted to run some additional labs and do a 24 hour urinalysis to rule out preeclampsia. That’s a scary word! If my doctor wasn’t concerned then I wasn’t concerned because I didn’t have any other symptoms other than high blood pressure during a routine visit. The following week I got my results which confirmed that I had preeclampsia due to high blood pressure and protein in my urine and I was put on bed rest the remainder of my pregnancy. What else can go wrong? I was in shock I think as I was in no way prepared for this not whatsoever. I was trying to make this pregnancy experience as happy and exciting as it could be but I was also an emotional wreck because I knew it was too early to deliver and what if something goes wrong? After a few days of processing everything and praying, I told myself to enjoy the time of rest as God knew that I needed it. Before I knew it my due date was quickly approaching and we started discussing my birth plan. At my 38 week appointment my doctor checked my blood pressure and it was 168/100 after lying on my left side for 20 minutes and we confirmed that my baby was still breech. I was terrified and thought that I had waited too long and that something would happen to me or my daughter so my doctor reminded me that the only cure for preeclampsia is delivery and scheduled a C-section for the following day as a planned C-section is better than an emergency C-section. Although the birth wasn't something I had planned or hoped for it was the birth that was needed.