Not all pregnancies are created equal.
Even though I knew that going into my first pregnancy, it was hard not to compare mine to others. I also had a preconceived notion as to what it would be like based on the fact that I was a healthy woman in my 30s; I worked out and ate relatively healthy with no previous health issues. And when I say no health issues, I mean none whatsoever. No high blood pressure, no diabetes, no high cholesterol, nothing.
So imagine my surprise at 38 weeks when my doctor told me there was protein in my urine, my blood pressure was unusually high, and the swelling in my hands and feet were grounds for me to go straight to the hospital to have my baby. What?! Just a week before, I told my doctor that my feet were still really swollen, and I was worried because I had gained about 7 lbs in one week. She said there was no protein in my urine yet so I should be fine.
All that changed in just one week. I was sent to the hospital on a Thursday, and three long days later, I finally gave birth to my beautiful son only nine days early. He weighed 5lbs and 15oz. He seemed so small to me, but they assured me that he looked perfect. It took twelve hours of ripening my cervix and two long days of labor. All because of this preeclampsia. For days and weeks after, I struggled with the feeling that I did something wrong since it developed out of the blue.
So what is preeclampsia?
I wasn’t so sure myself. Although it’s considered rare, more and more women are getting this condition during their pregnancies. It’s characterized by 3 main symptoms: high blood pressure, swelling of hands and feet and protein in urine. It usually develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy and in women who have normal blood pressure. No one knows how you get it or how to prevent it. When I was researching it, all I was able to find as far as treatment was to deliver the baby as soon as possible. Well, what happens when the symptoms continue after you deliver the baby? In my case, I was still extremely swollen and it was worse than during my pregnancy and my blood pressure had skyrocketed. On top of that, I had developed a cough that turned into pneumonia, which no one caught until after I was released from the hospital. Eventually, I was put on blood pressure medication and water pills after extensive lab work which showed low red blood cells and platelets. Once the swelling and the blood pressure went down, I was able to get off all medication, my labs went back to normal and I was finally able to focus on being a first time mom and enjoy my baby.
I’m continually searching for the stories of others who experienced preeclampsia because I just don’t know much about it and it seems not many people do. My experience wasn’t good, but I’m sure it could have been worse and wanting to have another baby makes it scary to think that it could happen again.
I know each pregnancy can be different so I won’t worry about the future, but I’ll enjoy the time I have now with my baby!
Carmen is a personal trainer focusing on women’s health and now pre- and post-natal workouts. She does in-home as well as outdoor workouts in the metro New Orleans area as well as the Northshore. She grew up in New Orleans and now lives with her husband and new baby in Slidell.
With my first pregnancy I was watched closely, although at the time my doctor dos not tell me that, because my mother had eclampsia when she had me. I was born via C-section a month early when my mom went into seizures. My pregnancy went fine until about 37 weeks when my doctor asked me to come in on Tuesday instead of Thursday the following week. Sure enough I awoke up like a sausage over the weekend. On Tuesday when I went in I was immediately sent to labor and delivery and induced. I spent almost 48 hours in labor and delivery after I delivered just to make sure my kidneys were working correctly and my pressure was down before they sent me to the regular recovery floor. My baby girl was perfectly healthy and I was told I would probably would not get it in future pregnancies. With my second I was watched but had no problems with blood pressure or preeclampsia. This time I was 25% abrupted when they induced on my due date. Had I waited to go into labor on my own it was likely the baby and I would have both died. We did not find out about the abruption until after I delivered and the doctor checked the placenta. Fast forward 12 years and onto baby number three. Perfect pregnancy although I worded because of my previous problems. I was checked once for preeclampsia and had to do a 24 hour urine check but all was fine. Normal pregnancy swelling from working on my feet but carried full term and went in to deliver on my due date. Five days after he was born I was home and had a really bad headache. At my miotjer’s urging I had a friend who had monitored my pressure through my pregnancy come and check and my pressure was elevated and the swelling that had previously gone down had come back. After calling my doctor I was told to go to the ER immediately. While there it was discovered that I had developed postpartum preeclampsia, something I had never heard of. Treatment was 24 hours on a magnesium drip at which time I was not allowed to be alone with my baby. Following the treatment everything was fine. Baby number four was almost exactly the same. No problems with blood pressure during pregnancy but five days postpartum I started with a headache. Monitored my pressure at home for a bit after speaking to the on call doctor and when it did not go down we packed up the baby and went to the hospital for another 24 hour drip. With the last one my pressure did stay elevated for a few weeks and I was on blood pressure medicine for about a month but since then I have been fine. Every pregnancy is different but all are miracles. I learned after my first that there was a study going in at the time of patients that were preeclamtic whose mothers were eclamptic. Seems there may be a hereditary link somewhere but I am not exactly sure. I do know that I will pay close attention of my daughter ever gets pregnant.
I gave birth via c-section to my second child at 37 weeks, 1 day because of preeclampsia. I went in for my routine prenatal visit and ended up staying for observation when they saw how high my blood pressure was. Three days later, I was back in the hospital with a headache and they told me that I would have to deliver that day. I had to be readmitted to the hospital less than a week after giving birth because my blood pressure was sky high again, even with the meds I was on. The whole thing was scary and emotional for me. I think the worst part physically was the magnesium sulfate IV – it made me feel MISERABLE- but the emotional aspect of it has been hard. Everything had been 100% healthy leading up to that appointment and then all of a sudden it was an emergency situation. Thank God my baby is perfect!
Hi Ladies! I am just now reading your stories and all I can say is that we as mothers are as miraculous as our babies that we give birth too. I never knew any one who was pre-eclamptic or even heard of it until recently and so many people have told me their stories. I’m not going to lie that this situation has made me fearful about getting pregnant again but what can I do? Each of your stories has given me hope that because there are so many of us, there will be more research into this scary pregnancy symptom.
I had preeclampsia with my with my first and I was the same as you. Very healthy and worked out regularly. I was fine up until I went into labor. I went to the doctor the day before and my blood pressure was normal. I was 39 weeks when I went into labor. When I got to the hospital they told me of my condition and put me on a magnesium drip. This slowed down my labor. Once I finally had my son I wasn’t allowed to have him in the room alone due to the drowsy side effect of the medicine. After 2 days they wanted to discharge my son and keep me which terrifies me. Luckily my blood pressure dropped enough to let me go at the same time as my son. I had no idea how serious the condition was until later. I will say that with my second I had no issues and was in and out of the hospital in 24 hours. So just because you have it once doesn’t mean you will have it every time.