May 3, 2016

Understanding preeclampsia: One mother’s story

by
Under Preeclampsia: One Mother's Story

Trust your gut and seek help if you see these symptoms of preeclampsia.

When I was a little girl, the sister of one of my mother’s friends died of preeclampsia. Her name was Julie, and her death left a big impression on me. Even as an adult, I have thought about her. When I became pregnant, preeclampsia crossed my mind, but I didn’t think it would happen to me.

But it did.

Twice.

May marks Preeclampsia Awareness Month. If you are not familiar with preeclampsia, a condition involving high blood pressure, this video gives a great overview of the condition.

I had preeclampsia with two of my three children. Thankfully, my preeclampsia didn’t occur until late in my pregnancies (38 weeks), so though I had to be induced, my children did not have to be in the neonatal intensive care unit.

In both cases, the signs of my preeclampsia were the most common conditions: swelling, protein in my urine and high blood pressure. With my first child I also had rapid weight gain, which is caused by an increase in bodily fluid. I gained 10 pounds in a week. I requested a different scale because I was in such shock – ha!

Other signs can be:

  • Abdominal pain;
  • Severe headaches;
  • Change in reflexes;
  • Reduced urine or no urine output;
  • Dizziness;
  • Excessive vomiting and nausea; and/or
  • Vision changes.

My experience was that my blood pressure became borderline high and I had A LOT of swelling. The picture at the top of the post was taken the day I went into the hospital with preeclampsia. My face was so swollen that when I saw the midwife a week after having my son she said, “Wow, you look like a different person.” (Read about my family-centered C-section birth here.)

However, before getting the diagnosis, I also had to collect my urine for 24 hours (not fun!). This is done to check for protein in the urine. A high number means that the kidneys are affected.

In both cases, high blood pressure plus a high protein number meant I had to deliver my baby immediately.

Preeclampsia is not something to take lightly. After having experienced it twice, my advice is to trust your gut. If you are not feeling right, call your doctor or midwife immediately.

If you have experienced preeclampsia, what would you add to this?

Vanderbilt Women’s Health cares for women at all stages of their lives, from annual examinations to pregnancy and delivery. Learn more here.