Pregnancy | Women's Health
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.


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.

9 thoughts on “Understanding preeclampsia: One mother’s story”

  1. Erica says:

    I experienced preeclampsia after I had my daughter the day before I had her I was weighing in at 217 when I went back a week later I was weighing 225 from all the fluid that was on my body I lost 20 lbs in one night of being in the hospital on meds. I think it’s really important to know that even though it’s mostly thought of during pregnancy it’s also possible afterward even though it’s rare!

  2. L Floyd says:

    I had a very similar experience. From the start, I had swelling and seemed to gain pound after pound. I ultimately gained 60 lbs, 30 of which was gone Within 10 days after giving birth. I had swelling from about the 3rd month but weight gain and swelling is just part of pregnancy so it wasn’t a red flag because I didn’t have protein in my urine. My blood pressure crept up just a tad but in the last few months. It wasn’t until week 36/37 I began having lots of headaches. I went for my 38 week appointment and told my dr about them. He said “I can handle swelling and weight gain and a little bit of high blood pressure because that all goes with pregnancy. What I don’t like is headaches because that’s neurological and you could have seizures”. We had a c section the next morning and my son spent about 36 hours in NICU due to not breathing well on his own. I’m thankful for such a fine OB. I don’t believe the pre eclampsia was present until the last few weeks. But I’m blessed and thankful my son and I were both fine.

    1. My Southern Health says:

      Thank you for sharing you story. So glad it all worked out well. — Cynthia

  3. carol coker says:

    Agree. First pregnancy I had post partum pre eclampsia! Second one was induced organ. Pre eclampsia can cause organ failure…it is really serious. The doctor had the nurse remove the phone from my room and I was not allowed visitors for 24 hours.

    1. My Southern Health says:

      Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. — Cynthia

  4. Jessica White says:

    I had pre-e with 2 out of 3 of my pregnancies; the second being the most severe. I ended up at Vanderbilt (an hour and a half away from home) with extremely high blood pressure (they said it was high enough I could have had a stroke!), protein in my urine and an incredible amount of swelling. I was hospitalized 10 days before my son was born, and he was born at 33 weeks. Even after he was born, it look about a week of finding the right meds to get my BP close to normal. I remained in the hospital for 10 days after his birth, but we both went home happy and healthy! Thanks for taking good care of us, Vanderbilt!

    1. My Southern Health says:

      Our honor to be there for your family! – Cynthia

  5. Lydia says:

    I went in for my 37 week check up and I had been swelling bad for about 2 weeks. I told my doctor about my swelling and they told me it was normal during pregnancy to swell. Finally I had a bp reading of 160/100 and it spiked some concerns so I mentioned my swelling again and when they checked it again they were not happy about it and decided I needed to be admitted for a 24 hour check. Two hours after I was admitted they prepared me for a c-section with a bp of 175/109 on medication and swelling not going down any. I wish more were educated on the symotoms.

    1. My Southern Health says:

      Pre-e is something expectant moms need to know about. Thanks for sharing your story and letting others learn from what you experienced. — Cynthia

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