I just learned that May is Preeclampsia Awareness month. If you haven’t heard of preeclampsia, I recommend checking out the Preeclampsia Foundation site. Basically, preeclampsia is when a woman who is pregnant or who is postpartum experiences high blood pressure.
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The information in this post is not a substitute for medical advice! If you have a medical question, contact your doctor.
I first heard about preeclampsia while reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It’s covered in Part 7 “The Complicated Pregnancy”, which is towards the end of the book. The part that I just skimmed over of course because I didn’t think any of those complications would happen to me.
According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, the rates of preeclampsia have been increasing.
The Preeclampsia Foundation states:
Preeclampsia is now to be diagnosed by persistent high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy or the postpartum period that is associated with high levels of protein in the urine OR the new development of decreased blood platelets, trouble with the kidneys or liver, fluid in the lungs, or signs of brain trouble such as seizures and/or visual disturbances.
Important symptoms that may suggest preeclampsia are headaches, abdominal pain, shortness of breath or burning behind the sternum, nausea and vomiting, confusion, heightened state of anxiety, and/or visual disturbances such as oversensitivity to light, blurred vision, or seeing flashing spots or auras. Preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy impact 5-8% of all births in the United States.
I’ve also learned that having preeclampsia during pregnancy has been connected with increased risk of having high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes later in life.
I was personally affected by preeclampsia and it was the reason my daughter was born at 32 weeks. I have made efforts to live a healthier life style by eating a better diet and being more active. I also continue to have regular appointments and open communication with my primary care doctor. I am planning to get a blood pressure monitor like this one here so that I can monitor my blood pressure on my own.
The cause of preeclampsia is currently unknown. There are many possible theories, but more research is needed. I wasn’t experiencing any of the typical symptoms. I had gone to see my doctor because I was feeling tightness in my chest. I had been under a lot of stress recently and thought that was the cause for how I was feeling.
However, at that appointment my blood pressure was high and I had protein in my urine. I was immediately sent to the local hospital, and then because I was just 31 weeks the local hospital had an ambulance bring me to a major hospital in the city. I received magnesium sulfate and stayed on hospital bedrest until my daughter was born.
Ultimately, delivery had to be induced because my blood pressure was getting too high and it wasn’t safe for me or my baby. She was small for gestational age at birth, the doctors believed due to my preeclampsia, and weighed 2 lbs 14 oz . Luckily she was pretty healthy for such a little baby and spent just four weeks in the hospital between the NICU and special care nursery. After she was born I was put on blood pressure medication.
The day after I was discharged I noticed I had a lot of swelling and wasn’t feeling well, I checked my blood pressure and it was high. I called the hospital and they wanted me to come in to be checked. I ended up being hospitalized again for a few nights while my medication was adjusted and until my blood pressure was under control. I was on medications for six weeks total after birth, and thankfully my blood pressure has been normal ever since.
The biggest thing I learned here is to listen to your body. If you aren’t feeling well or feel like something may be wrong, especially during pregnancy, it is important to call your doctor. Routine prenatal care is so important because they will check for symptoms typically at every appointment. I hope that more research will be done to better understand this disease so that it can be prevented. Thank you for taking the time to read and learn about preeclampsia and my experience.
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