Pregnancy Information Topical Thursday

Julia’s Story – Pre Eclampsia Awareness

My first pregnancy was a dream. We were so very excited to have our first baby together, and when we found out we were expecting a little boy we filled our house full of blue and couldn’t wait.

I had absolutely no problems, not even morning sickness, until I reached around 30 weeks. At my check ups my blood pressure had started to rise a little, and I had small bits of protein in my urine, but there was nothing to concern anyone. I was admitted to hospital twice in the following few weeks, for what they told me was gastroenteritis. The second time I had to be brought in by ambulance after a crippling migraine left me vomiting and unable to move. But again, I was told it was stomach bug, placed on a drip, and allowed home the next day.

At 34 weeks I went in for my routine blood tests. After doing my blood pressure and dipping my urine they asked me to wait at the hospital for my blood results. I was infuriated. I had too much to do to sit at hospital for two hours waiting for those.

It was then that everything changed. Then that it all got turned upside down.

The midwife came and told me I couldn’t go home. I was distraught. Why? I didn’t want to stay in hospital on my own. Then the consultant came in. He told me I was suffering from pre-eclampsia, and that my blood results showed it was so severe that my organs were starting to fail.

I didn’t believe them – I felt the same I always had, I didn’t feel unwell at all and part from the BP and protein had absolutely no symptoms of PE. But they told me then and there I wouldn’t be going home without my baby.

I was terrified. I was only 34 weeks and had no idea if that meant my baby boy would be okay. My partner, Stephen, had to go home and I spent the whole night in tears. The next day I had scans and steroid shots to mature the baby’s lungs in case of early delivery.  He was growing well, but I couldn’t believe looking at his face on the scan that we might be seeing him so much sooner than planned.

They decided that the next morning they would try to induce me, as the only cure for PE is to deliver the baby.

I felt an absolute, abject failure. Why had my body let my baby down? What if he was poorly? What if he needed to go to special care? What if he didn’t make it? And it was all my fault. Because my body wasn’t good enough to carry him to full term. I didn’t even consider the PE could also kill me.

At 8am the next day they started the induction procedure. I spent all day not really doing much. It became clear the induction had failed. I sat there on the monitor listening to his heartbeat for hours. He wasn’t moving much, and in the end hardly at all. That, combined with my illness worsening, led the consultant to make the decision that I needed an emergency c-section.

I had already had an epidural which they topped up, and wheeled me in. But there was more to come. As Stephen sat down beside me I was so scared. Then they cut into me and I shouted out in pain. Everyone stopped. “Can you feel that?” The anaesthetist asked. Yes. Yes I could. As they had already started they had no option to put me under a general anaesthetic, meaning Stephen had to leave the room. Neither of us got to see our precious boy, Riley, make his way into the world at10.31pm, weighing 5lbs 5oz.

I suffered a bad postpartum haemorrhage as well, losing over a litre of blood and required a transfusion. When I came round I was being wheeled to the high dependency unit, where I was hooked up to all sorts of machines and drips, including magnesium to prevent me fitting and developing eclampsia.

I looked up, and there in Stephens arms was our gorgeous baby. He was perfect, and didn’t need to spend any time in special care – something that to this day I’m exceptionally grateful for.

I had to stay on high dependency for 24 hours, and was so unwell.

In all we were in hospital for 8 days. It was the best time of my life and the absolute worst all rolled into one. I came out of the hospital black and blue from all the needles; but we were okay. I made a full recovery quite quickly, physically. I was, much later, diagnosed with PTSD from what happened and it’s still as fresh in my memory as if it was yesterday. I still feel guilt, even though I know it’s not my fault. Riley is now 7, and an amazing boy. He’s undergoing assessment for a number of things, some of which may have been caused by his prematurity, and that makes the guilt even worse. But he is beautiful and healthy and that’s all I could have ever hoped.

I went on to have a perfectly normal second pregnancy resulting in our second son, Beau, being born by elective csection in 2014. It was a calm, wonderful experience, that put to bed a lot of the awful memories of my previous birth.

At Christmas 2016 I found out, rather unexpectedly, that I was pregnant again. As with Beau I was under consultant led care and had regular scans and weekly check ups with my midwife. 20 weeks in we found out we were expecting our first girl, and were over the moon. My pregnancy went smoothly. Despite a million check ups everything was perfect. I thought well that’s it, I’m a classic textbook case of only having PE in my first pregnancy.

Then at around 38 weeks, my BP crept up. I was sent to my hospitals MAC where they checked me out but there was no real concern at the sudden spike in my BP, despite my history.

When I went in for my pre-op assessment, it had spiked again – more tests, more “everything’s okay”.

I went in for my booked elective on the Monday morning as planned. It took them a long time to site the combined spinal and epidural, and once they’d finished and laid me down, I could hear concern. My heart rate had plummeted, and I had to be given drugs to speed it up, which made me feel awful.

Sofia-Rose arrived soon after, as perfect as we knew she would be. But almost immediately, my BP sky rocketed. I was immediately given medication to bring it down, but it kept going back up.

This time, I was diagnosed with the much rarer post partum pre-eclampsia. I couldn’t believe after everything it had come back.

I was allowed home after two days but the subsequent fortnight was back and too to hospital as my BP kept rising – at one point to the highest i had seen it go. My partners entire paternity leave was lost to appointments and check ups and it was heartbreaking having to keep leaving my babies. All I wanted was normality, and thankfully nearly five weeks in I’m off all medication, and everything seems to have stabilised.

We were so lucky – our babies were okay and touch wood so am I. But for so many it’s not the case. Pre eclampsia in all its forms is currently incurable, and no one really knows what causes it. Research is sadly lacking, as often is understanding and knowledge of the condition.

I hope our story gives you some insight into the condition, and if I can help spread a little awareness in any way, I will.

About the author

Lisa Newhouse