Under Pressure: a Pre-eclampsia Pregnancy

Three years ago today I was admitted to hospital with pre-eclampsia.

The previous 24 hours had been spent carrying around a watering can sized plastic bottle, increasingly full of my own urine, and I had arrived at the pregnancy assessment unit on the morning of Friday 10th September 2010 to present my ‘collection’ to the midwife as requested. A few days before at my routine 36 week check-up, my community midwife had detected a slightly raised blood pressure and more than a trace of protein in my urine sample – apparently enough to concern her sufficiently that she came to visit me at home two days later to check my BP again. Still raised. I was sent to the hospital to pick up the enormous vessel to contain the next day’s worth of wee – needed to perform an accurate test of my protein excretion over 24 hours – and here I was to return it.Blood Pressure

Still not officially on maternity leave, I had informed work I would be at hospital in the morning but would be in as soon as possible. I was sure everything would be fine – after all, I didn’t feel unwell. Surely all of this was just a precaution. Maybe I would just have to put my feet up a bit more. I spent a fun couple of hours repeatedly having my BP checked, and after four or five agonising attempts to find a vein, they took some blood. I awaited all of my results, fidgeting in my seat as I read a book and checked my watch. I only had a pay-and-display ticket on the car until 1pm.

Then the midwife returned and sat down next to me. Suddenly everything happened very quickly.

They wanted to admit me to the antenatal ward immediately for monitoring.

“Oh. What, just for the night?”

“No, not just for the night. You won’t be going home again until your baby is born.”

“Oh. So I’ve got to stay in hospital for a month?!”

“No, it won’t be that long. You’ll probably be delivered sooner rather than later.”

“Oh. Well, can I just pop home and get some things? I haven’t got anything with me.”

“No, we can’t let you go home. You have pre-eclampsia.”

“Oh.”

Before I knew it I was being ushered through the corridors and into the antenatal ward. I was shown to a bay where I sat down in the chair next to the bed and wondered what the hell was going on. How could I possibly be so dangerously ill when I felt perfectly well? There was no way they would let me drive home in case I deteriorated while I was gone and had an accident. I pleaded with them to let me at least go back to the car and put some more money on it so I didn’t get a parking ticket and they were reluctant to even let me do that. They gave me a couple of pills to pop to start treating my raised BP and I had to sit and ‘relax’ for half an hour before I could go outside. I rushed faster than they probably would have advised to the car park, fortunately in time to avoid a fine, and I finally called Andy. I had to give him a list off the top of my head of everything that I needed from home – clothes, toiletries, everything – and I tried to tell him not to worry, but I wasn’t even sure how worried we should be. I also called work and told them I wouldn’t be in. I didn’t go back for another ten months.

Back on the ward, they were relieved when I returned unscathed from my perilous journey down the road. I tried to get settled in and got comfy on the bed where I would spend the next five days. I was regularly given medication, my BP was checked so many times a day I lost count, and I was strapped to a fetal monitor everyday to check Joe’s heart rate and movements. I was given an ultrasound scan to estimate his birthweight. They estimated about 6lb – he was 5lb 9oz when he arrived, small for his gestation thanks to the growth restriction caused by the pre-eclampsia. Every time my BP was checked I was asked whether I had any headaches, any swelling of my hands or feet, any blurred vision, any stomach pains. I never did. But still my BP remained high, even on the medication. The consultant recommended induction of labour on the Wednesday of the following week, when I would have passed the 37 week milestone and have reached term. They dare not leave it any longer.

Needless to say, Joseph’s arrival was not entirely uneventful – but that is a story for another day. As I think back to this day three years ago, I think how lucky I was that my community midwife picked up on my abnormal readings in the first place, and that what I thought was the excessive reaction of the midwives in the assessment unit actually meant both me and my son were well looked after and safe. I will always be grateful for that.

Tommy'sAPEC

If you’d like to read more about pre-eclampsia, visit the Tommy’s website where you can see the research that is currently being done to find a cause and screening test for it. Action on Pre-eclampsia is a dedicated pre-eclampsia charity which also provides some great information.

15 Comments

  • Three years ago yesterday was the start of six of the most worrying days of my life. Being an expectant Grandma is a mixture of great excitement and apprehension. Having suffered with awful nausea for the first half of both my pregnancies then high blood pressure causing worry during the second half you always hope your daughter does not follow the same pattern. My first question after antenatal visits was “How’s your blood pressure?” However I can say when Jenny was admitted to hospital with pre-eclampsia I felt terrified. Living 130 miles away certainly did not help but sleepless nights were had thinking of the child you have bought into the world and your treasured grandchild being brought so abruptly into the same world. Things worked out fine for our family and I look at Joe three years on and know I am so lucky to have such a happy and healthy grandson. I cannot begin to imagine how it feels when things do not have such a happy conclusion.

  • Thanks for this Mum ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think what we can all take from this comment is that a complication of any sort in pregnancy not only affects the woman and her partner, but also their wider families. When the expectation of a new arrival is awaited with such excitement by those close to the parents, anything going wrong can obviously be very upsetting for them. They need support too.

  • This brings back so many memories for me. 4 years ago I had an emergency section because of re-eclampsia and hellp syndrome. Our little girl is 4 next month and we’re so grateful for trusting our instincts, the skill and professionalism of the NHS staff. I started raising awareness in earnest last year mainly through my book for APEC. Thanks for sharing.

    • It is stories like yours that make me feel very lucky. I am sorry you had such an ordeal but very glad your little girl is ok. Awareness raising is so important – especially when women can spot their own symptoms. It is obviously more difficult when you don’t feel any symptoms and at this point you have to rely on your midwife to spot something is wrong. Fortunately I’m sure the vast majority of cases are picked up before it is too late.

      • I told hubby that I wanted to ‘give something back’ when I was on mat leave but life took over -as it does with a newborn! I’ve since made 2 donations to APEC off the back of book sales, so I guess I’m ‘helping’ in some way ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I just came across this article following a link from something I wrote myself. This seems very similar to what happened to me! I was having a routine check when they found high protein in my urine and raised BP. I was in hospital a week then given a sweep which, thankfully, set things off. My boy was born weighing 5lb 5 at 37+3 (although the midwives think he was more like 35 weeks when they saw him). Like you I felt perfectly well and was frustrated at being stuck in hospital!

    my soon is now 10 months and I’m pregnant with number 2, due February…. very worried about getting PE again ๐Ÿ™

    • Our experiences are very similar! I am not on number two just yet ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Worrying about further pregnancies is a big factor after going through pre-eclampsia. I think it would always be in the back of my mind and I would be worried about it developing earlier. I would certainly be relying on my midwife to keep a good check on me! However, there is a very good chance it may never happen again, so fingers crossed for you.

      • Hope you don’t mind me putting in my two-penneth. Congratulations Sarah. Like GreatNorthMum says, at least you’re ’empowered’ with knowledge now! (Love the word empowered!)

      • Indeed. Like you I am worried about the chances of it developing again, but I am under lots of observation by consultants and midwives, so just have to hope things progress normally this time!

        My attitude is that I can’t control it, but I can be vigilant to anything that doesn’t feel right. So, fingers crossed and I just have to keep remembering that its more likely I won’t get it ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Brings back memories – I had an eclamptic fit during labour. Am so pleased you both made it through. Our son was also small & grew so quickly after being born & nobody would say he was in NICU when they look at him now x

    • That is scary stuff – glad you were both OK.

      I know what you mean about never knowing they were so small. Joe is a solid little unit now – if he runs into you, you know about it! He’s very active too. Certainly none the worse for being so tiny!

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