“You Have Preeclampsia”

I remember reading Megan’s HELLP post back in January and thinking my preeclampsia experience was a breeze compared to hers. So when she asked me to share my own story I felt a little silly following her rapid weight gain, upset stomach and extreme swelling with my measly high blood pressure and swollen legs. And even as I write this I realize I am downplaying my situation. Preeclampsia, no matter what the symptoms, is a serious condition and one you should be vigilant of.

My story started a week or so before my 38-week appointment. I had noticed my legs were becoming really swollen. In hearing that pregnant women swell a lot, especially during their last trimester I didn’t think anything of it. I actually thought it was kind of funny because my legs didn’t resemble legs at all but huge logs. The swelling wasn’t accompanied by pain or numbness. The only thing at that point in my pregnancy that bothered me was that I couldn’t breathe. I constantly felt like I was getting a cold, which I think was probably my first sign.

24 weeks
24 weeks

On the way to dinner one evening I text my brother a picture of my swollen legs thinking it was pretty funny. I expected him to call and make fun of me. He definitely did but he also told me I had preeclampsia. “No I don’t. It’s just swelling. I was just at the doctor last week and my blood pressure was normal.” I was a little annoyed he thought he knew everything about pregnancy. Plus, I had it in my head that I was going to have an amazing birth, with no complications. It was my first kid, what did I know?!

32 weeks
32 weeks- My perfect Juno Halloween costume.

As many of you know, doctor’s appointments start to get pretty routine at the end of your pregnancy. My 38-week appointment consisted of the usual drills – taking a urine sample, getting weighed, checking my blood pressure and waiting to see the doctor. At my appointment the routine was normal, but my blood pressure wasn’t. I may not have even thought anything of it if I wasn’t just there the week before with my usual 100/70 BP (and of course my brother’s foreshadowing). This time it was 140/80, and my legs were still very swollen. I realize this blood pressure isn’t overly high but for me it certainly was and it jumped up in just a week. That alone is a warning sign, except my doctor didn’t seem to be worried. In fact she was about to send me on my merry way when I mentioned I thought my blood pressure was high. She double checked my chart and noticed that not only was my BP above average but I had a little protein in my urine, another sign something was wrong. She then looked at my legs and sent me down to the ER to check for blood clots.

Around 36 weeks
Around 36 weeks

After chatting with the nurse who did the ultra sound on my legs and learning that there were no blood clots (she just thought it was normal pregnancy swelling, by the way), I waited in my ER room for the doctor. He eventually came in and asked me what made my OB think I didn’t have preeclampsia. I said I didn’t know. Eventually I was told I’d have to be taken to the hospital where I was expected to deliver but I wasn’t told anything else.

In the most dramatic fashion I was rushed to the ER via ambulance, but not without protesting and crying the whole way there. I still didn’t realize the severity of my condition and wanted to be able to meet up with my husband and ride to the hospital together. Even after I was settled into a room and told I would be induced I asked if I could just be on bed rest and go home. The answer was no. I was already 38-weeks and my preeclampsia would only get worse. At the time I wasn’t quite sure what preeclampsia was (I was going to have the perfect birth, remember) so I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t just go home. The best way it was described to me was that my body was done being pregnant. In a way it was rejecting the baby and my daughter needed to come out before I got really sick.

She eventually did but not in the way I had hoped. After telling me I was going to be induced the doctor and nurses discovered Isla’s heart rate was 190. The doctor on call gave me 45-minutes (the time it took for him to do a C-section) for her heart rate to come down and if it didn’t come down I was going into the operating room. It never came down, and I was terrified.

The C-section went smoothly, Isla was perfectly healthy but my blood pressure was still high. I’m not sure when but at some point I was given magnesium to prevent seizures from occurring. After almost four days in the hospital and a blood transfusion my blood pressure was finally back in the normal range, not my normal but normal none-the-less.

After all of that chaos I felt like my body had failed me. I felt a little cheated and kind of angry because I didn’t understand. I was a healthy 20 something who ate right, exercised while pregnant and didn’t do anything harmful to my body. But it didn’t matter. Preeclampsia has no prejudice. And as of right now, we don’t know what causes the condition but research is slowly shedding light on some answers. It can strike anybody so if you are pregnant please pay attention to your body and your tests at the doctor. Let your OB know if something isn’t feeling right or if your blood pressure was higher than last time.

The Preeclampsia Foundation is a great website to check for symptoms, news and learn about the risk factors.

Did you suffer from Preeclampsia? What were your symptoms?

Jena Pugh is a stay-at-home working mom, a wife to her adoring husband Paul, and mama to two spunky girls. She currently writes daily blogs for Entertainment Benefits Group, a travel company that sells discounted tickets to Orlando theme parks (BestofOrlando.com, OrlandoFunTickets.com) and Las Vegas (BestofVegas.com) shows and attractions. Her blogs include happenings in both Vegas and Orlando as well as celebrity sightings in Sin City. Jena also teaches group fitness classes with Jacksonville Stroller Strength and is certified as a nutrition coach.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I had mild pre-c all thru out my pregnancy with my twins (high blood pressure, protein in my urine, enzymes in my liver) —it started at 19.5 weeks and my OB wanted me to terminate…I was not for it all—- but when I was laying down in the triage and they checked my blood pressure again it went down and I felt better. has long as I was on strict bed rest…I will be fine. turned out the twins had TTTS—and I had mirror image. made it to 36 weeks!! 2 healthy ID twin girls who are 3 now 🙂 it was a roller coaster pregnancy though lots of ups and downs, three times thought the babies would come to early—

    • I had a normal pregnancy up to the start of 39 weeks. My feet had been swelling in the third trimester, but blood pressure was normal so doc and I didn`t think anything of it. I started having sharp pains in my stomach on the right side as well and having a hard time breathing. I figured it was my son pressing on a nerve and not taking it easy cause I worked up to four days before he was born. I had already dilated 3.5cm at 39 weeks and if I didn`t have him before his due date, I would be scheduled for a c-section. 12am a day before he was due, my water broke and I went into full labor a couple minutes after when I was still at home. Strong contractions only 1 minute apart. When they were checking me in the hospt., my heart rate had sky rocketed and my blood pressure was in the 160s! Ended up delivering naturally with no time for any pain meds and in an O.R. in case I had an emergency c-section because my son`s heart rate dropped extremely low. Born not crying, and a total apgar score at 1 minute was a 2 out of 10.They diagnosed me with preeclampsia afterward and we stayed in the hospital 3 days. Thank you for sharing your preeclampsia story. It`s VERY important that we learn what the symptoms are!

  2. Our stories are almost identical. I was 36 weeks and given bed rest & that didn’t help. They induced, Landry climbed higher, her BP dropped mine sky rocketed and we did an emergency c-section. I was in the hospital for a week, with blood transfusions and magnesium. I had the same problem with my second child, so we scheduled the c-section and again I had a weeks stay. 4 years after the birth of my second child I am still on BP meds. Fingers crossed that one day my body won’t be so angry with me

  3. I nearly died as did my daughter 23 years ago. I had formative preeclampsia. I was very grateful I was in a teaching hospital when I gave birth to my daughter at 32 weeks. She is now doing a PHD. It took me about a year to recover. I still feel lucky to be here. No one tells you about this condition until you experience it and it is life changing. I went on to have a son and all is well so far but I worry about the effects of the drugs I had to take at the time longterm …. I hope they eventually manage to prevent this condition.

  4. My preeclampsia wasn’t diagnosed until my water broke. For the last 2 months I had noticed extreme swelling, my feet looked just like yours. I had to buy new ballet flats 2 sizes larger. At my 32 week appointment I had gained like 12 pounds but my blood pressure was ok. At 36 weeks I had gained 12 more pounds and my blood pressure was high. There was no protein in my urine so they decided to just monitor me closely. My water broke 2 days before I was scheduled to be induced. It was then that the doctor identified protein in my urine. Labor started out really well, but then I got a round of magnesium and it went down hill from there. I felt so sick and couldn’t move around. After almost 2 1/2 hours of pushing without any advancement, we decided to have a c-section. During the c section, I had uncontrollable shakes. A nurse laid warm towels on my arms, but it didn’t help. My son was wedged in my pelvis, so they had to pull him out by his feet. An hour after delivery I was finally able to hold him. Recovering in the days after was difficult. I was kept on Magnesium for 24 hours after delivery and that stuff makes you feel so miserable. And because I had pushed and had a c-section I ended up with an infection. But after 4 days we got the all clear to go home. It was terrible and I wish I had understood preeclampsia better before delivery!

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