28 June 2018

7 Things I Wish I’d Known About Pre-Eclampsia

Imagine being a healthy and working, normal(ish) 23 year old, pregnant with your first baby and being told at your 28 week midwife appointment that you can’t go home and need to go to the hospital immediately. Pretty shitty and totally unfair, right? Well, actually, it turns out they were bloody amazing at their jobs and I’m lucky to still be here 10 years later.

You’ve probably guessed why they sent me to the hospital (clever you, it’s in the title) but I did not have a scooby-doo what pre-eclampsia was. I’d never heard of it. No one had been on telly talking about it; none of the characters in programmes I watched had suffered from it. I was convinced they’d made it up and I was absolutely fine. I wanted to go home. I had no visible symptoms. I wish I’d known how serious it was.

So here are 7 things I wish I’d known about pre-eclampsia – preferably before being diagnosed with it:

1.)    Every year in the UK about 1000 babies die because of pre-eclampsia – many of these deaths are as a consequence of premature delivery rather than the disease itself. Some 1-2 mothers die each year from complications of pre-eclampsia in the UK. Worldwide every 6 minutes a woman dies from pre-eclampsia. (Ok, so maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed being told this but it might have made me take them seriously.)

2.)    It’s the most common of the serious complications of pregnancy. So why had I not heard of it? Back in 2008 TV producers must either not have heard of it, or not wanted such a terrifying illness portrayed in their programmes. It wasn’t until around a year later that we had stories in Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey. Possibly because of celebrities having suffered with it. And last year we even saw Stacey in Eastenders having a seizure due to pre-eclampsia. Visibility is so important when it come to raising awareness.

3.)    Mild pre-eclampsia affects up to 10% of first time pregnancies with
severe pre-eclampsia affecting about 1-2 in 100 severe pregnancies.  See what I mean?! It’s insane that we don’t all know more about it. Those statistics are HUGE!

4.)    It’s caused by a defect in the placenta. It’s almost like the placenta refuses to do its job: the pressure builds, making mum feel like crap (migraines, swollen ankles…), and baby often stops growing because it’s not getting what it needs.

5.)    The only cure for pre-eclampsia is getting the baby and placenta outta there. Delivering those two is – quite literally – a life saver. Swift delivery can be all okally-dokally, but when the baby needs to be delivered early things get a little hairier. Extreme prematurity often means a long stay in NICU and also further complications (lungs aren’t developed, etc.).

6.)    No one actually knows the root cause of pre-eclampsia. They know it is all about the placenta, but they haven’t figured out why it affects certain women – there’s no one defining factor.

7.)    Pre-eclampsia has no symptoms in its early stages – which is why routine blood pressure tests and pissing in a pot are essentials being carried out at your antenatal appointments. I’ve never been one who can wee on-demand, and until this moment in my life I used to find it infuriating. Please don’t miss your check-ups because you “feel ok”. A combo of rising blood pressure and protein in the urine alert professionals that you might have pre-eclampsia, but there’s no foolproof diagnostic test.

Well there you have it, a quick round-up of things that might’ve been useful to know before I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. And you would probably like to know how it all turned out…let’s just say it was a happy ending – I’m doing ok and I’ve got a happy, healthy and developmentally perfect nearly-10-year-old. I was definitely one of the lucky ones. A mere 7.5 weeks in NICU and no complications for either of us. Plus I went on to have a pre-eclampsia free pregnancy with Boy Number 2 #winningatlife.

If you’d like to know more about pre-eclampsia, you’re concerned about symptoms you have or want to know how you can help with research, head over to Actionon Pre-eclampsia.

Written by Siobhan @thissisterscribes


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