Though pre-eclampsia only affects 5% of pregnant women it is important to be vigilant for this serious condition, as I discovered.
For many women the most common ailments during pregnancy are nausea, heartburn and fatigue. But some develop more serious conditions which can be potentially life-threatening for themselves and their unborn baby.
Pre-eclampsia, when a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure and protein in the urine, is one such serious condition. Although it only affects about 5% of pregnant women, the effects can be very serious and anyone showing signs of the condition may be admitted to hospital for the duration of their pregnancy.
Symptoms vary in severity from mild headaches to severe pains and swelling and although the condition can be detected through blood and urine tests, it is difficult to predict who may develop it and why it affects some women but not others.
I developed pre-eclampsia when I was seven months pregnant with my first child. But as the symptoms weren’t very severe, I only got to know this all of a sudden.
From about the 29th week I had high blood pressure when I went for usual check up and was admitted to hospital right away. Along with the high blood pressure, my face, hands and feet were swollen too. I was put on 24-hour monitoring with blood pressure checks and urinalysis.
I was lucky to not have experienced an eclamptic seizure. However, since my condition was not getting any better I was rushed into the operating theater so that my baby could be delivered safely.
Although I was in severe distress, the best moment of my life was having my husband besides me at the operation theater, who saw our baby being born by C- section. I had passed out.
It was a frightening experience. I did not know if I would see my baby or if she would grow up without me. I thought I was dying and was drifting in and out of consciousness. But luckily both myself and my baby were relatively well after the ordeal — the outcome could have been very different if I hand not been in hospital in time.
I did not cope too well at all and was severely traumatized in the beginning. In preparation for my delivery, I was given steroid shots to develop the babies lungs faster; I was also given other shots to stop delivery, because my body was doing everything it could to get the baby out, and my good doctors were doing everything they could to keep the baby in as long as possible. My baby weighed only 1.1kg when she was born. She stayed in ICU for 40 days.
Fortunately for my family, our story had a happy ending. However, I was traumatized by my experience and would like to advise other women to be aware of any unusual symptoms and seek help as soon as possible.
We are extremely thankful that our child and I recovered physically from the birth and the illness. But no-one in the hospital debriefed me on what happened. I did not even know what pre-eclampsia was until I got it.
Mentally, I was not in a great place and found it hard to keep it together during the post- natal period. My employers did not understand the gravity of my situation, which made matters worse.
So my advice to other women would be to speak out and don’t get brushed off. Trust your instincts. You do know best, your body is very intelligent and if you feel something isn’t quite right, go ahead and get a second and third opinion.
I have a happy, healthy three year old now, but had I not been in hospital in time, this may not be the case — I am blessed.
Pre-eclampsia causes high blood pressure and can be a massive killer for both pregnant women and babies.
It usually affects first-time mothers but some are more at risk than others if they have an underlying health condition or a family history. It can also occur in other pregnancies and despite the huge amount of research into the disease over the years, we don’t really know what causes it.
Symptoms include terrible headaches, chest pain and severe swelling of limbs and even the face. But some women have mild signs which are only picked up by blood-pressure readings and urine tests. I strongly advise women to keep antenatal appointments as checking for high blood pressure and protein in the urine is the main point of examinations.
Pre-eclampsia is not a minor condition but many people don’t know anything about it, so it is important to raise awareness.
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