Today is the first day of May and the first day of Preeclampsia Awareness Month. My friend Sarah wrote this post for me last year, but it’s so important that it’s worth re-publishing each year.
Every time I share her story, whether it be on my blog, Facebook, or Twitter, I will always get at least one woman thanking me…saying that she has these symptoms and will now ask her doctor about them. So that is why I am sharing it again today. If you are pregnant or know someone who is pregnant, read this post and learn the signs.
The following was written by Sarah Hughes, coordinator for the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia in Philadelphia/South Jersey. In it, she shares her experience with preeclampsia and why she walks to raise awareness.
“We mothers are so used to being the nurturers and caregivers that very often we make light of what we are feeling in order to continue on with the routine. So when I woke up six days after my C-section unable to catch my breath with blurry vision and a dull headache, I thought I was just tired. I had a newborn and a toddler. I didn’t have time to think something was wrong with me or what I could do to fix it, but my husband Rob insisted I call my OB-GYN.
Hayley was my second baby. She arrived full-term via scheduled C-section on October 25th. Our little princess had arrived and even my son Derek, at just 26 months old, was thrilled for our family. I was released from the hospital and spent two days in that post-baby honeymoon phase.
When I agreed to called my OB-GYN I was surprised at the stern immediacy in her voice when she insisted I get to the hospital right away. My in-laws rushed over and I kissed my babies goodbye- trying to be strong but unable to hold back the tears. Derek was going to be a fireman for Halloween that day, plus my brand-new Hayley Jane…I needed to be home and dress Hayley in pink and cuddle her…would she forget me? Would we never bond? I didn’t realize then that it would be three hellish days till I saw them again.
Preeclampsia. I heard the word and I knew it had to do with pregnancy and headaches and blood pressure (mine was 220/110)…but I wasn’t pregnant! There I was, a mother of two, about to be hooked up to a magnesium IV so I wouldn’t have a seizure or stroke due to preeclampsia and I had NEVER even heard of having preeclampsia postpartum!
A very sweet nurse sat down next to me and grabbed my hand firmly. She asked me to tell her what I was thinking. I told her, “I’m scared. I just want to be home with my babies, and I’m nervous what will happen to me and I’m afraid that I might die.” That was the honest truth. I was petrified that I would seize and die.
The first night I was on the magnesium I saw five of everything. I had to wear an oxygen tube because my oxygen saturation levels kept dropping so low that every time I would drift into sleep I would wake up gasping for my breath. I was pumping every two hours, unable to get out of bed and hooked up to a catheter.
I felt so sick, oh so sick. The magnesium makes you so so so sickly-feeling. After I came off the magnesium I felt “better.” My blood pressure was still high but low enough that I could go home eventually.
It took a few weeks for my blood pressure and me to get back to normal. I feel so lucky that my preeclampsia story only involves me and that Hayley was unharmed by it all. Most people aren’t so lucky since preeclampsia is the leading known cause of prematurity.
Thousands of women and babies die or get very sick each year from this dangerous condition called preeclampsia, a life-threatening disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, preeclampsia and related disorders such as HELLP syndrome and eclampsia are most often characterized by the presence of protein in the urine and a rapid rise in blood pressure that can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure and death of the mother and/or baby. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.
Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late second or third trimesters or middle to late pregnancy), though it can occur earlier. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and toxemia are outdated terms for preeclampsia. Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. The Preeclampsia Foundation is the only non-profit in the U.S. devoted to hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, serving the 10 million women worldwide who develop preeclampsia each year.
In the 5-15 years after having had preeclampsia I am now twice as likely to develop heart disease. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation there are an estimated 4.5 million U.S .women alive today who are at risk to die from cardiovascular disease or stroke because of their preeclampsia history. Both Hayley and Derek’s future wife are at a higher risk for developing preeclampsia because yes, it is hereditary. I have hope that one day we will find a cause and a cure for preeclampsia. I will forever be trying to help in the education of preeclampsia and raise money for The Preeclampsia Foundation.
I am the volunteer walk coordinator for the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia Philadelphia/South Jersey. May is officially Preeclampsia Awareness Month. Won’t you join our walk on Saturday, May 3rd, 2014 at Challenge Grove Park in Cherry Hill, New Jersey? We walk on Mother’s Day Weekend to celebrate mothers and babies!! If you aren’t local to the Philadelphia area, you can find a walk closer to you at www.promisewalk.org. We can’t do it alone!”
I grew up in Staten Island, New York. When I escaped working in New York City for a new life in Philadelphia I started dating my now husband Rob. We have two children, Derek is 4 and Hayley is 2. Finnegan is our 5-year-old Australian Shepherd and really more like a third child than a dog. All of our children love to sleep in our bed!! I am a Shot@Life Campion and a Preeclampsia Foundation Walk Coordinator. I blog over at Finnegan & The Hughes.