I had postpartum preeclampsia.
I didn’t even know this was a thing. So, when I received the diagnosis that I had postpartum preeclampsia, I was completely surprised. Scared to death would be a better description.
Towards the last month or two of my pregnancy, I started to have an awful lot of swelling. Considering this was pregnancy and I had googled this symptom hundreds of times as well as my doctor telling me it was a normal symptom, I went on with my life.
If I did swell with my first pregnancy, I didn’t remember, nor did I remember being in so pain when I walked because of the swelling in my feet and ankles.
My blood pressure has always teetered on the low end, so when it started reading around 130/85-ish, that was high for me, but still wasn’t alarming to the doctors. Still, something didn’t seem right to me, but I chose to trust in the experts and google, of course.
I even ended up in the hospital one night because my blood pressure was high, but during my visit, it had managed to get back down to an acceptable rate, so they discharged me.
I went into labor 3 weeks before my due date, yay! The uncomfortable nights unable to sleep and swelling would finally be behind me. Little did I know, I had quite the adventure ahead.
December 13, 2017 I woke up at 3:30 a.m. with what felt like mild menstrual cramps. I knew this had to be it. I hopped on my trusty phone to google my symptoms, texted my sister in law and bff, downloaded the contraction tracker app then hopped in the shower to well, let’s be honest, shave.
I started packing my hospital bag and by 6 a.m. my water broke. I made arrangements for my 8 year old to get to school with a neighbor and off we went to the hospital. It was snowing and a blizzard was on the way.
I had an amazing birthing experience compared to my firstborn. They got me right into a large, private room. I was able to move about, from the bed to a birthing ball to the tub, etc.
At some point, I opted for an epidural because in my irrational mind, I thought for sure I was either dying from the pain or was physically unable to get through labor. The epidural made me super itchy. But, alas, I was in bed, waiting for the show to begin.
Around 2:45 p.m., I was given the green light to start pushing and by 3:00 p.m. my baby boy was in my arms. Considering I pushed my firstborn for 2 hours, I felt like I had hit the lottery.
Prior to checking out of the hospital, one of the doctors from the group at my OB/GYN, not the Dr. who delivered the baby, noticed that my BP was slightly elevated during and after delivery, which I had no idea. She told me that If I started to have headaches that wouldn’t go away with rest or tylenol, to come back and have my BP checked.
Sadly, my first night home, I developed a headache so intense, I couldn’t move. Tylenol and rest, didn’t help and before bed that night, I decided to take my BP. It was 190/95!!! I immediately called the doctor who told me to get back to the hospital, stat!
That night was a blur, literally, once I heard the doctors say that I could start seizing, my anxiety was through the roof which was giving me diarrhea and I was shaking pretty bad, not figuratively. I was quickly given magnesium sulfate and some type of antihypertensives to combat seizures and get my BP down. I had a brain MRI because my headaches were so intense I couldn’t function. Thankfully, it was normal.
This began my hospital stay without my newborn over the next 5 days. Until my BP got down to an acceptable rate, a few medications/doses later and the protein in my urine went down, I wouldn’t be discharged.
My anxiety was crippling and I was broken inside not having my newborn with me. My husband went home with our boys and came to the hospital every day to visit. I didn’t feel confident enough to take care of Atlas in the condition I was in, even with the nurses around to help. Truth be told, my anxiety got the best of me. But at the same time, I was a complete void when my baby wasn’t with me.
As scary as my experience was, it paled in comparison to some others. I wasn’t seizing, vomiting, I didn’t lose my vision and thank God, I’m still alive to talk about it today. I ended up on BP meds for a couple of long months postpartum. The Dr.s said that sometimes following preeclampsia, BP won’t return to normal.
After monitoring my BP daily and taking the meds, I started to see patterns that made me feel like I didn’t have to be on the meds anymore. I saw my Dr and she agreed we could stop the meds and praise God, my BP has gotten back to my normal.
The lesson here is that no one knows your body better than yourself. Our symptoms don’t always fall into the common categories and sometimes even the professionals overlook signs because they aren’t text book.
I don’t really know what more I could have done, but I did know in my heart of hearts that the swelling I was experiencing and my slightly elevated BP wasn’t due to normal pregnancy and lo and behold, in the end I was right. Unfortunately, until the worst occurs, sometimes things just can’t be caught early enough.
I know having preeclampsia can be frightening. If you are reading this because you have been diagnosed with preeclampsia or you had it before, I welcome you to share your experience. We are part of a small percentage of women who go through this, you’re not alone.
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I knew I would be sharing this story one day, read about that here.