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When Preeclampsia Care Goes Right - My Story
Getting pregnant was not an easy journey for me and my husband Matt. After ten years of marriage and five years of trying to conceive through a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, multiple miscarriages, and numerous setbacks during our in-vitro fertilization (IVF) journey, we often felt like starting our family may never happen.
My work for the Preeclampsia Foundation had made me keenly aware that pregnancy is not a linear path by any stretch of the imagination. I had spent almost a decade working in the field of high-risk pregnancies with the Preeclampsia Foundation.
Our second round of intensive IVF treatment thankfully took, and after 12 weeks of intense monitoring and daily shots and medicines, I suddenly became a normal pregnant patient. Pregnancy itself came surprisingly easy for me. I was relatively healthy (despite experiencing perpetual morning sickness). Throughout the pregnancy, I had reasonable weight gain, great blood pressure, and a very healthy baby girl.
At my 37-week appointment (a Thursday), the nurse took my blood pressure and looked concerned.
“135/90?” she said, double-checking the reading. She flipped open my chart. “You normally run about 110/70. I don’t like that number.”
My obstetrician came in with the same frown. “So, Debbie informs me you are running a little high blood pressure today.” He measured it again himself, listening closely through the stethoscope. The reading came back a little lower, 128/85, but still high for me.
“At 37 weeks, the latest ACOG guidelines are clear that we don’t want this situation to worsen,” my obstetrician explained. “Technically, you are early term, so we are going to continue to monitor you closely, and determine when and if we need to induce. And you know that if you experience any headache, vision issues, upper right quadrant pain, or a home reading of 140/90, you call me immediately.”
Though he remained calm, I knew he was concerned because he did a quick ultrasound in his office to ensure our daughter was in the right position if we had to induce. That evening, a spike of blood pressure made him send me to labor and delivery to get checked out. I was back in his office Friday morning for another check, but my BP was only 125/80, so he sent me home with the same instructions as before - home monitoring, report to L&D if my blood pressure rose or I experienced symptoms. If all went well, he'd see me at 7 am Monday morning.
That night, I went to bed feeling a little off – unusual swelling in my feet despite having rested all day and my blood pressure still hovering higher than normal, though not hypertensive.
At 5 am on Saturday, I woke up with a splitting headache. My home pressure cuff registered 146/98. I took a Tylenol, waited 20 minutes, but neither my headache nor my hypertension went away.
We hopped in the car and headed straight to the Labor and Delivery department. My blood pressure continued to hover at the 140/90 threshold and a urinalysis confirmed that I had gone from trace protein the day before to +1.
Word spread around the L&D department about what I did professionally, so I soon had multiple nurses visiting to “talk shop” about preeclampsia care.
Their knowledge of proper preeclampsia care was evident. The nursing staff communicated about next steps on when they would start treating the blood pressure levels as I was admitted for induction. I was hooked up to a blood pressure monitor and a fetal heartrate monitor, and regularly reminded that if I displayed any of the symptoms, to buzz the nurses immediately.
Because of the labor staff’s confidence in how to care for an early-term preeclamptic patient, at no point was my condition a crisis. After 12 hours of Cervadil to ripen my cervix, the started me on a Pitocin drip to begin labor.
The nursing staff checked my blood pressure at every step, while also supporting me through the labor process. I even got to use a birthing ball and prenatal yoga to help my baby move into the right position and speed along my delivery!
They broke my water at 1:50 pm and at 3:18 pm, my daughter Adelaide officially entered the world: 7 pounds 3 oz and 19 inches of sweet, healthy rainbow baby. My birthing experience was beautiful, natural and completely peaceful.
During postpartum recovery, nurses came by to check my blood pressure every few hours. They reminded me that I was not out of the woods just because I had delivered, so again, if I had any symptoms, to alert them immediately. As a patient, I knew that my care providers understood my care and communicated with us effectively about each step of the labor process.
Dr. Mellum stopped by first thing on Monday morning to check up on me and schedule a one-week follow-up appointment at his office to recheck my blood pressure.
“You missed your appointment this morning,” he said with a smile as he came into the hospital room and peeked into the bassinet at my sleeping infant.
“Yeah, apparently, she just couldn’t wait for you to get back on call,” I said with a smile. I felt amazing. Thankfully, delivery did completely halt my hypertensive crisis and I bounced back quickly to my normal 110/70. My baby and I are healthy.
My birthing experience was the most empowering moment of my life. I am the opposite of traumatized by it, which from professional experience, I know is not the usual case with preeclampsia cases.
I want EVERY mom to be able to say that despite preeclampsia, they had an amazing birthing experience. That's why I ask that you support my team for the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia - because every mom deserves to walk out of the hospital feeling strong and amazing and empowered by her experience.