When I was pregnant with my son over two years ago, I had all of the classic pregnancy symptoms you can think of: nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to smells like meat and perfume, and extreme fatigue, just to name a few.
Around month 5 of my pregnancy, the symptoms above started to fade. However, something did not feel right. I started feeling new symptoms: pain, sharp pain in my liver area – the upper right quadrant area. Little to no urine output. Blurred vision. I started seeing stars, like I was about to faint, very frequently.
Every routine check-up I went to, my blood pressure level became more and more elevated. I had started off with a healthy 110/70, and by month 7, I was at 140/110. The nurse associated it to nerves – “white coat” hypertension as she called it: a syndrome whereby a patient’s feeling of anxiety in a medical environment results in an abnormally high reading when their blood pressure is measured.
I frequently went to the washroom hourly with the urgency to go but barely anything came out.
As my belly grew, I began to feel more and more uncomfortable and needed to rest and stay off my feet. Something still did not feel right.
I mentioned it to the nurse and the OBGYN every time I saw them and they always said, “Welcome to pregnancy; aches and pains are normal.”
But something in the back of my head told me something really wasn’t right. I had barely gained any weight in my pregnancy, but between month 7 and month 9 – I gained almost 30 pounds.
I decided to start Googling my odd symptoms – the little to no urine output, my blood pressure spiking, water retention, the pain on my upper right quadrant, which felt like my liver was on fire. Something had to come up, right? This couldn’t have been normal pregnancy aches and pains.
Preeclampsia came up. A word I had never heard of in my life. A condition I had never heard of.
Formerly called toxemia, preeclampsia is a condition that affects 5-8% of pregnant women. Its symptoms can include high blood pressure in women who haven’t previously experienced high blood pressure, a high level of protein in their urine, and swelling in the feet, legs, and hands. It usually appears late in pregnancy, though it can occur earlier.
If undiagnosed, preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia, a serious condition that can lead to seizures and HELLP Syndrome, which affects the breakdown of red blood cells, how the blood clots, and liver function for the pregnant woman.
Treatment depends on how close a woman is to her due date. If delivery isn’t advisable, a doctor might advise rest and dietary changes (among other things).
At 38 weeks, my blood pressure was at 148/110. The nurse was very concerned and told me she considered sending me to labor and delivery right away. I knew that was not a good level to have for blood pressure.
“I think I have preeclampsia,” I said to her. She took my blood pressure over and over again until she was satisfied with 137/94. “I’ll let the Doctor know but I think it’s honestly just white coat hypertension. I was scared for a little bit, though,” she added.
I was very scared at that moment. My doctor, again, stated that it was just white coat hypertension.
I had my son at 40 weeks, one hour past his due date. My blood pressure was off the charts when I came in and it would not go down. They ran blood work during my labor, and it was confirmed I had preeclampsia. Everything is a blur, but doctors and nurses were quick to take action on lowering my blood pressure and making me comfortable for my labor and delivery.
Thankfully, my son came out perfectly healthy and while it took months for my pain to disappear and my blood pressure to go back down, I am okay, too.
Ladies, if you feel that something isn’t right with your pregnancy, stay persistent and never let go of your worries until your concerns have been addressed and you have a satisfactory outcome – for both you and your sweet baby.