Jess Grieve shares her experience of pre-eclampsia

I had a very easy pregnancy and was hopeful that I would have my baby at the birth centre. At around 34 weeks, my mother had said I didn’t look well at all and that my face and neck looked puffy. I also had extremely swollen feet. She was worried I might have something called pre-eclampsia and sent me a link to the Action on Pre-eclampsia website,which I have since visited a lot. At that time I was sure everything was alright as I felt fine. Swollen feet are a common late pregnancy symptom, and my blood and urine results had been good at the last check-up, only a week or two before.

I had rushed to my 36 week check-up from my last morning at work before maternity leave, eager to enjoy some time off preparing for the baby. My baby was monitored and everything was fine, we discussed the birth centre and, towards the end, did the usual blood pressure and urine checks. Unfortunately they were not good at all. I will always be grateful to the community midwife that day who, on seeing I had veryhigh protein in my urine and high blood pressure, sent me straight to hospital even though I said I felt fine. I’m incredibly lucky that my appointment happened to be on that day.

On arriving at triage my levels were checked again and I was told I’d have to stay overnight for monitoring. Again, I thought this was strange as I felt perfectly well. Once I’d been moved to the ward, they checked my blood pressure. It had risen again so I was moved to the labour ward. At this pointit was decided I’d have to be induced. It was a little surreal to have been at work in the morning and then be induced in the evening.

By Sunday afternoon there were no signs that my baby was going to appear. It had also been 23 hours since my waters had been broken and doctors were worried about infection. An emergency caesarean was the only way forward.Although he had to be born early, fortunatelymy son was healthy and a good weight at 5lbs 3oz.
Immediately after the operation, however, I developed HELPP syndrome which is a complication of pre-eclampsia and as I held my baby for the first time my condition worsened. The doctors spotted my blood pressure rising again and things are a little hazy after that.

I was put on a drip and treated with magnesium sulphateand oxygen. I also had to be given a platelet transfusion. I was too weak to feed my baby initially so he was fed through a tube for the first few days and also had to be treated for jaundice (common in premature babies). We spent eight days in hospital asit took a while to stabilise my blood pressure and get my body back to normal.The midwives and doctors were absolutely fantastic.I also had a great deal of help from the breastfeeding volunteers who visited the ward daily. I still think about what the doctors and midwives at The Whittington did for meand my child every day. We were both incredibly lucky.
What is Pre-Eclampsia?

Pre-eclampsia happens when the placenta stops working properly. It causes the flow of blood through the placenta to be reduced, meaning the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen and nutrients. In the mother, it causes high blood pressure which in turn causes protein to leak from the kidneys into the urine. It usually happens in the second half of pregnancy (normally after 27 weeks), or shortly after the birth. Treatment of pre-eclampsia is vital for stopping the development of seizures, called eclampsia.

The Action on Pre-Eclampsia websitewww.apec.org.uk offers support and great information on pre-eclampsia and HELPPas well as a useful Facebook page www.facebook.com/APEC.UK. The Preeclampsia Foundation is based in America but also has a very useful site www.preeclampsia.org/ and Facebook pagewww.facebook.com/PreeclampsiaFoundation.

Who is at risk of getting pre-eclampsia?
• First pregnancy or first pregnancy with a new partner.
• Pre-eclampsia or eclampsia in any previous pregnancy.
• 10 years or more since the last baby.
• Age 40 years or more.
• Body mass index (BMI) of 35 or more at presentation.
• Family history of pre-eclampsia (in mother or sister).
• Some underlying medical conditions

Pre-eclampsia symptoms to look out for
• High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
• Proteinuria
• Swelling
• Headache
• Nausea or Vomiting
• Abdominal (stomach area) and/or Shoulder Pain
• Lower back pain
• Sudden Weight Gain
• Changes in vision
• Hyperreflexia
• Shortness of breath, anxiety

If you suspect you have pre-eclampsia go straight to your midwife or triage and get your blood pressure and urine levels checked.