At the heart of every preeclampsia diagnosis is a personal story. This page reveals how Evelien and Edith, with the help of careful guidance, made a difference themselves in their second pregnancy after having experienced preeclampsia.
Evelien lost her unborn child after 24 weeks of pregnancy due to preeclampsia. With the help of close monitoring and lots of exercise, she had a healthy baby daughter after a subsequent, complication-free pregnancy.
“Preeclampsia was new vocabulary to me”. As for many others, preeclampsia was something that Evelien had only heard of in a general manner. After all, if you are healthy, do not smoke and do not have any medical issues, it is hard to believe that your body can react so strongly to being pregnant. Nevertheless, things went wrong, and very quickly so.
“After 24 weeks of a smooth pregnancy, I suddenly felt very ill within a week.I dragged myself forward on swollen feet, slow as a granny, and experienced sudden nosebleeds and upper abdominal pain”. With the help of Doctor Google, Evelien came up with the self-diagnosis of preeclampsia, but still no alarm bells went off. A few days later, after mentioning her symptoms during the glucose tolerance test, a urine and blood test followed. The blood test was actually repeated, because the doctors did not believe the exceptionally poor results. It was instantly clear that swift action had to be taken, because the HELLP syndrome caused Evelien’s organs to fail one by one. In the surreal days that followed, she said goodbye to her baby, who was not sufficiently viable. Her suddenly empty baby bump came as a shock.
“That unexpected shock left us feeling dazed. My husband and I wanted to get a better understanding of what had happened”. While investigating resources for a relevant check-up and extra supervision, her GP referred Evelien to a gynaecologist specializing in preeclampsia. Additional tests showed that Evelien’s blood vessels were very narrow, but also revealed promising info. With correct supervision, she would be able to prepare her body for a new pregnancy. “There is no cure for preeclampsia, but we now had the appropriate knowledge to properly prepare for my pregnancy – without risk to myself or the baby”.
Evelien was instructed to perform intensive exercise for six months. The subsequent vascular test clearly showed improvements, and she was given the go-ahead for a new pregnancy. “This produced mixed feelings. My mind was all over the place, and I was a bit apprehensive in my expectations. In the meantime, I meticulously took the prescribed aspirin and additional medication. I did not skip any of my daily exercise sessions – until the last day before delivery I kept cycling, cross-training and clambering onto the rowing machine”.
The results were remarkable: tests during Evelien’s second pregnancy demonstrated that her blood vessels were better than ever. “A huge boost, because this strengthened my confidence that my body could handle it”. Together with her doctors, Evelien initially aimed for a pregnancy of at least 32 weeks, but this target was soon adjusted to 40. Eventually, it was not until 39 weeks that Evelien welcomed a healthy daughter into her life.
After the birth of her daughter, Evelien’s medication was quickly scaled down, and her cardiovascular function is now monitored annually. “Now, more than ever, I realize that the impact of pregnancy on your body is enormous, and the stories about pregnancies gone wrong are mainly about what can go wrong with the baby. As a young mother you are not particularly aware of this. Especially when you live a healthy life, have high pain tolerance and do not go to the doctor’s quickly, it can be challenging to think beyond ‘this will not happen to me’. So do not put off that phone call; go to the doctor immediately if you feel something is not right”.
Shortly after giving birth to her son, Edith ended up in the ICU with preeclampsia and heart failure. After her heart condition had recovered, she welcomed her second child, co-supervised by a cardiologist and gynaecologist.
“My first pregnancy was almost completely carefree”. It was not until a month and a half before the due date that Edith noticed her body was swelling more and more. “You hear so many pregnant women talk about swollen legs or feet. I had no history of health problems; it did not seem anything other than fat feet”.
As Edith’s pregnancy entered the final stages, palpitations and Braxton Hicks contractions also cropped up. When the abdominal cramps persisted and everything, including her eyelids, became swollen, the diagnosis of preeclampsia was wrapped up with high blood pressure readings and a urine test. A few days before her due date, Edith was induced and after a difficult delivery, her son was born.
“In the following days on the maternity ward, I barely got out of bed. I was exhausted and short of breath. Meanwhile, I was administered extra blood and fluids, and about two days after my delivery, the ER doctor decided to intervene in the middle of the night”. Edith spent five days in the ICU with heart failure, followed by two weeks of cardiology and extensive home recovery, including heavy heart medication.
At one point, the medication was tapered, yet Edith was told her cardiovascular risks would complicate a subsequent pregnancy. She was referred to the women’s cardiac centre and there she received a different message. With regular check-ups and co-monitored by a cardiologist and gynaecologist, she would be able to start her second pregnancy.
“Worries about my heart meant my second pregnancy was certainly not as carefree as the first. In the last trimester I was advised to take rest because of Braxton Hicks. When I gained 4 kg in a week, I was admitted to hospital and that is when my peace of mind grew and I could start counting down the days to my induction”. Edith had a smooth delivery of her baby girl.
“Do not dismiss any complaints, and keep making your concerns plain. Preeclampsia still is a complication that does not always show itself clearly, so it is important that you continue to mention to your gynaecologist that certain symptoms persist”.