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  • About Preeclampsia
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    Sarah Zellner

    The Long-Term Health Impact of Preeclampsia During Pregnancy

    May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month. Preeclampsia is the number one pregnancy disorder facing pregnant people today, and it doesn’t necessarily end when you give birth. Preeclampsia, eclampsia, and HELLP syndrome are all considered hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. Most people think that once the baby is out, everything will be fine. They don’t realize there are quite serious potential long-term side effects of having had preeclampsia. In 2007 I gave birth to my first child. He was born prematurely due to early-onset severe preeclampsia. I also went on to develop eclampsia. I came far too close to death giving birth to my son, and it nearly took his life too. Fast forward to 2010, I gave birth to my second child. He was also premature due to early-onset severe preeclampsia. Lastly, in 2011 I gave birth to my twins. This was now my third time developing early-onset severe preeclampsia and I also developed HELLP syndrome. I never had high blood pressure prior to having preeclampsia and it did not go away after giving birth. I continued taking my blood pressure medication as prescribed and my doctor assured me that it just happens sometimes. Sometimes BP goes back to normal, but that doesn’t always happen. Nobody seemed worried, so I wasn’t worried. That is until about five years out. I woke up one day and I just couldn’t move. I could barely breathe and when I did stand up I had to sit within about two minutes. I felt awful. This progressed for a few hours, so I went to the ER. The following day I was diagnosed with atrial tachycardia and a flutter. They blamed my consistent high blood pressure for these heart issues. Another five years went by and I had a stroke. At this time I was seeing neurology and cardiology specialists. After a long series of various tests, it all came back to the common denominator of preeclampsia. Ten years later preeclampsia still had a hold on my life; how is that possible? Well, according to The Preeclampsia Foundation, “Women who have had preeclampsia have three to four times the risk of high blood pressure and double the risk for heart disease and stroke.” Research also shows that those who give birth prematurely, have an SGA baby, and those who have had it more than once have higher risk factors. This does not mean that every person with preeclampsia is going to end up like me, or even remotely close to what happened to me. This is to make you aware so you can discuss options now with your doctor on maintaining a healthy heart lifestyle. I never thought any of this would happen to me. I had no idea what preeclampsia even was prior to getting it, and unfortunately, there is no way to know who will develop it. There are certain characteristics that put you at higher risk, but I had none of them. Some people may have all of them and not get it. It’s terrifying how fast it can come on. I encourage all pregnant individuals to do a little research on it. Know the symptoms. This goes for those who have had it as well. Please look into these potential side effects and know the symptoms. I am not the same person I once was. I hope by relaying this message I can help prevent possible heart disease and/or stroke in other survivors of preeclampsia.

    Monica Ritz

    COVID-19 Ruined My Last Birth Experience

    Recently, our youngest baby girl turned one. It also marked the one-year anniversary of my COVID-19 diagnosis. Yes, one of the best days of my life was clouded by the virus that has plagued our lives for nearly two years now. I was admitted to the hospital for 24-hour preeclampsia observation at 34 weeks pregnant on Nov. 4, 2020. That night I tested positive for COVID-19. The following morning it was determined that my preeclampsia was severe, and our last baby would be delivered that afternoon. My wonderful OB had to break the news to me about her imminent delivery, and also informed me that my husband could not be present for her birth. I then learned that I wouldn’t see my baby until two weeks after my positive test. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. This was our fourth and final little girl, and I was already feeling all the emotions about going through her birth and first weeks for the last time. Our beautiful daughter, Everlie, was born that evening. I saw her briefly, before she went to her own isolation. Everlie would require two negative COVID tests before she could join the NICU, and I would recover on the mom and baby floor alone. The days that followed were the absolute worst days of my life. I had spent the entire day wondering how I would survive her C-section on my own. I never thought about how I would feel after she was here and we were not together. My recovery room was surrounded by rooms with parents and their newborns. I could hear their cries loudest at night, as I sobbed for my own baby, longing for the moment I would see her again. My husband, Stefan, and older girls tested negative for COVID throughout this entire situation. Stefan visited Everlie as much as he could, while juggling our older girls and his virtual teaching. We would video chat often, but I was in an endless cycle of pumping, cleaning pump supplies, watching the NICU webcam, checking on my older girls, while occasionally attempting to eat or sleep. I felt so many emotions, and yet I also felt so numb. I could not believe this was happening. On her second day of life, I was able to spend about 20 minutes holding my sweet baby girl. I donned a full set of PPE and anxiously waited for her arrival. Her little incubator took my breath away. She was perfect in every way and I cherished every second I was able to hold her. Everlie had her second negative COVID test that night and went to the NICU. My COVID symptoms were worse the next couple days, and I met with several doctors during this time. It was determined that I had COVID without realizing it, as my preeclampsia symptoms masked any COVID symptoms I was feeling. Once I was no longer contagious, I went home to finish recovering, leaving a huge piece of my heart in the NICU. Shortly after that, my husband was visiting Everlie in the NICU when a nurse asked him why her breast milk was in biohazard bags. He told her our story and explained that I was now cleared from quarantine by our local public health department, but I had not yet been given clearance to visit the NICU. This amazing nurse took my public health clearance letter and got clearance for me to visit my baby in the NICU–I was thrilled! That night I got to hold my tiny girl and hug the nurse who helped me get there. I can never thank her enough. Everlie was strong enough to come home two days later and her sisters could not wait to meet her. While we found new routines as a family of six, I did my best to recover from COVID and the trauma of Everlie’s birth experience. I had lost my sense of taste and smell, and both took months to fully return. Even now, I still have times where my favorite foods are no longer the same. The smell I missed most was that of my newborn baby. That is my favorite smell, and it hurt me to not know every little detail about her. The emotional recovery has been far more difficult for me. I wish we could go back and have the birth and postpartum experience that I had been planning for. I am thankful for an excellent counselor who has helped me process the emotions and feelings surrounding this experience. Our family has spent the last year doing everything we can to protect our preemie princess from all germs, but especially from COVID-19. Both my husband and I got vaccinated as soon as we were able, and now our oldest daughter has, too. It feels very personal when people choose to ignore mask mandates, or refuse the vaccine. If you know how much COVID wrecked my life and the beginning of our baby’s story, why would you not do everything to make sure no one else goes through that? It doesn’t make sense to me, and I hope that by sharing Everlie’s story, more people will be willing to protect our most vulnerable people–including pregnant mamas and premature babies.

    Steph Cullen

    What Not to Say to Someone Who Is Chronically Ill and Pregnant

    Most comments we make to pregnant individuals are made out of kindness, but they aren’t always received that way. The reason for this is something I feel should be obvious — because we don’t know what that person is going through, in pregnancy or otherwise. It’s usually best not to make comparisons or assumptions when it comes to chronic illness, but especially if the recipient is pregnant and struggling emotionally or physically, they might not perceive your response in the way it’s intended. 1. “Don’t worry, I didn’t glow in pregnancy either.” It’s fine to say to someone that you had a difficult pregnancy. It’s OK to relate to what they’ve expressed, but if they tell you they’re struggling, don’t tell them you “didn’t glow either.” Firstly, it implies the person isn’t glowing (a little rude) and secondly, unless they’ve explained their situation and it’s the same as yours, you’ve probably had different experiences. Not glowing isn’t the same as experiencing extreme pain because of chronic illness. You can empathize without using comparisons. 2. It’ll be worth it in the end. This is my least favorite and it’s one used most often. Most people who are pregnant know that it’s worth it. We know when we make sacrifices during pregnancy that it’s for the good of our baby; we know once we have our baby it’ll be worth it. However, those who are chronically ill and pregnant make many sacrifices, including reducing and stopping medication they need, in order to give their baby the best start. They are also prone to more complications in pregnancy, which means there’s a strong possibility that there could be complications present you aren’t aware of. To use a generic term like “it’ll be worth it” before knowing someone’s story may inadvertently invalidate their struggle. 3. “As soon as you hold your baby, you’ll instantly forget all of the pain of pregnancy.” Many people with chronic illness experience pain every single day. Our mental health is often affected as a result too. We don’t get the luxury of forgetting what it feels like. Yes, our bundles of love, our children, can make it all seem worthwhile, but to suggest we just forget isn’t true for everyone. 4. “The rush of love you’ll feel once you’ve given birth is like no other.” Stop! It’s suggested around 1 in 7 people are diagnosed with postpartum depression in the year after giving birth. The likelihood is a lot more suffer but don’t get an accurate diagnosis. To suggest everyone feels a rush of love as soon as their baby is born is damaging to those of us that don’t feel it instantly. It’s one of the reasons many feel ashamed to admit that it didn’t come easily to them. Another reason this is damaging to people with chronic health conditions is that we often already feel like we have to hide how we really feel to make others feel less uncomfortable. Some of us may be in too much pain initially to bond with our baby instantly. Some experience extreme anxiety after giving birth, and many take longer to adjust to parenthood. It’s not to say the love doesn’t come, but it’s not as always as instantaneous as this comment would have us believe. 5. “Wow, that’s a big bump.” I’ve had to stay on bed rest since 14 weeks gestation. I’ve put on a lot of weight because I’m not moving. I’m aware of this; I’m also conscious of it. I don’t need it highlighted to me by way of a flippant comment. In my first pregnancy, I was immobile from 16 weeks too. I also experienced preeclampsia which caused me to retain large amounts of water. I looked like a beach ball; even my hands and feet were puffy and my face was as round as a full moon. Never did I appreciate having that highlighted to me. 6. “All women go through this.” They don’t. Not all women will be juggling the full-time job of growing a healthy baby whilst also managing chronic and debilitating health conditions. Not all women become completely immobile as a result of their pregnancy. It is true that many people experience ill health during pregnancy. It’s also true that many enjoy pregnancy and feel well. Again, stop comparing. Period. 7. “What medication are you taking?” Mind your business. Some people will have natural pregnancies and some will depend on medication to function and in some cases survive. We don’t need your judgment or to give you an explanation. It’s a hard enough task trying to decide what to do for the best when managing ill health and pain during pregnancy. A bit like those who choose to have natural births without pain relief, it’s not for anyone else to decide how someone chooses to manage pregnancy and birth. It’s their decision alone, in consultation with medical professionals, not with the general public and not even with close friends unless they choose. Supporting a chronically ill person can be hard and nobody expects you to know the right thing to say all of the time, but it’s OK to say nothing, or to ask questions instead of trying to provide solutions. The same goes for parenthood; we all experience it differently. Some people will be aware early on of complications with their pregnancy, they may want your support or they may want to deal with it in private. Ask them! Don’t tell someone how they should or will feel, because you don’t know either to be true. Offer up your support, tell them you’re there if they need someone to talk to and let them know you support their decisions. If your friend does decide to open up, look up their health condition and research the complications they share with you. Don’t compare someone else’s pregnancy to yours. No two are the same.

    Community Voices
    Community Voices

    anniversary of my fear

    do anniversaries of your trauma make you spiral? I knew it was coming up but subconsciously I wasnt thinking about blood pressure has been slowly rising for the past week. today is was higher. 7 years ago I started feeling my symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia. it was scary and traumatic, being a new mom and being in the ICU 4 days after having a baby. fighting postpartum preeclampsia the 4 days before that. so today, i finally gave in and took a low dosage of blood pressure medication. but my mind keeps telling me :
    its only a matter of time
    damage has been done
    and no one can help you.
    I'm exhausted from feeling like I have to survive my thoughts and the physical symptoms it causes almost every single day.
    I'm afraid of everything, and angry that I can't heal.

    1 person is talking about this
    Community Voices

    yesterday and today

    yesterday I was anxious that my heart rate was too low.
    I was sitting on the couch having a lazy day and it was 58 BPM never rose over 107.
    I kept thinking something was wrong.
    wasn't I trying to lower my heart rate for months now?
    and I did it....but now a new worry appears.

    today my heart rate is barely in the low 80s at resting. sitting down coloring with my daughter is was 92.
    I've been anxious all day, it was busy at work. the plumbing in the bathroom is leaking through the wall a bit and I can't get a hold of our manager. my brain keeps saying Im sick.
    almost 7 years ago I had postpartum preeclampsia. it's rare, maybe 600 women a year get it. When I first had it I could barely find any info on it, now if I google it there is more.
    In a week it will be 7 years that I suffered for 4 days and doctors sending me home each time I went for help. unknowingly fighting for my life, my brain has since told me it's only a matter of time until the damage it caused catches up with me. doctors say I am fine, but that's what they said before and I almost died.
    how can I heal when I can barely trust their assurance?
    This must be why I feel this way.
    I think I triggered it last night.
    I was reading articles last night and found a story about a woman in 2015 who had a similar experience, but she actually went through a stroke, and didn't survive. she didnt get to know her baby, doctors sent her home. she went to them more than once for help probably pleading each time like I was.
    I feel sick to my stomach, ashamed that I am damaged and scared everyday. because I have had 7 years with my child, and she didn't even have a month. I feel like I should be more positive about this second chance, but I live in fear. today is one of the days where it has gotten the best of me.
    #PanicAttacks #PTSD #Anxiety

    2 people are talking about this
    Community Voices

    New Here

    I'm new on The Mighty. I've read many articles before deciding I should just make an account. I haven't seen much yet. I'm struggling with many mental and physical illnesses. I've been physically disabled since I was 9 years old. I developed a bone disease and after 6+ Surgeries just on my left hip, it was ultimately ruined and needed to be replaced. 2010 at 18, I had a total hip replacement. I don't remember a lot of my teen years and childhood, I just know I had multiple surgeries and a ton of physical therapy. My mother passed at 39 in 2013. I signed up for disability and was denied all the way through court. In 2014 I was diagnosed with Bipolar, Anxiety, PTSD, Adjustment Disorder, Myofascial Syndrome, Lupus, Pre-Diabetes, Inflammatory Arthritis, and Bilateral ddeafness. I tried to work and was heavily medicated. I decided to try and get pregnant. My husband and I were doing well. I ended up doing CSection due to Preeclampsia. My baby girl is healthy and happy. I got very lucky. I started working again. Doing alright. Then my health started declining fast. My doctor advised me to quit and sign up for disability again. We lost everything. Literally. Our car, home, dignity. You name it. I felt so much guilt and I still do. I still haven't heard about disability. I was diagnosed with PCOS. I had my appendix taken out. I had a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with Ulcers Colitis. Every day has been a struggle. We're staying with my Mother-in-law and its making my health decline more. I'm on so many meds I can't keep up. My calendar is filled with reminders of appointments, refills, bills, and anything I have to remember because I just can't keep up. I'm so overwhelmed and my husbands family has been awful to us. I have thought of giving up so many times. But I have a baby who needs me. I have been battling this guilt. I'm the reason we're struggling. I'm the reason we lost everything. It's been the hardest year since my mom passed. And right now all I want is for her to be here and take me in her arms. Christmas was her favorite holiday. She was so young..she battled with some of the same conditions so I fear I'm going to die young as well. There's so much more I could say..but I'm already overwhelmed. I pray 2020 will be a good year with less struggle. #Lupus #PTSD #BipolarDepression #Anxiety #Strugglelife

    19 people are talking about this
    Community Voices

    has anybody ever had postpartum preeclampsia? it's been 7 yrs since I had it and Im still afraid of dying

    i cant stop thinking that I am going to have an heart problem or blood pressure issue. and have constant panic attacks.

    3 people are talking about this
    Community Voices

    constant fear

    lately my PTSD from having post partum preeclampsia has made me afraid of everything once again. I'm constantly scared my blood pressure is too high, my heart rate isnt right, and the panic attack feelings feel the same as when I was fighting the symptoms of preeclampsia. i fought it for 4 days without help, doctors sent me home 3 times until they believed me. Now I am waking up at 3 am fighting cold sweats, shivers, burning skin, fear, nausea, light headedness. its been almost 7 years! i just want this fear to end!

    Community Voices

    PCOS Took My Dignity And How I Earned It Back

    PCOS is the most unfeminine medical disorder that a patient can experience.  It affects your appearance, your energy levels, and the way your body functions.  Early on in life, I experienced debilitating menstrual cycles, thinning hair, and increased weight gain despite constant activity.  I had acanthosis nigricans on my neck, a skin condition where body folds and creases turn dark.  I had no idea what it was so I would just scrub my neck constantly to try to get rid of it, but it didn’t go away.  I always felt dirty when it was there.  Little did I know it was a precursor to this condition.  As I entered my teen years, and increased my activity even more with Varsity sports (six days of constant workouts all year long), my body thinned out and the acanthosis nigricans disappeared.  As I hit college age and the activity slowed again, the weight returned and so did the hair loss.  I’m not sure if anyone noticed, but I certainly did.  It was thinning in the front so much that I could see my scalp as light reflected off of it.

    My diagnosis of PCOS came in my second year of college.  It wasn’t explained well.  My doctor at the time threw some birth control at me and sent me on my way.  I didn’t know the extent of this diagnosis until my husband and I prepared to have children.  We tried for five years to have a baby.  After three, we decided to look for help with a doctor.  I endured so many tests where you have to strip from the waist down while medical personal check out all your parts.  I experienced endless pelvic sonograms (basically a long rod is shoved inside you), a hysterosalpingogram (HSG test) where dye is squirted through your fallopian tubes to see if they are blocked, and even had to be hospitalized for a D&C.  When all that was said and done, we also continued with years’ worth of intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedures – you know the “turkey baster” method.  Three years in total with my legs up in the air before I even became pregnant.

    I was blessed with three beautiful children, something that not all women with PCOS will experience.  PCOS pregnancies are considered high risk.  Pregnant mothers with PCOS experience high rates of miscarriage, early births, and overweight babies due to increased chances of gestational diabetes.  Mothers are also at higher risk of preeclampsia – high blood pressure, water retention, protein in the urine which if not treated properly puts the patient at risk of organ failure.  I was so very lucky not to experience those things, but what did happen to me occurred after my pregnancies.  I lost so much hair I was balding in some spots.  I had to find ways to cover it up.  I had increased hirsutism (increase in body hair) mostly on my face and chin.  Almost immediately the hormonal shifts post-pregnancy caused cystic acne.  I felt less and less like a female every single day.Obesity was another battle.  With PCOS it’s very easy to put on weight if you have insulin resistance issues, which I do.  On the other hand, it’s also very difficult to lose that weight.  Your body is fighting against you.  So without the right combination of medication, exercise, proper diet to fit well with PCOS, it can be discouraging.  I have suffered from poor body image, frustration, anxiety and depression.   PCOS stole my dignity in every way possible.  I hated so much about myself and my life.  I hated the amount of doctor’s appointments I needed.  I loathed the amount of medications I took on a daily basis.  I was up in arms about my lack of control over my own body despite my own best efforts.

    It took some time but I earned all the dignity back that I lost to PCOS.  First, I found a doctor who specialized in PCOS.  That was a huge change.  I felt supported.  I decided to work hand in hand with my doctor.  I researched on my own.  I learned more about PCOS than I had ever known before.  I made sure I had a consistent exercise routine that worked well with PCOS patients, and I stuck to it.  I changed my eating habits based on the workings of a few registered dietitians who also specialize in this area.  I made a promise to myself that I would not let PCOS overtake me.  I was going to fight this sucker with everything I had… and I have for three years.  I became so engulfed in my health and well-being that I am now a personal trainer.  I work hard to help all people, not just patients with PCOS learn to find the best version of themselves through physical activity.  My defining moment came when I became a PCOS advocate not just for myself but for others who were just being diagnosed.  I have now known of my diagnosis for over twenty years.  It took 6 years after my original diagnosis to find any information about this disorder.  Now I work and volunteer my own time to try to help prevent other patients with the emotional and physical pain that I went through for so long.

    I will not suffer with PCOS.  I will thrive.  I will fight.  I will win.  Dignity and self-respect are mine to keep.