Pregnancy Induced Hypertension is one of the deadly silent signs of something going wrong in a healthy uncomplicated pregnancy.Unfortunately, most expectant moms, don’t realize how important it is to monitor this pregnancy induced hypertension.
Left untreated, this pressure can induce a cascade of other signs and symptoms that cause deadly disease. It’s for this reason that your doctor keenly monitors you like a hawk to ensure all is well. Many moms including myself, often think that some of these diseases are so farfetched and that we will never know anyone suffering from them.
Well, surprise! That’s what I thought until recently when I discovered otherwise.It all seems like yesterday, when I received this email from a dear friend who suffered this life threatening disease, hitting very close to home.
In her very own words, she narrates the terrible ordeal and how silent and deadly this pressure can be. I hope by sharing this with you, you will be able to share this with someone else and hopefully, together we can save a life someday!
She writes saying, “If this is the first you are hearing of this I truly apologize. In this global world we live in with facebook and all forms of communication it’s hard to tell who knows what about my hospitalization. If you have called me, sorry I am yet to weed through my voice-mails.”
It is wonderful to be sitting here writing this. Having met with the doctors that treated me during those first two days, I have a clearer understanding of the events on May 12/13 and just how close I came to never waking up again . A number of people have asked me what happened and other than it being easier to write down once versus repeat over the phone, in hindsight I realize that I made certain assumptions during my pregnancy based on what I had seen, read and heard and by sharing this with you, maybe someone you know, a family member or friend can learn from my experience.
I suffered from pregnancy induced hypertension along with other signs and symptoms including weight gain, headaches, and abdominal pain eventually leading to sudden onset of eclampsia.
Eclampsia, which I must stress, is rare in a person receiving regularprenatal care because it’s usually diagnosed early. It can lead to seizures, cerebral and pulmonary edema (accumulation of fluid in brain and lungs), renal failure, HELLP syndrome (elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count and anemia) and pressure leading to intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding within the skull).
My pregnancy induced hypertension was slightly high at 6 months (28 weeks) of pregnancy, although I was having the easiest pregnancy ever and considered low-risk. No morning sickness or nausea at all (I puked a total of 3 times in 6 months). No sensitivity to smells. General discomforts i.e. uterine stretching and a small cyst during the first month; increasing back pain and shortness of breath as the baby grew; feet swelling when I sat for long periods without walking; acne; high weight gain (45pounds by 6 months) which I associated with a craving for juice and low physical activity. Although, my mild pregnancy induced hypertension was being monitored, the evening of Tuesday May 11 into early Wednesday May 12, I had a bad headache and back pains which increased through the night. I took some pain killers but had trouble sleeping and vomited at about 3am. I called my doctors office to discuss these symptoms, some of which were expected as I was transitioning to the 3rd trimester – the lady recommended that I take a shower and see if that would help.
My next recollection is waking up the afternoon of Thursday May 13 in the Johns Hopkins Intensive Care Unit (ICU), unable to talk because I had been intubated and my hands were tied to the side bed handles (a preventative measure so that patients cannot remove the tube).
My husband explained to me what had happened. At 9:30am Wednesday May 12, he found me lying on the bathroom floor with my eyes half open and unresponsive. He called 911. I was transported to Howard County General Hospital and taken to the ER. I had a high pregnancy induced hypertension, seized twice on the operating room table and began to experience multiple organ failure. HELLP syndrome leads to a low platelet count which limits blood clotting ability.
The baby began to go into distress. Despite the low platelet count the doctors had to go ahead and do an emergency c-section. It is God’s blessing that the uterus was able to clamp back up after the operation. Our baby Justine (not real name) was born at 10:22am. The neonatologists where able to revive him within the first 5 minutes and were working on him throughout that day.
Due to the pulmonary edema, I was unable to breathe on my own, had to be intubated and put on a ventilator. A CT Scan and subsequent MRI showed a spot in the brain indicating possible bleeding or blockage due to the high pregnancy induced hypertension. I was air lifted to Johns Hopkins Hospital Wednesday evening. On Thursday an angiogram was performed confirming that a brain bleed had occurred within the skull. This was diagnosed as Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES) – a temporary condition which subsides with time.
Beginning Friday May 14, my body was on a clear road to recovery – which is how eclampsia works. Once the baby is removed and if the toxicity and its impacts are addressed, the body is able to return to the condition it was before. I was able to leave the ICU and move to a regular floor until I was finally discharged on Tuesday May 18 once I had passed specific neurological and obstetric tests.
Pre-eclampsia/Eclampsia (PE/E) is the second leading cause of mortality/morbidity in pregnant women after post-partum hemorrhage (excessive bleeding during childbirth). Most of the time, women receiving prenatal care receive an early diagnosis of pre-eclampsia due to their high blood pressure and protein in the urine and the appropriate precautions/treatments are taken.
Majority of pregnancies are uncomplicated but the possible list of complications that can occur is rather long! One thing I can say is that as I was having a low-risk pregnancy my main concerns where miscarriage and then pre-term labor. The night of May 12 it never occurred to me that I was experiencing symptoms of PE/E (and I work in the field of public health and this is not the first time I had heard of either condition!!!!).
One might ask, if I had HIGH pregnancy induced hypertension reading or been diagnosed with high blood pressure previously?
Well maybe, while on birth control, I had had 2 high readings in a 2 year period while being treated for bronchitis. These had not been consistent and during my annual OB/GYN checkups my blood pressure had been normal i.e. 120/80.
I had had no high blood pressure readings during any antenatal check-ups or any diagnosis of hypertension. Our baby Justin is in the NICU and growing each and every day. He is now over 2 weeks old and we continue to pray for his good health and strength for the challenges ahead. I’m not sure why this happened and it does still confuse me how I went from being relatively healthy to landing in an ICU. My husband and I do feel that things happen for a reason, sometimes we are able to link the dots and sometimes we’re not.
In this case we are working on moving forward and putting this behind us. We pray that Justin will be able to come home later this year. For those who did hear the news and were able to reach us, thank you again for your love, support and well wishes throughout this time. It has meant more than you would begin to imagine.
Pregnancy induced hypertension can be deadly. Please take note of any high blood pressure reading you get while trying to conceive, and when you do get pregnant. Preventing the formation of a cascade of dangerous disease is better than it’s treatment.