Alrighty, so, if you wake up one morning and your feet suddenly look like THIS:
(Left picture is from Sunday morning, right is from Tuesday morning). Whether you are pregnant or not, it’s not normal. If you are pregnant however, and you’ve experienced ZERO swelling throughout your entire pregnancy (and you haven’t been overdosing in salt over recent days), take heed.
Preeclampsia is not a joke, it’s not a myth, it’s actually quite a serious ailment that could, in extreme cases, cause death. So be educated, know what to look for and pay attention to your body and what it tells you.
The disease is sometimes referred to as a silent killer because most people can’t “feel” their blood pressure going up, or, for that matter, a number of the ‘issues’ going on in your body. How would you know you have increased protein in your urine?
So, Sunday. Right, I woke up with huge dinosaur feet, I’d gained 3.5lbs in a matter of days – and, after a quick Google search (yes, I know, self diagnosis is a total disaster!!) I discovered that these were common symptoms of Preeclampsia, the 3rd pillar of ‘self diagnosis’, being high blood pressure. So off we went to Walmart, to use the self-check blood pressure machine, ‘best of three’ later, and I called my OB’s emergency line to ask for someone to dip my pee and test for protein, so we could rule out pre-e and stop me freaking.
The lovely folks at Methodist Hospital, had other ideas, blood tests, urine tests, two collapsed veins, 24-hour constant monitoring for both baby and I, 24-hour urine collection and an ultrasound made for an interesting overnight stay in the hospital – especially since I was having minor and irregular contractions to boot!
Thankfully, all tests came back clear and all that came of my hospital stint, was that they wanted us to buy an in-home blood pressure monitor and check my blood pressure a few times a day – just in case. Because pre-e can hit at any time and sometimes the swelling can happen a few weeks before any other symptoms present themselves.
After being admitted to the hospital for a rather scary 24 hours of testing and observation, I decided I needed to blog about this disease. Perhaps you’re not familiar with it, like I wasn’t. Perhaps you’ve heard about it, but never really paid attention.
Well, pay attention. This shit is serious!
What is Preeclampsia?
Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, it is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches, changes in vision and upper right quadrant pain are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.
Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late pregnancy) and up to six weeks postpartum, though in rare cases it can occur earlier than 20 weeks. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia.
Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year.
The ONLY cure for Preeclampsia is delivery of your baby. They will try and ‘get you’ to 37 weeks where possible, but, depending on the severity of your symptoms, how the baby is responding to the disease and how you react to things like blood pressure medications, they may opt to extract the little one early.
Here’s the trifecta of symptoms I had (that I could obviously see/experience myself and be aware of):
- Severe and sudden swelling (see above dinosaur feet picture)
- Severe and sudden weight gain (I had 3.5lbs between Thursday and Sunday – WAY out of the ordinary for me!)
- High blood pressure (I went to Walmart – yay for self diagnosing, not! And my BP was elevated, my docs have since said anything over 140/90 and you should call your OB).
Blurry or ‘disturbed’ vision, one friend called it ‘worms in your sight’
Headache – not a tension, hunger or ‘regular’ headache, but a headache that won’t go away with Tylenol.
Pain under your right boob, where your liver is.
Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
Blood pressure monitoring. I was on a blood pressure monitor for almost 24 hours, the first 8-9hours I was ‘hypertensive’ (peaking at around 106/96).
Test your reflexes. Reflexes are more ‘violent’ when Preeclampsia is present.
Urine dip – to check the level of protein. If this is negative, or inconclusive and you still have symptoms that suggest it’s possible, they may do a ‘24 hour urine collection’ which is what they did with me. Essentially you pee in a tub for 24 hours and they run a total protein level over an extended period of time compared to the amount of pee you produce and compared also to your liver and kidney function (repeat blood test).
Blood test to check your liver function and platelet count. They ran this twice with me, once when I was in the hospital being observed and once after I’d handed in my 24 hours of pee in a tub, this is to correlate the protein level in your urine, against your kidney and liver function numbers in your blood.
Potentially totally unrelated to the potential preeclampsia, I was having infrequent and minor contractions (I wasn’t really feeling them) and they found bacteria in the many liters of urine they took from me, so they ran a culture to check for a UTI – which, I didn’t know at first, but can often cause contractions. This was also clear – turns out they didn’t process a culture at the hospital, so took more urine and the bacteria was gone – fluke? Hopefully!
Hubby is right, there’s not yet been a hospital test that I haven’t passed. I’m hoping it stays that way! I think we were both more freaked out by this hospital stay, then we were the last one. They wouldn’t let me eat – just in case they had to take the baby out (cue panic!!) and instead of monitoring both baby and I every now and then throughout the night, the nurse essentially spent the entire night, *right there* next to me – which not only left me exhausted and not rested, but it also made me crap my pants thinking that this was a big bad that was going to kill me and our baby that we’d worked so hard to get.
A week later, and my OBGYN is back from vacation. I chatted to her this morning and she was quite concerned, she said delivery is the only cure for my freakish knee-down swelling (and normally people discover that 2-3 weeks post-partum, their feet return to normal), that said, she said although it’s ‘common’, it’s not normal to be quite ‘this’ swollen from the moment you wake up in the morning (I always see her first thing) and get progressively worse as the day goes on – you should have SEEN her face when I showed her the Dino picture from Sunday morning!!
She reinforced the ‘rules’ from the hospital, lots of water, feet up, rest, rest and more rest (no multiple stores in one day, no long drives, no rodeo (!!!!!), no long walks), keep checking my BP and if it peaks at 140/90 again I’m to call her immediately.
We just need this kiddo to stay a-cooking’ til at least 37 weeks. That’s all I need.
We can do that, right little one?