A Word on Preeclampsia


When you get diagnosed with an illness/disease, or something happens to you, generally you want to learn more about it. As soon as I was stamped with the diagnoses of being “preeclamptic” and eventually “Severely preeclamptic”, I knew I wanted to learn as much about it as possible. The thing I found most intriguing is that we, meaning people in general/the medical field, don’t actually know THAT much about how and why preeclampsia happens. The definition is also inconsistent, especially that of severe/early onset preeclampsia.
The common definition taken from the mayo clinic website is:
“Preeclampsia is defined as high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy in a woman who previously had normal blood pressure. Even a slight increase in blood pressure may be a sign of preeclampsia. Left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious–even fatal–complications for both you and your baby…..the only cure is delivery….if diagnosed early you and your doctor face a challenging task. Your baby needs more time to mature, but you need to avoid putting yourself or your baby at risk of serious complications.”

In a nut shell…it’s bad for both mom and baby, and it’s up to the doctor to make an educated guess when is the right time to deliver the baby so that both parties have the best chance for health and survival.

Real crystal clear and settling, right?

In the hospital I felt very much like everything would be ok. To me this is A. because of the Holy Spirit settling my soul and giving me peace and B. because my doctors really encouraged me that the timing, my symptom progression, and Pascal’s reactions all set us up for a positive outcome, especially because I was in the hospital being watched so closely.

This is not the case for a lot of women.

I think what effected me the most was hearing stories of how this disease did NOT turn out ok for people. Bless their hearts, but a few nurses took to telling me stories of people they knew who didn’t have good outcomes (fortunately after Pascal’s birth so it didnt’ freak me out). One nurse’s story stood out to me in particular: She was from India, and her sister in law, still in India, recently lost her baby to preeclampsia because she was far from a hospital, and they just didn’t react in time/were depending on a home birth with little possiblity of early intervention. She actually looked at me and said “It makes me sad knowing that in America, like you she could have had her baby saved…the doctors just didn’t take the baby in time. You are fortunate to live here”. Yes, yes I am very fortunate, and somehow the blessing I recieved weighed hard on me like a burden that night.
Preeclampsia is “that” disease that for the longest time was not remotely understood and took the lives of a lot of mother’s and children. Now maternal mortality is only, like 1.8% world wide, and i’m not sure on the infant rate, but previously it was a “silent” killer often. Watching this season of “Downton Abbey” was also humbling, as one of the main characters lost her life to eclampsia after childbirth because the doctors didn’t deliver her baby in time (but they elude to the fact that a C-section may not have actually made a difference)…and that was the 1920′s. When I watched it I cried, not only out of surprise, but maybe relief that it wasn’t my ending. I am very aware that what I had could have killed Pascal and I swiftly and easily. The truth is, though, that it didn’t. Despite being early and small, Pascal is fine. Despite raised blood pressure for a month or so after giving birth, I am fine.

Even though it is the 21st century, mortality is still an effect of this disease even in first world countries. I have since heard many stories of people in America who lost their child to preeclampsia, recently or in the last 20 years, mainly because it wasn’t diagnosed soon enough and doctors didn’t react quickly enough.

Preeclampsia is still a very dangerous condition and I hope that medical research continues to uncover more about it’s myserious pathophysiology. I did find a Yale study that found that the battle between the placenta and uterus as the cause for preeclampsia. I’ll sum it up in saying…” that the placenta is made of cells call trophoblasts which are controlled by the father, the placenta tricks the mother so she (uterus) doesn’t attack the trophoblasts that are trying to increase the flow of her blood into the placenta. If this placental deception doesn’t work, the mother may develop preeclampsia…….the mother’s own soldiers called lymphocytes are constantly looking to destroy the invasive trophoblast cells…there is also another protein secreted by the placenta to distract the mother’s soldier cells while the trophoblasts do their job…it’s maintaining the balance that keeps preeclampsia at bay.”

So BASICALLY my uterus and placenta battled it out, and my uterus would not be duked, it wanted that foreign thing GONE. Bummer. I wanted that foreign thing to stay. Let’s communicate better next time uterus, ok?

The doctors told me that I have approximately a 30% chance of having this in a subsequent pregnancy. That number doesn’t seem that daunting, but when I think of the fact that 1% get pregnant on birth controll, 5% get Preeclampsia and 8% get Endometritis and I got all of those things…it seems like a big number to me :) It’s true that I have a 70% chance of not having it, which is huge, and next time I would be watched very closely which is reassuring. The only thing they can do that is “preventative” is maybe take a baby aspirin every day, but essentially the doctors said you’ll just get it no matter what if you’re supposed to get it. There is also new research on a possible early test for markers that you’re going to get it, which would be great!, but it still doesn’t solve the problem.

My ears will always pricle when i hear the term “preeclampsia” from now on. Maybe it’s because I feel so close to the word that rocked my world, and maybe it’s because I always want to learn more about it. Maybe it’s because I want to hear stories of hope that come out of having it. Either way, it’s part of me forever. I feel very fortunate that it is just a pregnancy related illness, not a lifelong one. I know it’s nothing remotely terrible in comparison with what a lot of people face medically every day, but it’s what happened to me.

I honestly don’t know why I got this mysterious disease. Why I was meant to go through an interesting year medically, or why it turned out so “well” for me in the end. I don’t know why Pascal was meant to be in this world, or why God chose me to be his mother. I don’t know a lot of things. What I do know though is God is soveriegn. That my God is in controll. That Christ is my saviour and he took away my burdens and sin and he bore them, and this life is not about me. I do know that the divine word says that “he works for the good of those who love him” Romans 8:28. What happens to me is good, whether or not it seems it at the time to me or not. God’s glory will shine in this some way, some how, and that’s all I need to sleep at night. To God be the glory now, forever, and always.

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2 comments on “A Word on Preeclampsia

  1. Kira on said:

    Sara, I LOVE reading your posts! But the Downton Abbey preeclampsia incident occurred in 1920, not the 1800s.

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