Wednesday, 1 July 2015

What To Expect: Pre-Eclampsia

The dreaded pre-eclampsia is threatening to rear its head and I am not impressed!

Twice now I've ended up on the Fetal Health Unit after seeing the consultant as a result of my blood pressure being higher than usual. My blood pressure has been on the high side since my first trimester when I was started on Labetalol to keep it under control but over the last month or so it's not been playing nicely. It's a little scary being sent to be monitored because you assume something is drastically wrong but actually, they're just being careful. High blood pressure (hypertension) is the biggest symptom of pre-eclampsia so it's much better to be on the safe side. When I've been transferred up to the FHU they've popped me on a bed, taken my blood pressure every half an hour five times, taken a set of bloods to rule out infection, tested my urine to check for protein (another sign) and once I was past around 26/27 weeks popped me on a CTG monitor to check baby's heart-rate. The first time it happened it was a little unnerving but fortunately all the midwives on my FHU are absolutely lovely and eased my worry. Once all the checks were done a doctor came along to review everything and decided on a plan of action. 

I was referred onto FHU last Monday after seeing the consultant and my plan was to be seen on Friday and then again the following Monday. My blood pressure mean was still moderately high on Friday so the doctor requested I increase my Labetalol and provided it's a little lower on Monday then I don't need to be seen in daycare again and can just have my blood pressure monitored weekly by my midwife. i'm asymptomatic at the moment meaning I don't have any other signs of pre-eclampsia but if I did then I would have these weekly checks once a week until the end of my pregnancy. Yes, it's a bit of a pain the bum spending 3+ hours in the hospital every week but it's a lot, lot better than the alternative. All you need is a few snacks, a good book and a puzzle book! It also helps if you have lovely midwives to natter to. 

So, what are the symptoms of pre-eclampsia? 

High blood pressure (hypertension)
Protein in the urine
Sudden swelling in the feet, hands, ankles of face 
Headaches or migraines
Problems with vision
Pain below the ribs 

Who can get pre-eclampsia? It affects 5% of pregnancies but there are a few things that can increase your chances of developing it, such as: 

If this is your first pregnancy
If you've developed it during a previous pregnancy
If you're over 40
If you have a family history of the condition
If you're having expecting multiple babies
If you have diabetes
If you had high blood pressure before your pregnancy

Your risk of pre-eclampsia can be detected with a uterine doppler scan which a lot of health care trusts perform if your BMI is over 30. According to my consultant this practice has only taken place during the last 3 years after 10 years of research that showed women with a BMI over 30 are at higher risk. It's a simple scan performed in exactly the same way as an ultrasound that measures the blood flow through the umbilical cord and the arteries into the uterus. 

It can be a little frustrating being plus size and pregnant because more often than not you'll be hearing a lot about what can go wrong as a result of your size but rest assured that developing pre-eclampsia is not your fault. Women of all sizes can get it. My mum was a size 8 when she developed it during her first pregnancy and I know many women with a 'normal' BMI who have had it. However, don't be offended if you're offered the uterine doppler scan to check your risk for it because any knowledge is good knowledge. I know I'm at higher risk for developing it now so I can be extra aware of any symptoms that may arise. I've been taking a low dose of Aspirin since week 12 due to my high BMI which should also help prevent it developing but I'm on the lookout regardless.  Also, without having that scan we would never have found out about Pea having Down's Syndrome so for once, being a porker benefited me! 

Love,
Mrs D & Pea x
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