National Preeclampsia Awareness Month and my Birth Story
May is National Preeclampsia Awareness Month, and I wanted to take the time today to share my birth story. I was at risk for preeclampsia, and due to the careful decisions of my doctor, my story had a happy ending.
My story starts on the morning of my 39th week—a Thursday. I had been working from home that entire week because I requested to telecommute the last two weeks of my pregnancy to try to minimize that I would go into labor at work or on the train. I was feeling some early Braxton Hicks, but nothing painful yet, and aside from the normal sleeplessness and constantly having to use the restroom that goes with the third trimester, I was feeling great. My feet were very swollen, but they had been so increasingly during my last trimester, so I didn't give it a second through. Besides, I was already taking it easy. I worked that morning, and I had an Ob/Gyn appointment that afternoon, so I left my computer open, fully expecting to return and finish my work day. I was even planning on visiting the grocery store with my husband that evening.
At my doctor’s appointment, they took my blood pressure three times, and it was high. Although I am a pretty big lady, when I'm not pregnant, my blood pressure is fine. It was fine during my first and second trimester, too. However, during some check-ins over my third trimester, it would raise a bit. Once, my doctor asked me to stay home for a few days, and I did, and that took care of it. This day, however, my blood pressure was too high to ignore, so my doctor asked me to go to the hospital. I hadn't even packed my hospital bag yet—it was the last mental block I had during my pregnancy—and I asked if I could go home and pack it first. She smiled at me but said that she would rather that I didn’t. So, my husband and I headed for the hospital at our usual pace. We were a bit excited and anxious, though—we knew it was possible that we would meet our baby soon, depending upon what happened. It was also possible, though, that they would just send me home.
We checked into the hospital, I walked, not in labor, to my room and changed into a robe. It was about 3pm. I was instructed to lay on my left side as they monitored my blood pressure for a few hours. When my doctor came to check in, she said that laying on my left side helped, but only laying on my left side—if I moved around or sat up, my blood pressure went right back up. She said she could send me home to lay on my side for the next few days, but she couldn't predict if that would help for the next week, so she decided to induce my labor.
My labor was induced, and I went epidural-free for about five hours before I requested pain relief. There were a few things that made me ask for it. One, induced labor ramps up very quickly—there’s really no time to get used to the contractions, or there wasn't for me. Two, I had been suffering from sciatica for my entire pregnancy—being forced to lay on one side for hours was causing me a lot of pain in addition to the contractions, and the sciatica pain was constant. And third, my baby’s heartbeat was hard to read externally, so they had to break my water and to read the fetal heartbeat internally. All of that while lying in a single position without any break from the pain was difficult for me, so I requested the epidural.
After the epidural, I was in labor until about 3am until my doctor came in to make another critical decision. Although I was in labor with my contractions and all, my cervix was only dilated to 4cm after all that time. Also, when they broke my water to set up the fetal heartbeat monitoring, they noted that there was already meconium in the amniotic fluid. Finally, my daughter’s heartbeat was still too variable for her to feel comfortable letting my labor progress for a vaginal birth. My doctor said that she rarely recommends C-section, but she would recommend it for me, and I agreed.
My daughter was born at 6:05am by C-section at 7lbs 9.2oz. We learned that her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck twice, and that was to blame for her heartbeat fluctuations. That, paired with the fact that she had already passed some meconium while in the womb, made me very thankful that my doctor made the decisions that she did. We ended up needing to use all of the options covered in my birthing class that I initially thought, “Oh, I'm sure that won't happen to me.”
Preeclampsia symptoms can often look like regular pregnancy symptoms, so that is why it is very crucial to have your blood pressure monitored throughout your pregnancy for the safety of you and your baby.
Did you make the hubby go home and pack you a bag? ;)