This is a wonderful story from Helen, who is actually an old school friend of my best mate! She got in touch after my 2nd blog birthday to say would I like her pre eclampsia birth story. But of course! I’ve not had any pre eclampsia stories as of yet and actually know very little about it despite one of my mummy friends being very poorly with it, and therefore, first out of all of us to give birth.

This story in itself is not without its scary bits but a really touching part of this story is the role of Helen’s mum. I don’t think I really got what my mum sacrificed for me until I became a mum. Now I see everything from the mum’s perspective! Pre eclempsia can be a very serious and potentially life-threatening condition so hearing about Helen’s mum sitting outside the delivery suite, wringing her hands and worry about her own baby as she goes through this monumental event, really made me get something in my eye! Without further a do…

Pre eclampsia – Helen’s Birth Story

My pregnancy wasn’t straight forward in the first few weeks. We found out I was pregnant at only 2 weeks and then I had some bleeding – cue lots of scans and checks right up to when I was 10 weeks when I was finally told things looked fine. Just in time for us to tell family over Christmas.

Everything else was fine until a Wednesday night when I was 35+6 weeks. We’d been to our local community antenatal class that night where we’d met a few other couples who were expecting and I had had a funny pressure type pain in my tummy since the afternoon. It felt like a stitch. I could feel something hard pressing on my tummy, which felt like a head. It didn’t subside but I went to bed hoping it would pass. I woke at about 3am with it feeling worse, and had to take quite deep breaths to cope with the uncomfortable feeling. I knew it wasn’t labour, but something wasn’t right. We decided to ring the birthing centre, as at the antenatal class that evening the midwife had stressed that if we were at all concerned about anything just to ring and speak to someone.

I was told to bounce on my birthing ball, have some paracetamol and a hot drink, and to call back in an hour if it didn’t pass. It didn’t so I called back and they told me to come in to be checked out. We put a few random bits into my half packed hospital bag, and got into the car to go to the hospital.

We arrived and it was really quiet. We were taken into a corner room of the birthing suite and left for a few minutes. Then I got a migraine, which was quite strange. I hadn’t had a migraine for about 2 years. I used to suffer from the eye disturbance which then makes me feels sick, so I knew I was having one. When they took my blood pressure, it was apparently really high, partly due to the migraine I thought? The next minute I remember I was taken to a different birthing room with my own midwife who stayed in the room with us to keep an eye on me. I was given some medication to bring down my blood pressure and checked every 15 minutes but it didn’t come down. I saw a few different doctors over the morning then later that day was admitted to the antenatal ward to be monitored.

I thought when I went in that I would be back home that morning, and back to work, but the many doctors who came to see me told me I had early pre eclampsia, and that I wouldn’t be going home unless my blood pressure came down. If it didn’t come down, the only way to protect me and the baby was to induce me. Bit scary as I still had 4 weeks to go!

Pre eclampsia, I have now learned, is caused by the placenta not working 100%. It puts pressure on mum to keep it working to supply the baby, but it can then have an effect on mum and her body; it can damage organs and eventually harm the baby too. So it was quite serious. I really wanted to just go home but there was no way they were letting me. And, actually I felt very safe and quite calm knowing I was in the best place.

My urine sample showed protein as well, another classic sign of pre eclampsia. Over the next couple of days daily blood tests showed different things were happening to my body. On the Sunday it was clear my kidneys weren’t functioning properly and my blood pressure had gone even higher. It wasn’t controllable by the drugs they were able to give me on the ward so I was sent up to the birthing suite. I saw a doctor and was given a stronger drug to control my blood pressure, which worked after an hour or so. The doctor then told me that he thought it was best to just deliver the baby as they hadn’t been able to stabilise my blood pressure. He actually said they’d induce me, but I then had to point out that baby was breech. Without checking he just said ok, we’ll book you for a c section then. He gave me a steroid injection to help strengthen baby’s lungs, and I was sent back to the ward. I then sent my (very tired) husband home around 8pm to get some last minute things we hadn’t managed to sort.

They woke me early on the Monday, with more blood pressure checks and blood tests. Then my husband arrived laden down with more bags, baby’s things and more birth stuff for me. At 9am the doctor came around to tell me that actually my consultant (who I’d never met) had decided that whilst my blood pressure was back down, they would prefer to wait as long as possible. And whilst I was stable they wanted to keep baby inside. If I could get to 37 weeks, that was safest for the baby. It was frustrating but I knew it was for the best. So I was booked in for a section on Friday 22nd June.

My poor husband was shattered so I sent him home, and the next couple of days were similar. My husband had to work if he wanted his full 2 weeks paternity leave and I just sat in the hospital waiting for Friday! Other mums and the odd baby came and went from my room, I was ok. Just very bored and my blood pressure was still high.

On Wednesday 20th June I was woken up early. During the doctors rounds they told me not to eat as they had decided that I would probably have the c section that day. Bit of a shock! My mum had arrived the day before so she was at our house cleaning, tidying and filling our freezer ready for baby’s arrival. She even admitted to cleaning our internal doors with jiff to give them a good clean (wasn’t aware they were so bad!). It was great for me knowing she was there, looking after my husband and making sure he was fed, but she didn’t impose and left us to it.

I hadn’t eaten all day. At 5pm the anaesthetist came to see me, then I was taken down to the small post trauma delivery ward, where they monitor difficult cases very closely, to get ready.

We managed to meet our midwife who looked after me throughout the operation and just about managed enough time to discuss that we didn’t know the sex of the baby and would like to find out ourselves, and that I’d like skin to skin contact once baby was born – that was it. I walked into theatre and sat on the bed. They inserted the epidural and then I lay down. Nicky was all scrubbed up and sat by my head. And they began!

My mum was also in the waiting area. As much as we are very independent and really didn’t want any family around, it was so nice to have her there with us. She was very considerate and kept out of the way, conscious we wanted to do this together. But she told me she was very, very worried about me and was there as my mum, rather than new grandma, to make sure everything was ok with me. And obviously a great support for Nicky too.

There were about 10 people in the theatre, which was unexpected! Plus two students observing the two surgeons delivering my baby. Everyone was really friendly and keen to put us at ease. It happened quite quickly, following a running commentary for the students, and I could feel lots of pulling and tugging inside which was a strange sensation. They then told us the baby was about to be born and lowered the curtain to we could see. They lifted the baby underneath its arms so we could see. Immediately we noticed his scattering of red hair, then we noticed he was a boy!

They whisked him over to be cleaned up and checked, all was fine, and they placed him on my chest under my gown so we could have skin to skin contact for a while. It was very emotional. Surprisingly we both felt quite calm throughout, more nervous than anything. Nicky then got some cuddles whilst they sorted me out. I quickly felt light headed and dizzy, turns out now that was the 1litre of blood I lost, which made me feel extremely out of it. They took me through into recovery and to be closely monitored. Nicky was with me and we had an hour or so together with mum popping in for 10 minutes to see us as well.

pre eclampsia - Helen's Birth Story

Baby Oliver

At 11ish Nicky was sent home and I was left to sleep. Oliver was fast asleep. Born three weeks early, he really wasn’t ready to come out. It turned out he had a low temperature and had to be taken off and given some formula to up his blood sugar levels, which were also low. I really wanted to breast feed but at that moment I didn’t waver I just wanted him to be OK so if formula would help, I didn’t mind. We were both doing great and were sent home on the Saturday evening.

Oliver is now nearly 19 months. I love this age as he is becoming his own little person. I always thought I would never want him to get bigger, but I honestly think having a child just gets better and better every day. Seeing them explore new things and learn to talk is just wonderful – I absolutely love this age. He is the spitting image of his dad, with a bit of his shyness but personality wise takes after me – extroverted, completely knows his own mind and what he wants (consequently very head strong at the moment!) and struggles with being told no!

We are actually expecting our second baby now, due 29th May. Apparently pre eclampsia second time around is less likely, though they don’t know why. But I am being very closely monitored to make sure pre eclampsia doesn’t develop again. I’m planning on starting my maternity leave 4 weeks prior to my due date, so I am a bit more prepared if anything happens.

I don’t know if I’ll have a c section again this time around. I have a bicornate uterus, which is basically heart shaped. The surgeons told me Oliver’s head was stuck fast in one side and that they wouldn’t have been able to turn him via ECV if they’d tried, and that also if I have another baby it’ll probably also be breech. I am not adverse to another c section and am preparing myself for that inevitability again, but will cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

We never really found out what the pain/ache in my tummy was!

pre eclampsia - Helen's Birth Story

Cutest elf in town – I recon he’d get on well with mine given that scrap on his nose and digestive in his hand!

Thank you, Helen!! And congratulations on number 2! Fingers crossed the stats are right and there’s no pre eclampsia this time xxx

Did you have pre eclampsia during your pregnancy? Did you have to be induced earlier?