Sarah and her precious baby.

When I had my daughter Hayley Jane at full term via c-section on October 25th, we were on cloud nine! Our little princess had arrived and even my son Derek, at just 26 months old, was thrilled for our family. I was released from the hospital and spent two days in that post baby honeymoon phase. Then I woke up on October 31st, and I knew something was off.

I told my husband, Rob, that I couldn’t fully catch my breath and that I had a dull headache and thought my vision seemed blurry. I thought I was being paranoid, as I was recovering from a c-section and had a new baby that was nursing every 2 hours.  But Rob told me to call the doctor.

I was surprised at the stern immediacy in the doctor’s voice when she said to “grab my pump and get back over the bridge.” My in-laws rushed over, and I kissed my babies good-bye through flooding tears because I didn’t want to leave. Derek was going to be a fireman for Halloween that day, plus my brand new Hayley Jane, I needed to be home and dress Hayley in pink and cuddle her…would she forget me, would we never bond?? I didn’t realize then that it would be 3 hellish days until I saw them again.In the Emergency Room they had no idea what to do with me.  I was a basket-case, I cried to EVERYONE!! If the person changing the trash even looked in my direction and made eye contact. I would cry to them and say, “I just want to go home to my babies.”

After many hours in the ER, I was sent to Labor and Delivery, where I was told what I had was preeclampsia. WHAT?

I was so petrified and just wanted to be with my babies and here I was a mother of two, about to be hooked up to a magnesium iv so I wouldn’t have a seizure due to preeclampsia and I had NEVER even heard of having preeclampsia postpartum!! A very sweet nurse sat down next to me, grabbed my hand firmly, spoke clearly and calmly about how awful I was going to feel on the magnesium and asked me to tell her what I was thinking. I told her,

“I’m scared, I just want to be home with my babies, and I’m nervous about what will happen to me. And I’m afraid that I could die.”

She told me the magnesium would help me and that my husband could stay.  Rob stayed by my side for 3 long days. The first night I was on it he snored away in the chair next to my bed while I saw 5 of everything, had to wear an oxygen tube because they couldn’t get my oxygen levels to stop dropping, was pumping every two hours, was unable to get out of bed and was hooked up to a catheter.

I felt so sick, oh, so sick. The magnesium makes you so so, so sickly feeling.  After I came off the Magnesium I felt “better”. My blood pressure was still high but low enough that I could go home eventually!!  It took a few weeks for my BP and me to get back to normal.

Thousands of women and babies die or get very sick each year from this dangerous condition called preeclampsia, a life-threatening disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, preeclampsia and related disorders such as HELLP syndrome and eclampsia are most often characterized by the presence of protein in the urine and a rapid rise in blood pressure that can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure and death of the mother and/or baby. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision 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), though it can occur earlier. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and toxemia are outdated terms for preeclampsia. HELLP syndrome and eclampsia (seizures) are other variants of 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 Preeclampsia Foundation is the only non-profit in the US devoted to hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, serving the 10 million women worldwide who develop preeclampsia each year.

This May, women from all across the United States will be Making Strides to Deliver Hope at the Promise Walk for Preeclampsia, while raising awareness for preeclampsia.

Sarah Hughes is a fan of World Moms Blog from New Jersey, USA, and we are thrilled to have her post with us today in our Social Good column for maternal  health advocacy. 

Photo credit to the author. 

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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