Three years ago today I was admitted to hospital with pre-eclampsia.
The previous 24 hours had been spent carrying around a watering can sized plastic bottle, increasingly full of my own urine, and I had arrived at the pregnancy assessment unit on the morning of Friday 10th September 2010 to present my ‘collection’ to the midwife as requested. A few days before at my routine 36 week check-up, my community midwife had detected a slightly raised blood pressure and more than a trace of protein in my urine sample – apparently enough to concern her sufficiently that she came to visit me at home two days later to check my BP again. Still raised. I was sent to the hospital to pick up the enormous vessel to contain the next day’s worth of wee – needed to perform an accurate test of my protein excretion over 24 hours – and here I was to return it.
Still not officially on maternity leave, I had informed work I would be at hospital in the morning but would be in as soon as possible. I was sure everything would be fine – after all, I didn’t feel unwell. Surely all of this was just a precaution. Maybe I would just have to put my feet up a bit more. I spent a fun couple of hours repeatedly having my BP checked, and after four or five agonising attempts to find a vein, they took some blood. I awaited all of my results, fidgeting in my seat as I read a book and checked my watch. I only had a pay-and-display ticket on the car until 1pm.
Then the midwife returned and sat down next to me. Suddenly everything happened very quickly.
They wanted to admit me to the antenatal ward immediately for monitoring.
“Oh. What, just for the night?”
“No, not just for the night. You won’t be going home again until your baby is born.”
“Oh. So I’ve got to stay in hospital for a month?!”
“No, it won’t be that long. You’ll probably be delivered sooner rather than later.”
“Oh. Well, can I just pop home and get some things? I haven’t got anything with me.”
“No, we can’t let you go home. You have pre-eclampsia.”
Before I knew it I was being ushered through the corridors and into the antenatal ward. I was shown to a bay where I sat down in the chair next to the bed and wondered what the hell was going on. How could I possibly be so dangerously ill when I felt perfectly well? There was no way they would let me drive home in case I deteriorated while I was gone and had an accident. I pleaded with them to let me at least go back to the car and put some more money on it so I didn’t get a parking ticket and they were reluctant to even let me do that. They gave me a couple of pills to pop to start treating my raised BP and I had to sit and ‘relax’ for half an hour before I could go outside. I rushed faster than they probably would have advised to the car park, fortunately in time to avoid a fine, and I finally called Andy. I had to give him a list off the top of my head of everything that I needed from home – clothes, toiletries, everything – and I tried to tell him not to worry, but I wasn’t even sure how worried we should be. I also called work and told them I wouldn’t be in. I didn’t go back for another ten months.
Back on the ward, they were relieved when I returned unscathed from my perilous journey down the road. I tried to get settled in and got comfy on the bed where I would spend the next five days. I was regularly given medication, my BP was checked so many times a day I lost count, and I was strapped to a fetal monitor everyday to check Joe’s heart rate and movements. I was given an ultrasound scan to estimate his birthweight. They estimated about 6lb – he was 5lb 9oz when he arrived, small for his gestation thanks to the growth restriction caused by the pre-eclampsia. Every time my BP was checked I was asked whether I had any headaches, any swelling of my hands or feet, any blurred vision, any stomach pains. I never did. But still my BP remained high, even on the medication. The consultant recommended induction of labour on the Wednesday of the following week, when I would have passed the 37 week milestone and have reached term. They dare not leave it any longer.
Needless to say, Joseph’s arrival was not entirely uneventful – but that is a story for another day. As I think back to this day three years ago, I think how lucky I was that my community midwife picked up on my abnormal readings in the first place, and that what I thought was the excessive reaction of the midwives in the assessment unit actually meant both me and my son were well looked after and safe. I will always be grateful for that.
If you’d like to read more about pre-eclampsia, visit the Tommy’s website where you can see the research that is currently being done to find a cause and screening test for it. Action on Pre-eclampsia is a dedicated pre-eclampsia charity which also provides some great information.