January 23, 2024 By Samantha Vongunden
I am a two-time survivor of postpartum preeclampsia.
I found out I was pregnant with my first child in early 2020. Not too long after 20 weeks I began feeling significant sharp pain in my right ribs. Previously very active, I was now no longer able to complete a short walk without my hands swelling so bad that I couldn’t make a fist. I ended up having carpal tunnel, my forearms to finger tips painfully tingled for 2 months until I delivered. My blood pressure also slowly began to rise. It stayed just under 140/90. I brought all of these concerns up to my OB, she brushed them off every appointment. She ended up inducing me at 39w4d because I couldn’t take the symptoms anymore.
My daughter was born healthy at 9lb3oz. I hemorrhaged but I was able to be discharged after 2 days. The morning of discharge I let my nurse know that it burned to pee, UTI type painful. She told me that it was because I had orange juice & just had a vaginal birth. She then gave me some brief education for discharge. While leaving, I was 3lbs heavier than when I was admitted for the induction.
One day. I couldn’t walk up the stairs because my ankles were so swollen. I was taking Motrin & Tylenol around the clock. I missed 1 dose day 5PP, that’s when I found I had a 104 fever. The on-call OB suggested to go to the ER. I tried to use the bathroom before leaving and I couldn’t, the pain was excruciating.
My urine sample came back + protein. The PA was asking me tons of questions. I couldn’t see my vital signs behind me, my BP was 220/120. He told me I was being admitted and they would start IV antibiotics. Admission for a UTI seemed excessive mid pandemic.
The same nurse that discharged me a few days prior then came in and told me that she was starting a mag drip. That’s when I found out that I had preeclampsia. I had a headache for a few days but I wouldn’t classify it as “the worst I’ve ever had.” My liver enzymes were extremely elevated as well. It had all begun to make sense as to why I was feeling awful.
I had finished my course of antibiotics & mag, I was preparing to be discharged when my OB came on service. She began going on a rant about how she “didn’t think I had preeclampsia” and “didn’t think I had an infection.” She “didn’t know why I was admitted.”
Fast forward a few years later, new OB, and a solid plan for a second pregnancy. That time came and my OB kept a very close eye on me. Urine sample every visit, frequent appointments, thorough physical exams. My blood pressure went up again, but stayed in an acceptable limit. I didn’t experience near as much swelling. I took two baby aspirins a day in both the 2nd & 3rd trimesters.
I delivered a healthy 10lb9oz baby boy at 40w5d. I was hypertensive during labor & I was diagnosed with gestational hypertension. My heart sank, but I remained hopeful that I wouldn’t go through the same experience. My labs were normal at discharge but I noticed that my liver enzymes were almost high.
I had a one-week PP visit with my OB. All was well, but I would then be admitted for preeclampsia again at 10 days PP. I monitored my BP closely, I paid close attention to any headaches. Finally, a dull headache just wouldn’t go away. I went to the hospital & my BP began to rapidly rise, my liver enzymes were high. Round 2 began.
I was discharged 36 hours later, this time on BP medication. Due to the location of my IV, I have limited use of my left wrist, I get sharp pain in it any time I try to lift things with it. I was able to come off of my BP meds two months later. I am now 6mo PP and still teetering on the edge of needing to go back onto my BP meds.
I ended up reading the pathology report from my placenta. The pathologist suggested that I be tested for Anticardiolipin Syndrome, due to what they found while examining my placenta. I had my primary order bloodwork for that and all of the other related clotting disorders. They all came back negative. I was really hoping for an answer as to “why me?”