Be Your Own Advocate - It Could Save Your (and Your Baby's) Life

May 03, 2023 By Lindsay Orr

Be Your Own Advocate - It Could Save Your (and Your Baby's) Life

I finally have built up the courage to write this, 8 months later.

I had the perfect outfits and signs for our newborn announcement pictures, all the exciting things that you have for your child due in 2 months, for your low risk, normal pregnancy. Until one day, it suddenly turned high risk, being diagnosed with preeclampsia. Visiting the ER every other night, saying something is wrong, only to be discharged anyway. Being told, yes you are sick, but your baby is too young, so try to keep him in a little longer for his sake (at high risk to yours). Then as your health continues to worsen, being urgently induced at 32 weeks, hoping you both will be okay.

Like many other women, I was healthy and active. High blood pressure was the furthest thing from my mind; I historically had concerningly low blood pressure. Then, I started to have odd symptoms around 30 weeks: shortness of breath, severe leg swelling, intermittently seeing stars, rapid weight gain of 20lb in 2 weeks (after struggling to gain weight the rest of pregnancy), etc. Many of these, I chalked up to normal pregnancy symptoms, especially in the middle of the summer. My OB felt the same. I was told “all women are swollen, it is the summer.” Then, I was listening to my usual pregnancy podcast, which happened to be about pre-eclampsia; concerningly, I had every symptom. That day I bought a BP cuff, and sure enough, it was 152/106. In the ER, I was told to expect to deliver sooner rather than later, but *hopefully* I could last a few more weeks; I was 30+5. My BP continued to be high, constantly bordering the severe range (>160/110). Then, the persistent headache started. THAT DAMN HEADACHE. That headache that was resistant to 10+ medications, opiates included. I was told “it is anxiety” “it is hard to induce you on something subjective” “32 weeks is too early.” As a healthcare provider myself, I was baffled how my symptoms (all indicative of preeclampsia with severe features, requiring immediate delivery) were dismissed; I felt crazy, frustrated, and terrified. I fought to see MFM who laughed in disbelief when he heard my symptoms and saw my BP log – he said – “your blood pressure is consistently dangerously high (175/110 after medication that morning) and your persistent headache is the biggest risk factor for eclampsia, I am inducing you today” (32+4).

For these reasons, I have educated everyone I can on the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia, and urge others to advocate for yourself and/or your partner. If I had not known the symptoms or had not pushed as hard as I did, I am not sure I, or my son Hudson, would be here to tell this story.