My Preeclampsia Experience: Could It Have Been Avoided?

February 26, 2024 By Caitlin Bostwick

My Preeclampsia Experience: Could It Have Been Avoided?
I had gone to see my original OBGYN a few months before conceiving to discuss preconception. I have struggled with chronic hypertension since high school and that was one of my main concerns before getting pregnant. I had done my research and read all the horror stories about the consequences of high blood pressure and its effects on pregnancy. At that time, I was taking medication to control my blood pressure but was informed that the medication I was on was not safe for pregnancy, and was assured that I’d be put on something that would be suitable while pregnant. My mom, sister, and I had seen the same OBGYN for over ten years and we loved her. So, you can only imagine my devastation when I found out she was moving out of state to another practice and wouldn’t be my doctor throughout this life-changing event.
I remember the day I found out I was pregnant. I was almost in shock because it didn’t take long at all. I didn’t want to get my hopes up so I was fully expecting my husband and I to try for a while. I immediately called my OBGYN to schedule my first prenatal appointment. Due to my original doctor leaving, I was seen by a few different providers. They wanted me to get to know multiple different doctors in case one wasn’t available during the time of pregnancy, which I didn’t particularly like but I could understand. I thoroughly explained my history with chronic hypertension to each provider I met with. However, they all told me that they just wanted to monitor my bps because during pregnancy your blood pressure can actually drop. I’m not a doctor so I put my full trust in everything they told me. They’re the experts, right?
I got through my first trimester, which was just miserable. I was constantly feeling sick and exhausted. Once I hit my second trimester, I started noticing my blood pressure creeping up. After a couple of appointments had gone by with them telling me “Let’s just keep monitoring it,” I decided to create an Excel sheet to document my blood pressure every day, several times a day. The next appointment I brought in my list of bps and the doctor just kind of glanced at it and put it aside. Again, “let’s just keep monitoring it.” Let me be clear here, their view of “monitoring” was just seeing me on my scheduled appointments. They did not call to check in or have me come into the clinic for BP checks. A couple of weeks passed and during that time I was admitted into the OBED for the first time due to a high bp reading. I was given a small amount of labetalol and sent home.
The following week I was in so much pain. I had abdominal pain, my ankles and face were so swollen, and my bps were skyrocketing. I went back to the OBED for the second time. My BP was taken and I remember the machine making this loud obnoxious beeping noise. I looked over and the reading was 195/126. Not only were my BP readings consistently high, I had a total of 8.8 grams of protein in my urine. They started pumping me with magnesium and labetalol and, to be honest, everything was a bit of a blur after that.
The next morning, I was transferred to another hospital. I was immediately hooked up to machines and IVs. I was on a hefty amount of magnesium so I was pretty out of it. However, I do remember bits and pieces of my stay before my son was born. I recall having a panic attack due to the amount of cords that were attached to me. Machines were on both sides of my hospital bed and the cords were criss crossed all over my chest and belly. As the day went on I endured what seemed like hundreds of pricks from needles. I remember my arms and hands were covered in bruises from the amount of blood samples taken. I then got an unbearable migraine. I couldn’t hold any water or ice chips down. At that point the doctor recommended it was best we go ahead and induce labor.
The anesthesiologist came in to give me an epidural and this was probably the most painful experience, not because she didn’t know what she was doing, but because I was so sick. The nurses were trying to hold me still during the insertion, however, I kept throwing up the whole time. Finally, the anesthesiologist was able to get it placed and I was able to rest. After a long night of induction, there was still no baby. I was rushed into an emergency c-section around 4 am. I remember the calmness of the operating room, the smell of the hospital-grade cleaning solution, and the fluorescent lights beaming down on me while I lay strapped to the table. My husband finally accompanied me and reassured me through the whole procedure. During the surgery, they found that I had blood clotting and a placental abruption likely due to preeclampsia.
My son was born at 26 weeks on March 31, 2022, at 5:13 am weighing 1lb 14oz. There was no cry. I remember thinking I would at least hear him cry. The nurses rushed him up to the NICU, where I sent my husband while I was getting sewn up. I asked to see my son once I was done and they graciously agreed. They rolled my bed up to the NICU but unfortunately, the door wasn’t big enough to get the bed through. This was heartbreaking! The first time I saw my son was from a photo my husband took of him. I stayed in the hospital for a total of 7 days. The first couple of days I was unable to see my baby because I was suffering from migraines and the intense pain from my surgery. My BPs were still really high after birth and I was given an echo, CT, chest x-rays, etc. Thankfully everything looked fine.
I was FINALLY feeling well enough to visit my son. He was so small. I could fit him in the palm of my hand. He ended up staying in the NICU for a total of 109 days. During his stay, he went through some ups and downs, but I am so grateful to be able to say that I now have a healthy two-year-old!
Fast forward to 2023:
Still struggling with high blood pressure and mitral valve regurgitation (being managed), my husband and I interviewed new doctors at several different clinics. I have always wanted 2 kids and I was not going to get pregnant again without being properly treated. We found the perfect fit for us. The care and management of my health this time around was nothing less than superior. I was seen probably more than I should have, but it really made me comfortable knowing that I was being monitored so closely. My second born was born at 37 weeks! Due to how smoothly my second pregnancy went, all while having chronic hypertension, I truly believe that my preeclampsia could have been avoided with the proper care.
As a woman who has gone through such a traumatic birth experience and has suffered, still to this day from the effects of preeclampsia, I urge you to know the signs of this condition and ALWAYS advocate for yourself!