Postpartum preeclampsia was not a term I had heard in a long time…
Most moms have heard of the dangerous pregnancy complication called preeclampsia, which causes elevated blood pressure, protein in your urine, headaches, and potentially seizures, organ failure, and death. What do they tell you the cure is? Having your baby! After that, everything is supposed to regulate back to normal. Most people don’t realize that postpartum preeclampsia is also a real thing, and it can come out of the blue. I’d heard of it because of my occupation as a Physician Assistant, but didn’t really know that much about it – the cause, what puts you at risk, what you can do to prevent it, etc. The scary thing is, nobody else really does either!
I had been home for about 2 days after my son Davis was delivered late on a Thursday night. I was still in a fog on Monday, but everything was going well. My husband Blake and I were hanging out on the couch watching a movie. I decided to check my blood pressure, because I hadn’t checked it since I’d been home. *Side note, I had prenatal hypertension during my pregnancy with my first son, Jack, and again with Davis.
Overall I had felt fine since I had been home, slightly anxious (but what mom isn’t when coming home with a newborn) and something just didn’t feel right. However, no headaches, no blurry vision, no right upper abdomen pain…just hanging out on the couch after a long day of pumping and taking care of a newborn and a 5-year-old.
“My blood pressure was 180/110 at 11 pm on Monday night.”
I’m a Physician Assistant (Dermatology) and, of course, I realize immediately that I’ve got a problem. But, because of my profession, I know the long list of things that can potentially happen, too. My parents raced over to watch the boys while my husband and I headed to the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital North. I had already contacted my OB and let her know what was going on. She said she would notify the women’s unit that I was on the way.
That night was a bit of a whirlwind, with an IV started, a magnesium drip for 24 hours to prevent seizures, and constant monitoring of my blood pressure. It didn’t go down and stay down like it should, so I continued to have IV blood pressure medication. Thankfully the elevated pressure did not cause my liver enzymes to elevate, HELLP syndrome, or any other complications.
I was so fortunate and had amazing support while I was in the hospital. With my blood pressure being taken every couple hours, I would become anxious just knowing it was almost time to take it. Between my amazing husband, parents, mother-in-law, and best friends, everyone stayed positive and tried to distract me so I would relax. 6 days later, my blood pressure was finally under control with two oral blood pressure medications taken multiple times a day, along with hydroxyzine – which can be used for anxiety – and sertraline for the actual anxiety.
Believe it or not, postpartum preeclampsia can show up even 6 weeks after you deliver, and it sometimes does not have any signs or symptoms. I truly believe that because I was listening to my body and something just didn’t feel right, that it saved my life. In my opinion, this is an area that new moms need to be educated about. It’s so crazy right after you have a baby, and oftentimes everyone is so hyper focused on the baby that, as moms, we have to remember to look out for ourselves. Hopefully, by bringing awareness to this topic, we can help save a new mom’s life.