Pre-Eclampsia Stories - Jenny Andersen's Story

A month before my 36th birthday Terry and I were thrilled to find I was pregnant after only a couple of tries. Our baby was due on the 16th April 1996. Both my sister and cousin had lost a child pre-term due to Pre-eclampsia, however, I was confident that if I warned my obstetrician of this that it wouldn't happen to me.

The pregnancy was totally trouble free, not a sign of morning sickness. I had never felt healthier. I had been on medication for high blood pressure since early 1994 but as this ran in the female line of our family I hadn't been overly worried at the time. At the first visit to the obstetrician he began reducing my medication so that by 17 weeks I was totally drug free and my BP appeared to be stable at 120/75.

When I was 21 weeks I went to my regular monthly check-up and mentioned to the midwife that I had been getting headaches in the past few days. She made a note of this and checked my BP, 130/80. The obstetrician wasn't too worried about my BP or headaches.

One week later I called him and arranged to come back in. The headaches had been getting worse and as I had previously only suffered from regular headaches when my BP had been out of control in 1994,1 was worried. My BP was 160/95 and my urine showed a trace of blood and protein. I was put on Caterpres (1/4x4 times) and told to come back in 2 days. Next time my BP was 130/95 and still a trace of protein so the Caterpres was increased to 1/2. I went to my GP early the next week and my BP was still up at 130/90 so I increased the Caterpres.

Christmas Day dawned and by 3pm I felt awful so I went to bed for the rest of the day and Boxing Day. Finally the 27th arrived. By now I looked as bad as I felt. I had lost my appetite and had to force myself to drink water. When I did my urine sample I really had to force myself, (I didn't realise my kidneys were starting to fail). Finally we got to the obstetricians. Terry came with me because I was not fit to drive and there was no way I was going to be fobbed off with just another increase in my Caterpres dose. My obstetrician didn't recognise me when we went in. My face was full of fluid, my urine had 4 pluses of protein and my BP was up at 160/90. He rang the hospital and I was booked straight in.

I don't know what drugs they gave me but within an hour the headaches I'd been suffering for almost 2 months were gone, what a relief! An ultrasound showed there was good blood flow through the placenta and gave an estimate of 570grams for the baby. I was given my first steroid injection and put on a 24 hour urine collection. My BP medication was increased each day as I failed to respond to the previous days dose. In the end I could barely walk to the bathroom and back I was so out of it. Finally on the 3rd day my BP stabilised. After lunch a midwife put the foetal monitor on me, the baby was hardly moving now as I was on so many drugs and she went off to get a second opinion. The renal specialist came in to see me. My morning blood test had shown that my kidneys were close to failing, they were going to deliver my baby today. I didn't cope very well at all. Terry and I had been taken through the NICU the previous day and one of the staff had told us that the chances of survival at 25 weeks were very low for such a small baby and to hold on for another week as if I had some control over what was happening to me. Our daughter, Elizabeth, was born at 6pm, she only weighed 450grams, so tiny and frail. Despite the odds she seemed to be holding her own when they took me through to see her that night. Her colour was good. Later that night the director of the NICU came to see us. We had made all the calls announcing Elizabeth's birth and were optimistic that she would pull through.

Unfortunately, since we had seen her, her condition had started to deteriorate though she was still fighting. Her chances of surviving were slim due to her size and prematurity.

The next morning Terry spent time with her before coming see me. She was going down hill rapidly, there was no chance of her pulling through without being severely brain damaged. We had her baptised and then took her off the life support. She died in our arms shortly after.

I remained in hospital for another week while they reduced my I remained in hospital for another week while they reduced my BP medication. By mid week there was no protein in my urine, everything seemed to be back to normal, everything except our lives. I still find it difficult to accept that with such an obvious hereditary link my case was treated so casually by my obstetrician. I can't help but wonder if Elizabeth could have been one of the "miracle" babies if my case had been treated more urgently at the first sign when I was 21 weeks. I will be 38 this year. We are still trying to start a family but this time I'll be looking for an obstetrician with more experience with Pre-eclampsia.