Pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure in pregnancy

Mairi

Female
Age at interview: 36
Age at diagnosis: 30

Brief outline: I developed HELLP syndrome 8 months (38 weeks) into my first pregnancy. After an emergency c-section, I was taken to Intensive Care. I had extra monitoring in my second pregnancy and did not develop any problems with high blood pressure.

Background: My name is Mairi, I am 36 years old and a teacher. My husband, Stephen, also took part in the Healthtalk study about high blood pressure in pregnancy. We have two sons, aged 7 and 5. I identify as White British.

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High blood pressure problems in my pregnancy

I developed HELLP syndrome in my first pregnancy. The first sign of something being wrong was at 8 months (38 weeks) when I felt a pain at the top of my bump. I started to feel sick and the pain continued. My husband (Stephen) and I called triage, who said it was probably indigestion but that we should come in for me to be checked anyway. My blood pressure was high and so I was asked to stay in hospital overnight for more tests. The next day, my blood pressure had dropped but I still felt very ill. I was admitted to stay in hospital after being violently sick. 

The doctors told me that I had a high blood pressure problem called HELLP syndrome. They said that I would need to deliver my baby soon. I was taken to the labour ward and induced with a gel put on my cervix. Nothing happened and so this process was repeated two more times. During the night, I started to get very rapid contractions and my unborn baby’s heartbeat was erratic. I had an emergency c-section – this turned out to be a good thing because our baby had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. I remember the hospital doctors and nurses being very calm which reassured me that they were in control of the situation. Our baby, Alex, was in good health. The doctors showed me my baby and Stephen was able to hold him.

High blood pressure problems after giving birth

I was immediately taken to the Intensive Care Unit after Alex was born. I didn’t realise anything was wrong until the next morning when I was told that I couldn’t take a shower or have anything to eat. I saw a very cautious doctor who eventually explained to me that I had ongoing problems with my liver related to HELLP syndrome. The doctors said I was very ill, but I felt fine and just wanted to be discharged. I was kept in hospital for three days, during which time I was closely monitored. Although my liver enzymes were not fully back to ‘normal’ yet, tests showed these were settling down so I was allowed to go home. I had to wait a long time to be given my medicines before I was officially discharged though. I saw my GP every two weeks for blood checks and had daily injections for six weeks to reduce my chances of a blood clot.

Having another baby

Stephen and I arranged to see a consultant from the hospital about three months after Alex was born. We wanted more information about the risks of another pregnancy in the future. This was a very helpful meeting and an opportunity to get answers. I was happy with the consultant I met with. I was under the same consultant’s care when I became pregnant for a second time some months later. I saw them fortnightly from 3 months (16 weeks) – the extra monitoring was reassuring but meant I had to arrange more time off work. I didn’t develop any problems with high blood pressure in my second pregnancy.

Information about high blood pressure problems in pregnancy

I hadn’t heard of HELLP syndrome before I was diagnosed with it. I knew a bit about pre-eclampsia though, as my mother had it previously. I had low blood pressure before I became pregnant. I had no other symptoms, but I don’t think my blood pressure had been accurately recorded by the midwife in the previous weeks and so it may have been high for a while. I was given a good explanation about HELLP syndrome when I was diagnosed, but then I received less information about what was happening to me after Alex was born. I didn’t realise how ill I had been until I looked it up online a couple of weeks after being discharged. I think it would cause needless worry if all pregnant women were warned about HELLP syndrome. However, I think it’s important that information about HELLP syndrome is accessible for those who need it. My advice to doctors and nurses is to be honest with women who want to know more about the condition.

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