Pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure in pregnancy

Preparing to go home from hospital

Some of the women we talked to recovered quickly after pre-eclampsia or HELLP syndrome, but others found it took longer. Hanna became very ill with complications after giving birth and she spent some time in an ICU (Intensive Care Unit). She thought that her recovery was slow, it felt “like you’re climbing a mountain”. Other women had health issues which complicated or delayed their recovery.

Feelings about staying in hospital or being discharged

Many women found the ward uncomfortable and unpleasant, so they were keen to get home. Kate felt she was “stuck away in this prison” and struggled with the “constant noise” of the trolleys, vacuuming and other babies on the ward. Some women had been given a room of their own and found this better. Hanna found the postnatal ward very cramped, “we were like sardines”, so she was pleased when she was given a separate room. But some women found the monitoring they received in hospital reassuring and they liked knowing that they were already in ‘the best place’ if a medical issue arose.

Visits from partners, family and friends sometimes helped make staying in hospital more bearable. Hanna’s partner was allowed to stay in their room for the first three days. He was able to take care of the baby so Hanna didn’t have to struggle in pain. Her mum also came in daily and encouraged Hanna to bond with her baby: “she’d put her in my arms and say, “Right, there you go””. However, some women said their hospital was quite strict about them having visitors. Kate wasn’t allowed visits from anyone except her partner. Olivia was devastated when she was told her husband had to go home, as it left her struggling with her crying newborn while she was still very unwell. Aileen found it tricky coordinating visits for her young daughter to come and meet the new baby on SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit).

Ideally, women and their doctors were often in agreement about the best time for them to be discharged from hospital. Kate’s doctor thought her blood pressure might settle in a less stressful environment and she was relieved when she was allowed to go home. Aileen was discharged when her blood pressure stabilised.

However, decisions about when a woman could leave hospital were variable and sometimes fraught. Women were often keen to get home faster than their doctors intended. Kay discharged herself four days after giving birth as she felt needed to get home: “I kidded myself that if I got back to normality, my baby would come home”. In other cases, women thought they had been discharged by their doctors too early. Paige was re-admitted a few days after being discharged as she continued to have serious blood pressure problems.
Some women felt they should have been given more information about their health risks and what they ahead of them, when they were discharged. Olivia hadn’t been told that there was a risk of high blood pressure problems continuing or developing for up to eight weeks after giving birth. You can read more about women’s experiences of high blood pressure continuing in the weeks after delivery, about recovery and longer-term health impacts for women.


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