Pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure in pregnancy

Samantha X

Female
Age at interview: 32
Age at diagnosis: 31

Brief outline: All went well during Samantha X’s pregnancy, until a check at 24 weeks showed her blood pressure was very high. At 28 weeks she was admitted to hospital for checks. Samantha X’s blood pressure continued to rise. Doctors decided to perform an emergency caesarean. Her daughter was born at 29 weeks and spent 7 weeks in hospital.

Background: Samantha X is a pension’s consultant. She is married with one daughter. White British.

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This was Samantha X’s first pregnancy, and everything had gone very smoothly, until she reached 24 weeks, when a routine check discovered she had high blood pressure. She spent a night in hospital and was put on medication to reduce her blood pressure. She had another check at 28 weeks, and again her blood pressure was high, so she was admitted to hospital for checks. At 29 weeks she was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and told that she would have to stay in hospital until the baby was born. 

Samantha X was admitted on a Friday and started to prepare herself for a long stay in hospital but after two spikes of very high blood pressure over the weekend, the doctors decided they needed to deliver the baby early. Samantha X was visited by an anaesthetist over the weekend, and by a paediatrician who came to explain to her and her husband what would happen to their baby after she was born and taken to the special baby unit. They found this very reassuring. 

Samantha X had an emergency caesarean on the Monday morning and was only briefly able to see her daughter before she was taken off to neo-natal intensive care (NICU). She did not get to go and see her again until 5 hours later, this time for only 10 minutes. She describes feeling “cheated” by not having that special time with her baby just after her birth. She was also sad that she was unable at any stage to establish breastfeeding, although she tried hard for a month. Samantha X spent a further couple of days having 1-1 care in the delivery suite, as doctors struggled to get her blood pressure down. But she was then discharged to the maternity ward from where she was able to visit her daughter regularly. She was discharged home after 9 days and her daughter spent another 40 days in hospital. The travel during those weeks was hard as she was not allowed to drive and her husband was back at work. But they soon established a good routine of visiting their daughter. Their daughter had no major complications from her early birth. Samantha X felt very well supported in the neo-natal unit by the staff and also a parent run charity.

Samantha X felt that communication with the doctors was good. She felt confident during the crisis that they had a plan, which they had told her about, and that they knew what they were doing. Although she has not had a formal follow up with the consultant, they did have a very helpful chat while she was still in the hospital about subsequent pregnancies. The consultant also emphasised that she should ask to be referred back to her if she had any concerns. That offer of an open door has given her a lot of confidence. Samantha X has had routine GP 6 week check and midwife checks but described the care as mostly focused on her daughter. Her daughter was 8 ½ months at the time of the interview and doing well. Samantha X was shortly due to go back to work.

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