Pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure in pregnancy

Stephen

Male
Age at interview: 41

Brief outline: My wife developed HELLP syndrome 8 months (38 weeks) into her first pregnancy. I tried to support her throughout, including during the emergency c-section. I looked online for more information about high blood pressure problems in pregnancy.

Background: My name is Stephen, I am 41 years old and an analyst. My wife, Mairi, also took part in the Healthtalk study about high blood pressure in pregnancy. We have two sons, aged 7 and 5. I identify as being White British.

Audio & video

Finding out about high blood pressure problems in pregnancy

My wife (Mairi) developed HELLP syndrome in her first pregnancy. The pregnancy went well overall but Mairi suffered with morning sickness throughout. I was worried when she had some pain at 8 months (38 weeks) and we went to hospital. Mairi stayed in hospital for four days in total. I tried to stay with her for much of this time and to offer support throughout. I had quite a pragmatic approach to Mairi being diagnosed with HELLP syndrome. I hadn’t known much about high blood pressure problems in pregnancy before and I found it helped to look up some information online. The main message I needed about the situation was that Mairi was ill and would become better once our baby was born. I’ve since spoken a bit to work colleagues about what happened and found out that others I know have also had blood pressure problems during their pregnancies.

Supporting Mairi in hospital

I tried to stay with Mairi as much as possible. I think that partners often play an important role not only supporting the pregnant woman but also keeping the wider family updated. I relayed information to Mairi’s parents and my own parents who were worried about the situation. However, I don’t think the hospital environment was well-equipped for male partners staying for long periods of time. For example, the men’s toilet was outside of the labour ward and so I had to be buzzed back in by the nurses. There was a lot of waiting and just hanging about whilst Mairi was being monitored. There was nowhere for me to sit and I got into trouble for resting on the bed with Mairi. 

Being there for the birth

In contrast to the boredom of waiting around, everything became really intense when Mairi was told she would need an emergency c-section. I went into the operating theatre with her and was relieved that a screen was put up. I hadn’t known in advance that our baby, Alex, would be taken away for a little while after being born, so there was a moment of panic. I was especially worried because the umbilical cord had been around our baby’s neck. I was relieved when Alex was brought back to us and I was able to hold him. I was absolutely broken by the time Mairi was sent to the Intensive Care Unit after giving birth. As she recovered, Mairi and I were keen for her to come home and she was discharged a few days later. 

Making decisions and getting enough information

There were a number of decisions which had to be made whilst Mairi was unwell. I found it useful to have the framework of BRAN (Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Nothing) to work out whether the right course of action was being taken for Mairi and Alex’s benefit. I learnt about this framework at an antenatal education workshop I had attended – they talked about it in a section on ‘if things start going wrong’. It was explained that partners might need to make decisions on behalf of the pregnant women. Most of the medical staff were good, with the right balance between levity and seriousness. However, I found that some were reluctant to explain to us what was happening. I knew Mairi was having lots of tests taken, but I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until after Mairi had been discharged that we really understood how serious the situation was. In some ways, I think it was good that we didn’t know at the time.

Having another baby

Mairi and I met with a consultant some months later to get more information. In particular, we wanted advice on whether it was safe to have another baby in the future. This debrief meeting was helpful and it took place at the right time for us to review what had happened. Mairi conceived a year later and she had no problems with high blood pressure in the second pregnancy.

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