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Emma

Age at interview: 38
Age at diagnosis: 34
Brief Outline: I developed pre-eclampsia in my first pregnancy which went to nearly 9 months. I was diagnosed at 8 months (38 weeks) and immediately sent to hospital. My baby was vaginally delivered with suction help from the doctors using a special cup placed on his head. My baby spent a week in SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit).
Background: My name is Emma, I am 38 years old and a scientist. I am married and have two sons, aged 4 and 1. I identify as White British.

More about me...

Early signs and being diagnosed

I developed pre-eclampsia in my first pregnancy. I was diagnosed at 8 months (38 weeks) by my GP and immediately sent to hospital where I was admitted. I think my pre-eclampsia could have been picked up sooner – I had an appointment at 36 weeks with a midwife and, although I saw that my blood pressure reading was high, it was not commented on by the midwife and she didn’t ask me about any other symptoms. I had felt ill for most of my pregnancy with morning sickness and I didn’t think much of my headaches as I have a history of migraines. It wasn’t until I was in hospital that I realised these could be symptoms of pre-eclampsia. The diagnosis of pre-eclampsia shocked me but I was also relieved to know I would now be looked after. My GP was helpful and gave me some practical advice about packing a bag for hospital as it was likely I would have to stay there until my baby was born. I’m glad that some information about pre-eclampsia was held back at this stage though, such as the increased risk of stillbirth.

Being in hospital and giving birth

While in hospital, I was closely monitored and I took medication to reduce my blood pressure (labetalol). I also had medicine for morning sickness. The ward could be noisy and quite chaotic, and the nurses were sometimes so busy that I had to remind them to run tests or to give me medicines on time. It was frightening when I saw another patient on the ward have a fit as a result of high blood pressure (an eclamptic seizure). My blood pressure was checked every four hours, including throughout the night, and I had blood samples taken daily. I was also attached to a machine to trace the baby’s heart rate for an hour each day. After three days in hospital, I was induced and rapidly went into labour. My unborn son became unwell and had to be delivered quickly with suction help from the doctors using a special cup placed on his head. My baby wasn’t breathing at first and he had to be resuscitated. 

After this, my baby was sent to SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) and given a 48 hour course of antibiotics in case he had an infection. I felt unwell after the birth and my blood pressure was very high for about two days afterwards, so I couldn’t always visit my baby in SCBU. It was reassuring that the medical staff encouraged me to rest after the birth and I didn’t feel pressured to be with my baby on SCBU all the time. My husband spent time with our baby and, after a couple of days, I was able to have my baby with me on the ward. Both my baby and I were allowed to go home a week after the birth. 

After the birth

I continued to take blood pressure medicines for about a month. I also had my blood pressure checked daily either at my local GP surgery or at the hospital on weekends. I didn’t have any side-effects from the medicines. I found breastfeeding difficult and there was a lot of pressure to do it from medical professionals who didn’t take into account the fact I was poorly with pre-eclampsia. Back home with a new baby, it was difficult for me to remember to take the blood pressure medicines. It helped to draw up a chart to keep track of when I should take the medicines.

My next pregnancy

I had two miscarriages before getting pregnant with my second son. I was really worried about this pregnancy but I was closely monitored. It was good that I got to see the same community midwife throughout and she was well-informed about my history. I saw a consultant at 3 months (16 weeks) and was told to take aspirin to reduce the chances of developing pre-eclampsia. I didn’t go on to develop pre-eclampsia in my pregnancy with my second baby.

Information and support

An important source of support was my local children’s centre. I was put in touch with other women who had developed pre-eclampsia in their pregnancies. It was really helpful to speak to other mothers who had subsequent pregnancies after pre-eclampsia. I encourage other women in my position to also talk to people who have experienced it. I think it might also be useful for women who had pre-eclampsia to have an opportunity to talk to a medical professional about their experience a few weeks after giving birth.
 

Emma gave a urine sample when she was first admitted to hospital. The nurse asked for a second sample to check the results, which showed proteinuria.

Emma gave a urine sample when she was first admitted to hospital. The nurse asked for a second sample to check the results, which showed proteinuria.

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And you reached the hospital – what sort of tests and investigations happened at that point?

So, I got there and I remember quite a sort of assertive nurse told me to take a urine sample, and then she came back and went, "No, no you’ve got to take another one; you’ve not done it properly." And then I came back and did another one and she went, "Ah," because I'd had obviously a high protein read and she wanted to check it was right.

And then she took my blood pressure and she just sort of said, "Yeah you're not going home," and tagged me and put me in a bed so [laughs].

So it was very quick, it was, you know it was no hanging around.
 

Having tests and checks was part of the daily routine in hospital for Emma.

Having tests and checks was part of the daily routine in hospital for Emma.

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So, I remember being woken up, well having blood pressure tested every four hours I think.

OK 

And then in the mornings having-, going on the trace monitoring for about an hour. And then quite often blood-, had blood samples taken in the morning quite often.

And often saw doctors or the consultants would come round then as well. And then obviously it was sort of lunch-time, and then it seemed to be quieter in the afternoon and visitors were allowed in in the afternoon so, and again, you know it was just the regular monitoring really.

I remember being very tired because obviously the later stage of the pregnancy you don’t sleep brilliantly, and then because you're being woken up all the time, yeh. I remember thinking, 'I'm pretty shattered and I haven’t even had the baby yet,' and yeah so, yeah I mean it-, being in hospital is horrible anyway because the food's not great and your being given the same food all the time and if you don’t feel very well it's-, yeah it's, it's difficult but.
 

Emma went into labour very soon after being induced. The situation became serious and a suction cap attached to the baby’s head was needed to deliver him quickly.

Emma went into labour very soon after being induced. The situation became serious and a suction cap attached to the baby’s head was needed to deliver him quickly.

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It wasn’t a great birth [laughs].

OK 

Unfortunately the induction kicked the labour off very quickly. Which I think got me into distress and then there was fetal distress as well, which I didn’t realise was the risk also of pre-eclampsia.

But my son, yeah got into fetal distress – had to be pulled out pretty quick with Ventouse; had breathing difficult – well he wasn’t breathing so had to be resuscitated and then taken to SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit), so it was, it was a very traumatic birth.

And I don’t, I guess I look back and I don’t know how much of that was related to pre-eclampsia or whether that was induction or whether it just would have happened anyway or, I don’t know so, so yeah but it's -, yeah, it wasn’t a great birth.
 

It was helpful for Emma to talk to other women who had pre-eclampsia who then went on to have more children without problems.

It was helpful for Emma to talk to other women who had pre-eclampsia who then went on to have more children without problems.

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I have to say my children's centre are - , they were very good and, you know I chatted to the manager there about my experience and she instantly was like, "Oh OK well this person had a similar, similar pregnancy to you," and you know, and introduced us and we chatted about it and that was brilliantly helpful.

Yeah, so and also another mum who'd had pre-eclampsia in the first pregnancy but not in the second which again was nice and sort of quite positive. So yeah the children's centre and, I think the health visitors were quite helpful as well just providing sort of contacts of who - , good support, but no specific pre-eclampsia support, it was general new mother support so.
 

Emma’s doctor suggested she start taking aspirin when she became pregnant again.

Emma’s doctor suggested she start taking aspirin when she became pregnant again.

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And I was just hoping I could reflect about the aspirin you were asked to take?

Yeh

How was that explained to you?

Again once she found out I was in research she; she explained that they felt Aspirin reduced pre-eclampsia reoccurrence by about ten percent or something she said I think. But and she actually gave me a few journals, you know she said you can read these and explained that they felt that again benefits outweighed any risks that are taken, and it's a very low amount so the risk was minimal, so yeh.

Yeah and were you concerned about taking the medications?

Not really so.
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