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Julie

Age at interview: 34
Age at diagnosis: 32
Brief Outline: Julie was expecting her first daughter and felt well through most of the pregnancy. But once she had passed her due date she started to feel unwell – had headaches, distorted vision and high blood pressure. She developed pre-eclampsia and doctors performed an emergency caesarean.
Background: Julie is a research and performance manager for a local authority. She is married with one daughter. White British.

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Julie was interviewed when her daughter was almost two years old. She enjoyed the pregnancy, which went well. However after she passed her due date she started to feel unwell. At 40 weeks, 5 days she started to develop high blood pressure and swelling. She saw lines across her eyes, had severe headaches and felt dizzy. Over a period of 2-3 days she described being monitored, and finally admitted to hospital, and feeling increasingly unwell and ‘out of it’. 

After two days her blood pressure was very high and doctors were concerned. They started induction, but labour did not progress fast, and once the baby started to go into distress she was rushed through for an emergency caesarean. There was meconium in the waters and her baby needed to be resuscitated at birth, but she was then fine. Mother and baby were able to be together soon, and they stayed in hospital for six days as doctors monitored her blood pressure.

On discharge she was well supported by her community midwife, and close family. Her recovery was however complicated by a burst appendix when her baby was seven weeks old. At this point she stopped breast-feeding. 

She was told what had happened to her in a brief chat with the consultant in the hospital. But she had not been offered any follow up since, which she would have appreciated, to try and make sense of her experience. She had done a lot of online research herself into pre-eclampsia, but was not given any by the hospital. She would also have liked some more formal support, or opportunity to talk to others, after such a traumatic event. She was very upset by how medicalised her birth experience had to become, and suffered flashbacks for a while. She and her partner have not thought about other children until now but are just starting to consider trying for another although they are concerned over whether the pre-eclampsia would happen again.
 

During labour, the heartrate of Julie’s unborn baby dropped very low. The next steps of a caesarean section happened very quickly.

During labour, the heartrate of Julie’s unborn baby dropped very low. The next steps of a caesarean section happened very quickly.

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“We can’t leave you any longer. You’re not well at all.” So they sort of said, “Well we’ll plan to take you to theatre. We’ll get baby out.” So in between him sort of going out, making notes on this, that and the other, [daughter] went into distress. So all the monitors started going berserk because her heart rate dropped right down for quite a long time. So at that point the midwives just took my husband out the room and said, “You need to go and get gowned up. She’s going to theatre now.” And they said, “Whether you come in or not, it depends whether we can get a spinal into her or whether she’s going to have to go to sleep.” Because they didn’t know at that point. So we ended up in theatre so quickly I can’t believe how fast it happens. Ended up in theatre. [Daughter] was delivered and there was meconium which is why she’d gone into distress so she came out, but didn’t do anything. So she then had to be resuscitated, in front of us, which was horrific. 
 

Julie said it took two years before she felt able to talk about what happened to her and her baby as a result of pre-eclampsia.

Julie said it took two years before she felt able to talk about what happened to her and her baby as a result of pre-eclampsia.

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I have to say with the caesarean side of things and the pre-eclampsia that was something I didn’t speak about. I wouldn’t. Because it was, it was horrible. More for the fact because of what had happened to her rather than to me, because I was like, you know, I’m a bit more sturdy, I can deal with things a bit more, whereas a little tiny baby, but it wouldn’t be a point of conversation because I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t talk about it. I’d just sort of try and leave the room or… whereas now I’m quite happy to talk about it. I just think you know, things happen, and if people can be educated by it and learn from it, then why hide from it. But its took me probably nearly two years to get to that point where I feel able to talk about it without it being horrible. Whereas now I just think oh yes, you know, we’re through it, we’re all right.

What was it that made you feel you couldn’t talk about it? You didn’t want to revisit or…?

Yes, it was, it was horrifying, because it just happened so fast and we never really got any answers to what had happened. The only thing that we got really was day three when we were on the ward, my consultant with a couple of junior doctors came in to see us. And she said, “If you hadn’t had the caesarean you would have died, and your baby would have died.” And that was it. That’s everything we’ve been told about it, apart from stuff that I’ve researched. Because I wanted to know what was pre-eclampsia? Why have I had it? What its to do with? Because that’s my kind of mind. I want answers to why things go wrong and we’ve never had that opportunity to talk to people.
 

Julie was unsure about having another pregnancy. She had a lot of unanswered questions about her experience of pre-eclampsia in her first pregnancy.

Julie was unsure about having another pregnancy. She had a lot of unanswered questions about her experience of pre-eclampsia in her first pregnancy.

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Have you thought more about other children? I mean she’s still quite little, but have you…?

Yes, yes, we are talking about it now. Which is something that’s, again its took me two years, because I mean, I always wanted children close together. I always wanted two close together, but after the first episode, I was just like never, ever again, because of what had happened to me, and all the midwives kept saying to me, “Don’t let it put you off.” And I was like, “How can this not put you off?” How can it not? You know, but now I just think they would just monitor me like a hawk and I know they would. Not that I particularly want that, because it sort of takes a lot of the, the naturalness and the sort of letting your body do what it needs to do. But at the same time I know that they would totally monitor me this time. Not that didn’t before. Because they did. But I mean me and my husband one of our main things, is why did they not induce us earlier? And why did we have to wait until we got to the critical point, rather than if it started on the Thursday why couldn’t I have been induced on the Friday? Rather than having to go, for things to escalate to the point where it was horrendous, when if I had it done on the Thursday I was still, oh I was still at point where I was okay. I wasn’t well, but I was all right, and things might have been very different. They might not have been. But they might have been. 
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