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Lyndsey

Age at interview: 39
Age at diagnosis: 34
Brief Outline: I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia 8 months (35 weeks) into my pregnancy. I was taken to hospital for bedrest and, soon afterwards, my baby was delivered by c-section. My baby, Thomas, was very small and he was cared for on SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) for three weeks.
Background: My name is Lyndsey, I am 39 years old. I am married and have one son, aged 5. I identify as White British.

More about me...

Being diagnosed with a high blood pressure problem in pregnancy

After two years of trying to conceive and shortly after surgery for fertility investigations, I became pregnant. All went well with my pregnancy until a routine midwife appointment at 7 months (33 weeks) showed I had high blood pressure. I went for more checks at the labour ward before being sent home; I was told to come back every few days so that they could keep an eye on my blood pressure. At a growth scan at 35 weeks, I was told that I had pre-eclampsia – the diagnosis was made because I had protein in my urine sample and a low platelet count from a blood sample as well as high blood pressure. I had not heard of the condition before and did not have any symptoms like swelling or problems with my vision. I did have an ache at the top of my bump at one point but it went away after a few hours; I just thought I had overdone it walking up and down the stairs at work that day.

Staying in hospital and giving birth

I was admitted to the antenatal ward and I was told that I would probably be induced when my pregnancy was nearing the end of 8 months (37 weeks). However, shortly after being taken into hospital at 35 weeks, my blood pressure was checked again and it was very high. I was told that my baby needed to be delivered sooner as it was not safe to continue the pregnancy. I was shocked and in denial. I went to the labour ward, had a magnesium drip (to reduce the risks of a fit) and my blood pressure was continually monitored. After three attempts to induce labour with pessaries and lots of waiting, my doctor mentioned a c-section to the midwives in attendance. I seized upon this option as I was exhausted by that point and had little hope of the birth I had actually wanted. My doctors were initially reluctant but I am glad I pressed for a c-section as the delivery was quick and the atmosphere in the operating theatre was very relaxed.

My baby’s health

My baby, Thomas, was very small when he was born. I think there had been a mistake at the dating scan and that my baby was actually two or three weeks younger than they had estimated (i.e. I think he was born at 32/33 rather than 35 weeks). Thomas had fluid on his lungs and he was taken to SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit). To help his breathing, he had CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) which kept air blowing into his airways. 

My breast milk didn’t come in for several days. When it did, there often weren’t enough breast pumps on the post-natal ward to go around. There were some good spaces screened off on SCBU that I could use to express though. At first, I was only able to look at my baby lying in his cot. I was soon able to get more involved with changing nappies and dressing him. Thomas stayed in hospital for three weeks.

My health after giving birth

I was in and out of consciousness after the c-section. I was moved to a post-natal ward and given medicine to reduce my blood pressure. It hadn’t been explained to me that my baby would be taken to SCBU after the birth and so I had expected him to be in the room when I returned from the operating theatre. Being on the post-natal ward with other new mothers and their babies was hard. It was also difficult to visit my baby in SCBU as I recovered. On one occasion, the nurses said that they couldn’t take me. It wasn’t until I became very upset that someone explained there was an emergency which meant the nurses were currently unavailable. 

I discharged myself from hospital a week after giving birth. I had my blood pressure checked at the hospital sometimes when I was visiting Thomas in SCBU. I stopped taking my blood pressure medicine once my baby was home as I was busier. I wasn’t given any information about post-natal pre-eclampsia risks and only found out about this sometime later. I also found out from my medical records that my blood pressure had been steadily rising throughout the pregnancy, but nothing had been said to me about it at the time.

The emotional impact

It was difficult being apart from my baby. I was in shock about the situation and found it difficult to bond with Thomas as I couldn’t touch or hug him at first. The medical staff in SCBU said my baby would be going home soon but they didn’t explain how long they meant by this. I didn’t want to talk to people about what had happened to me at first and I declined offers from friends to visit me and Thomas in hospital. Instead, I wanted to wait until we were both home and settled. It was helpful to hear others’ similar experiences through an online support group. I also shared some tips I learnt, such as taking a lip balm into SCBU as I found the air very dry. My advice to other pregnant women is to speak up if things don’t seem right and to be involved in decisions if possible.
 

Lyndsey expected to rest in hospital for several weeks until her baby was born. It soon became clear that her blood pressure was too high and she needed a caesarean section.

Lyndsey expected to rest in hospital for several weeks until her baby was born. It soon became clear that her blood pressure was too high and she needed a caesarean section.

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I knew soon as I'd been admitted that, 'Oh right OK, this is probably quite serious,' but I still felt quite calm at that point that, you know, you know I'm in hospital, I'm in the right place you know. You know I hadn’t finished work at that point but it was like, 'Well whatever, [laughs] I don’t mind.' I didn’t mind being admitted, yeah because I knew that they'd hopefully look after me and, you know within a couple of weeks' time that'll be fine; he'll be 37 weeks or even though he'd probably only really be 35 or whatever I might have actually been able to tell someone that… about that at some point before that… that got to there but it was the real 'Oh my god' moment was when obviously I got my high blood pressure; went through the roof and I got told I was going down to labour ward that evening, that was the, 'Oh right OK this is much more serious than anticipated,' so.

Why did they… how did they explain that you needed to go to labour ward? 

Well it was the nice nurse again. While she was taking one of my blood pressures she said, "Oh I'll just have to go and get the consultant," and I think she went to talk to them and they obviously looked at the readings and then the nurse… the nurse came back with a consultant and said, "Yeah we're going to have to deliver your baby, it'll be unsafe otherwise." So, I can't quite remember their exact words but it was… yeah it was quite a shock so yeah.
 

Lyndsey was induced and went into labour for several hours. She became tired and was very unwell, so a caesarean section was arranged.

Lyndsey was induced and went into labour for several hours. She became tired and was very unwell, so a caesarean section was arranged.

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I eventually got given a pessary to be induced which didn’t do anything at all, and then I think… mm when did I get the pessary? I think I got the pessary at some point in the morning once they managed to lower my blood pressure down to a reasonable level, and then I think I had another pessary in the afternoon and then I think it was getting towards evening and I was very tired by then because obviously I'd been on this drip and had my blood pressure checked every five minutes and not slept and there were no contractions. I think at that point they… someone had mentioned caesarean and I think the consultant had come in with the senior midwife and they were discussing what to do with me, and I sort of seized upon that at that point because I was tired. And I know I wasn’t going to have the birth that I thought I might have wanted you know with a bath and getting up and everything, because I was on a bed with a drip and they then tried to talk me out of it [laughs] because it's an operation and they left me to think about it for another hour because they wanted to give me another… I think they wanted to try and induce me again but my… they'd already tried twice and I thought, you know, 'My waters won't break, I just want to get this over and done with basically.' So, so then I had the caesarean at about eight o'clock that evening, or somewhere around there, and it was actually quite nice in theatre; it was nicer than labour ward anyway. 
 

It wasn’t explained to Lyndsey that her baby would be taken to SCBU. She expected him to be in her room when she came out of theatre after a caesarean section.

It wasn’t explained to Lyndsey that her baby would be taken to SCBU. She expected him to be in her room when she came out of theatre after a caesarean section.

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I thought he'd be there in the little cot when I got back, you know next to my bed because I think I'd been… been sewn up and they went off… he was off to the side and did he get wheel… I can't quite remember because, you know I was slightly away with the fairies after that point so I can't remember if he got wheeled out or I got wheeled out first but yeah he wasn’t there and no-one had told me that he was going there until I got back so. But my husband got to go and take a picture and I think we got a little Bliss card or something and so I got to see a picture of him at least so yeah.
 

Lyndsey found it hard being separated from her baby. She remembered a time when she was told she couldn’t go see her baby and it took a long time to find out why.

Lyndsey found it hard being separated from her baby. She remembered a time when she was told she couldn’t go see her baby and it took a long time to find out why.

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The first days? Well it's all a bit of a blur really [laughs] because that first twenty four hours I was in and out of consciousness basically and [son’s name] was in Special Care and then I got moved from the labour ward up to postnatal ward; on a ward with everyone with their babies, their new babies, so that was quite hard. They didn’t have a spare side room until a few days later and then I think… yeah so I got moved on the Tuesday night. When did we move? We moved on Wednesday so my husband came to see me in the morning and then had to leave me on my own for most of the day because he was moving the house. Obviously [son’s name] was early so we didn’t anticipate me being in hospital. So yeah on that… I had one day, I think it was two days after birth when you're meant to feel quite low anyway and they'd had a… I think they'd had some kind of emergency with another baby in neo-natal so they couldn’t let me go down to see him so I was sort of left on my own and no-one really telling me anything. I think I had a cry and the nice nurse who happened to come on shift who I'd had previously before I'd had… who'd told me I was going down to labour ward, she came to sort of help me and explain what had happened because they couldn’t tell me before. I thought they were just being mean and not letting me go down so. But yeah so those first few days were quite hard.
 

Lyndsey faced some challenges with breastfeeding. She had some support from nurses on SCBU as well as some of the other mums whose babies were in the same unit.

Lyndsey faced some challenges with breastfeeding. She had some support from nurses on SCBU as well as some of the other mums whose babies were in the same unit.

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Well as I mentioned before he was…he didn’t have the sucking reflex because, I think he was too early for it. So he was tube fed for a little while and although I'd not really had any strong feelings either way about breastfeeding I thought because he was… that he was early and little I should give it a go and… but my milk didn’t come in for three or four days after birth because… but they would… the hospital it quite good and they'd try and encourage you. Oh but I had a dreadful time and if I hadn’t have been… if he hadn’t have been in Special Care so I don’t know if I'd have endeavoured. Everyone was very nice about it but it took one of the older slightly more cantankerous usually grumpy nurses to actually… she actually… she said, "Do you mind?" So, she sort of grabbed hold of me and showed me how she thought he'd go and it worked so, you know it took that someone actually knew.

I think it… the hospital I went to is part of the whole push for it, so you know everyone on SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit) tried to help you know, the expressing, and some of the other mums there were helpful as well. Because everyone used to say… all the nurses and doctors or whatever used to say, "It's not supposed to hurt." One of the other ones said, "It does hurt to start off with," it really does, it's like knives; it's like, "Oh that’s reassuring at least," you know so. So, but yeah they were all quite encouraging, it was just the fact that I don’t think there was enough pumps. There was pumps down in Special Care; there was enough down there but when you're trying to express at three in the morning I prefer to have one on the ward so. 
 

Lyndsey mostly kept her experiences to herself. She talked to one friend who offered to come visit her and her baby in hospital.

Lyndsey mostly kept her experiences to herself. She talked to one friend who offered to come visit her and her baby in hospital.

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Friends, I didn’t really tell anyone anything what was going on really apart from one friend, so we sort of kept in touch via Facebook messenger and text and things and she's like, you know, "If you want me to come and see you," and I do wish I'd let her come and see me you know because lots of people did want to see us and things… it was like… but it wasn’t… it wasn’t like when everyone gets all their visitors after they’ve had a baby and everything's wonderful and great and I just want to keep everyone sort of away in a way just… everyone can come and see me once we're home and everything's fine you know but I didn’t want people's lasting memory of Thomas to be, you know in a little box with a tube on his face. But not… I think when it's… actually Special Care they only let family in anyway; I don’t think they always let friends in so. So, yeah so… so yeah it was… it felt quite a lonely time but that’s probably of my own choosing in a way; you know I just wanted everything to be better and then everyone could come and see me when we were both home so.
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