Do you know your body?: Preeclampsia Awareness Month

Women can have preeclampsia in the middle of their pregnancy, usually diagnosed around 20+ weeks and there are currently no treatments or cure for it.

What happens to some women, is called postpartum preeclampsia and they get the classic symptoms usually a few weeks AFTER the delivery of the baby.

But what I'm more concerned with, as if those two things aren't already going to kill you, is that NOW I have a big target on my head..... or my heart, rather.

Your body in pregnancy mode is basically one test of how much pressure and how much stress your body can go through. I FAILED. My body's response to being pregnant was great..... at first, but as the blood volume and pressure increased.... my body basically said, peace out to my kiddos.

While I experienced some of the "classic signs of preeclampsia" - high blood pressure, proteinuria, swelling(Edema), there are women who may never have any symptoms and feel absolutely until its too late. With pregnancy number 2, it attacked quickly. I had nausea, vomiting, a headache that wouldn't go away, and while the proteinuria wasn't as bad, my blood pressure got as high as 189/102....I also experienced blurriness in my vision. So so thankful that my husband was home in time to rush me back to the hospital!

I cannot stress the importance of knowing your blood pressure numbers. We all go for our yearly - some of us, better at keeping appointments than others - and we have a general knowledge of what our normal blood pressure numbers are. When you're going in for your prenatal appointments, they will also keep a track of your blood pressure and knowing what's normal for you and not chalking it up to "just another pregnancy thing" is so important. I bought a wrist cuff when they recommended it and showed my husband how to use a manual blood pressure cuff to compare both readings. Granted, the wrist cuffs aren't accurate BUT writing down your numbers and comparing and showing them your doctor gives you both an impression of how you're doing. With pregnancy #2, I was put on baby aspirin. Talk to your doctors!

Okay, at your prenatal visits, your doctor will usually have you pee in a cup. Most readings are normal and kept from you, unless you request for the results. If your trace protein reads 1+ or greater, that could be a sign of preeclampsia.... regardless if your blood pressure is 140/90. You can always buy reagent strips at your pharmacy and test them at home. Some doctors will also ask you to do a 24hour urine collection.

I know we're supposed to be "puffy" during our pregnancy. My feet were swollen and my flats were suddenly uncomfortable. But swelling in your hands, around your face and eyes could be concerning. Edema is the accumulation of excess fluid.

Other signs and symptom include:
Headache - Dull or severe, throbbing headaches, often described as migraine-like that just won't go away are cause for concern.
Nausea or vomiting - Nausea or vomiting is particularly significant when the onset is sudden and after mid-pregnancy. “Morning sickness” should disappear after the first trimester and the sudden appearance of nausea and vomiting after mid pregnancy may be linked to preeclampsia.
Sudden weight gain - Weight gain of more than 2 pounds in a week may be an indicator of preeclampsia. Damaged blood vessels allow more water to leak into and stay in your body's tissue and not to pass through the kidneys to be excreted.
Vision changes - Vision changes are one of the most serious symptoms of preeclampsia. They may be associated with central nervous system irritation or be an indication of swelling of the brain (cerebral edema).
Common vision changes include sensations of flashing lights, auras, light sensitivity, or blurry vision or spots.
Pain in the abdominal and or shoulder area -
This type of abdominal pain, often called epigastric pain or upper right quadrant (URQ) pain, is usually under the ribs on the right side. It can be confused with heartburn, gallbladder problems, flu, indigestion or pain from the baby kicking. Shoulder pain is often called “referred pain” because it radiates from the liver under the right ribs. Lower back pain is different from muscle strain common to pregnancy, because it is usually more acute and specific. Shoulder pain can feel like someone is deeply pinching you along the bra strap or on your neck, or it can be painful to lie on your right side. All of these pain symptoms may be a sign of HELLP Syndrome or a related problem in the liver.

Lower back pain is a very common complaint of pregnancy. However, sometimes it may indicate a problem with the liver, especially if it accompanies other symptoms of preeclampsia.

Hyperreflexia is when your reflexes are so strong that when your knee is tapped by a rubber “hammer”, your leg bounces back hard. This sign is generally measured by a health care provider and otherwise difficult for you to observe yourself.
Shortness of breath, a racing pulse, mental confusion, a heightened sense of anxiety, and a sense of impending doom can be symptoms of preeclampsia. If these symptoms are new to you, they could indicate an elevated blood pressure, or more rarely, fluid collecting in your lungs (pulmonary edema).

Know your body! Know your numbers! Trust in your gut. Women KNOW when something "feels off" and "not right." Trust that and go with it. Sometimes, it could mean your doctor telling you 'hey, its just the normal preggo things you go through,' and that's okay. Keep pressing your doctor, asks for tests, get a second opinion, if it comes down to that. And if it turns out that it's all in your head and there was nothing wrong with you, that's fine too. At least you did everything you could for yourself and your baby. Remember that YOU are PAYING these DOCTORS (or at least your insurance is).

Talk to your doctor. Talk to the people in charge of your car; a doula, a midwife, anyone. Let them know your concerns and if they are worth every penny and are decent human beings..... they'll "humor you" and at least run a test or two.

For more information about preeclampsia, please visit:


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