It Happened Again… On Having Severe Preeclampsia for the Second Time

I was overjoyed to learn that I was pregnant for the second time.  My first pregnancy ended with a premature baby in the NICU while I recovered from severe preeclampsia, so I spent this pregnancy praying for a different outcome.  {Side Note ::  My daughter is a perfectly healthy 5 year old now.}  I knew it was possible I would experience severe preeclampsia again.  In fact, my high risk doctor estimated a 50% chance of high blood pressure and a 10% chance of severe preeclampsia for my second pregnancy.  The goal was to avoid any severe symptoms until I was 37 weeks pregnant, when we could deliver the baby with little risk.

My first trimester ended with very little symptoms.  When I hit 14 weeks, my fingers began to swell – and I began to worry.  I called my OB, who calmed my fears.  My blood pressure was excellent. In fact, it was even better than it is when I’m not pregnant.  The weather had begun to warm up and my cankles could be attributed to normal pregnancy swelling.  It also helped to hear that my best friend, who was also pregnant, was experiencing the same symptoms.  

It wasn’t until 16 weeks later that I experienced my first real issue.  I’d started wearing a wrist brace to help control the pain from pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel, but otherwise felt fine.  I went to the doctor for a routine appointment and immediately knew there was a problem when the nurse took my weight.  I had a personal policy of not looking at the scale, because who needed added stress? I’d instead instructed my doctor to let me know if there was an issue.  But when I heard how far the nurse had to push the scale weights this time, I began to worry.  She didn’t say anything – just escorted me to my room to take my blood pressure, which was, in fact, elevated.

As a precaution, my OB decided to send me to the hospital for a 24 hour observation.  I agreed calmly, then walked to my car and melted down. With my first pregnancy, I’d been sent to the hospital for the same observation – and left a week later with my daughter in the NICU.  I wasn’t ready for this to happen again.  

My mom drove me to the hospital, where I received a round of magnesium sulfate and surfactant shots.  My high risk doctor met me at the hospital for another ultrasound to confirm the baby was doing okay.  I’d like to say that I handled this hospital stay gracefully, but the combination of pregnancy hormones, worrying about my baby, and leaving my 4 year old daughter at home left me a hot mess.  Thankfully, my doctor was able to get my blood pressure under control, and I was sent home on bed rest with blood pressure medications.  I still had my blood pressure cuff from my first pregnancy, so I used it a couple times a day to confirm my levels were okay.

I stayed at home on bed rest for two weeks with few issues.  I went to the OB for my 32 week visit and was sent to the Maternal Assessment department of the hospital, because my blood pressure was elevated again.  Luckily, it came back down, and I was released after 2 hours.  I went home and back to my normal bed rest routine.

The next day, I was doing some light work on my laptop when I realized I didn’t feel well.  I put my laptop away and laid down on the couch for a few minutes before taking my blood pressure.  When I did, it was 176/83.  I’d been given strict instructions to contact my doctor if it went over 150/60, so I made the call.  It was just after 5 p.m., so I reached the on-call doctor who instructed me to report back to Maternal Assessment.  However, when I arrived at the hospital, I was sent directly to Labor & Delivery.

I checked in, I was started on IV blood pressure medications and informed that I would probably deliver the baby that night.  I knew that I wasn’t leaving the hospital again while pregnant, but I also calmly told the nurse that I wasn’t having the baby yet.  I joked that I was too tired and she could talk to me about it in the morning.  After a long night in Labor & Delivery, I was moved to Antepartum.  

The next nine days were spent in a cycle of raised blood pressure readings, followed by increased medications, fetal monitoring, and ultrasounds.  Finally, my medications were maxed out … and my blood pressure rose again.  I received a phone call from my doctor, informing me we would deliver the next day.

My sweet boy was born at 33 weeks gestation, weighing 4 lb, 8 oz.  His soft cry was a relief, because it meant he was breathing on his own.  He was whisked away to the NICU, where he spent the next 26 days battling eating issues, bradycardia, and reflux.  I was released from the hospital five days postpartum and was prescribed blood pressure medication for about a month afterward.  

Despite a second difficult pregnancy and NICU stay, my son and I are both healthy and happy now. Which was always my ultimate goal.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Your doctor’s cut off was 150/60? Pre eclampsia is defined as > 140/90 with swelling, proteinuria. Why was her diastolic cut off so low? Were you on low dose aspirin for 2nd one?

    • Hi Morgan! I’m so sorry for the delayed response! To be honest, I’m not sure why the diastolic cut off was lower. But I am glad for the awesome care I received.

      I was on a low dose aspirin with my second pregnancy. If my memory serves me correctly, I started it in the second trimester.

  2. Hi Heather,

    I had severe pre-e with my first delivering at 27+6 days. My doctor missed all the signs. I am pregnant again, not planned, and I’m looking for a new doctor any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Audrie! Thank you for commenting! I hope you have a healthy pregnancy this time. I’m going to shoot you an email, so keep an eye out. 🙂

  3. It’s amazing. I have an almost identical story (that not yet ended).

    1st pregnancy – missed signs. When high blood pressure kick in I went to hospital, was admitted and my (super healthy) baby boy born 5 days after (I also had HELLP syndrom).

    2nd pregnancy – Swollen from 25/26 weeks and blood pressure a little higher… slowly progressed until 32 weeks. Had a blood test thar predict PE im 4 weeks. Sent home…
    Now at 33 weeks PE test says in one week. Blood pressure around 140-150/85-95… already taking corticosteroids to prepare baby girl lungs. Now deciding… to be admitted now and maybe not seeing (Shit covid rules – no visitors of any kind) my 4 yo son for maybe 3-4 weeks (maybe less)? Or try to evaluate at home at my own risk?!

  4. Hi! I have 3 kiddos, and my last 2 are basically the same stories as yours (same timeline and even the pregnancy induced carpal tunnel). Bestest at the hospital. Magnesium. All of it. I am just so grateful I was able to have my last baby. I have a question for you, though: did you decide to have another? I feel terrified to, and an OBGYN told me that my body basically just hates being pregnant, so I should seriously consider stopping because next time could very easily be fatal for me or the baby or both.. My BP went from beautiful numbers to 210/101 with both of my preeclampsia babies. Did you decide to stop? Or did you successfully have anymore kiddos?

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