Tell us 5 things about yourself.
I’m 24 years old. I’m a Registered Nurse and work on a gastro and colorectal ward which definitely is not as bad as it sounds. I married my husband, James, when I was 8 weeks pregnant after having to reschedule our wedding due to covid. I love a sleep in! I will absolutely not get out of bed before 9am unless I really have to. I have a HUGE sweet tooth and can’t go to bed without having desert!
How would you describe your pregnancy with Airlie?
I would say my pregnancy wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be with Airlie. I found out I was pregnant at five weeks and the reason I had a suspicion was because I was so nauseous. We ended up telling our immediate families at this early stage because I was so sick that I couldn’t hide it.
I was vomiting 4-5 times a day and had major food aversions (I couldn’t eat cooked veggies my entire pregnancy). I saw my doctor who prescribed me ondansetron to help with this, as I was so worried I would be sick my whole wedding day. Thankfully I loaded up on the medication and managed to get through the day without being physically sick.
We went on our honeymoon following this where my ‘morning’ sickness became worse. I was between 8-10 weeks pregnant at this stage and was now vomiting 7-8 times per day. I found myself living off any form of potato (mostly hot chips) and sipping on water to get through the day. We ended up having to come home from our honeymoon early and I saw my doctor again who prescribed me more ondansetron.
The sickness eased around 16 weeks although lasted until around 25 weeks. At around 20 weeks I ended up in hospital receiving intravenous fluids, and now thinking back, I probably should have gone in for this more in the earlier weeks. Once I hit 25 weeks it dropped to 2-3 times a week which was a huge improvement.
Following this at around 28 weeks, I was diagnosed with polyhydramnios, which is excess fluid around the baby. Although I had a mild case, it meant extra ultrasounds to measure the level of fluid and was told to expect a huge gush when my waters broke (which definitely did not happen). Around 32 weeks I was told that Airlie was still breech and I began to notice some mild swelling in my feet.
Although I didn’t have a birth plan, I knew that I wanted to have a natural vaginal birth with as little intervention as possible. From this point forward I tried many different positions and techniques in the hope that Airlie would turn. I also tried acupuncture which despite being insanely relaxing and calming, unfortunately didn’t work. Having many conversations with my midwife about our birthing options and what to do if she doesn’t turn on her own, was stressful to say the least. However, I decided I wanted to wait as long as possible to make a decision and give her time to turn on her own. I was convinced she would turn on her own at 38 weeks and therefore decided at this stage I didn’t want any interventions.
At 34 weeks, my blood pressure began to increase and I went into hospital for monitoring. I had some protein in my urine and this was the first signs I had of pre-eclampsia. My swelling was so excessive in my feet and legs and my blood pressure continued to rise, so I ended up having to finish work a few days early, at 34+4 which was the best decision I made. I had repeat blood tests and urine tests at 35 weeks and my results were worsening, again showing all the signs of preeclampsia.
It was at this stage that I decided I would have the External Cephalic Version (ECV) to try and get Airlie into position, as I began to worry I wouldn’t make it much past 38 weeks. I was extremely nervous about it and very apprehensive although I booked in to have this done at 36+5. By this time I was checking my blood pressure daily and at 36+4 it had spiked again. I messaged my midwife asking for advise, also mentioning I had been leaking fluid over the past week. She called me giving me the diagnosis of preeclampsia. She asked me to come into hospital for an overnight stay so they could commence me on anti-hypertensives (medication to bring the blood pressure down) and continue to monitor.
Once I got to the hospital, we found out Airlie was footling breech with her feet engaged and I was 1cm dilated, therefore making it impossible to do the ECV that I was booked in for the follow day. I also found out at this stage that it was my waters that had broken and that’s when I was rushed for an emergency cesarean for the birth of our girl. So thinking back, it was quite a rough pregnancy. I always felt as though there was something to worry about and couldn’t relax and let my body do it’s thing. However, despite all of this, I am so grateful I was able to fall pregnant and carry our beautiful baby girl.
What is pre-eclampsia? What did this mean for your pregnancy?
Preeclampsia is a condition that shows most commonly in the form of high blood pressure, excessive swelling and protein in the urine. I had all three of these symptoms. Experts are still unsure as to why preeclampsia occurs, and when I was diagnosed and trying to research it myself, I found it quite difficult to understand.
As I was working on my feet until almost 35 weeks, the swelling was excessive. Some days, I would swell all the way up to my thighs. It was extremely painful and uncomfortable and all I could do was put my feet up as high as I could to reduce it. When my blood pressure began to rise, I had to check it every day, sometimes up to 3-4 times per day depending on the readings.
Once Airlie was born, I actually needed to stay on medication for over four weeks. I started off on one tablet, four times per day and had to slowly reduce it each week, until almost five weeks postpartum when my blood pressure was back to normal, and I was finally able to stop the medication.
My understanding of preeclampsia is that if left untreated, it can develop into eclampsia and be fatal for mum and can effect the blood supply to the placenta, making it fatal for the baby. Therefore, it is important it is treated prior to getting to this stage. For future pregnancies, I will be closely monitored and have been told I may even be put on mediation early for the best possible outcome for myself and baby.
How was Airlie’s birth?
Airlie’s birth was quick, scary, yet relieving to say the least.
As I said previously, I went into hospital for blood pressure monitoring. I didn’t even pack my hospital bag with me, as I just did not think she would be making her entrance so soon. Once my midwife told me my waters had broken, the doctor came in and checked me via a physical examination and a bedside ultrasound. This is when we found out I was 1cm dilated and she was ready to come out feet first. The doctor casually said to me “we are going to have to take you for a cesarean”. Me being a little oblivious to the seriousness of the situation asked when this would be, thinking maybe the following week. “In about half an hour” she said. The only words that could come out of my mouth were “I need to call my husband” as he was still at work.
The doctor left and my midwife stayed by my side. She was really supportive. I called my husband, James and said “you need to get here right now”. He was on loudspeaker and actually asked if he had time to go home for a shower first and my midwife quickly said absolutely not! Luckily he was working close by and was only about 10 minutes away.
During that 10 minutes, I had a catheter put in, another cannula, I had two midwifes helping put on a gown and stockings and was signing consent forms. I called my mum, told her she was about to become a grandmother. She bawled her eyes out over the phone. James arrived at the hospital we we had about 5 minutes to ourselves to process what was happening. I cried, as I felt upset that I wasn’t getting the chance to labour or even process what was happening. I was then whisked off to theatre.
James followed although stayed outside the theatre while I was getting the spinal. I was so nervous, my blood pressure skyrocketed to 180/110. To put it into perspective, in pregnancy it isn’t supposed to go any higher than 140/90. Luckily my midwife was by my side and was doing an amazing job and helping my stay relaxed while it was all happening.
I was assisted to lay down and James was brought in. James and I were having a causal chat (I can’t even remember what it was about) when suddenly they pulled down the curtain in front of my face and held Airlie up so we could get a first look at her. I felt instant relief and James and I both cried. It was a moment I will never forget. After a few seconds (that felt like forever) she let out a little scream.
James went over with our midwife to cut the umbilical cord which was when they noticed she was working really hard to breath. She was brought over to me for a quick hello and a few photos and then taken to the special care nursery for some breathing support and antibiotics.
Once I got into recovery, I was rolled over by a couple of nurses to check my vaginal bleeding. I was bleeding very heavily and being a nurse myself, I could tell by the looks on their faces that they were concerned. The consultant came in and prescribed a medication to slow down the bleeding, however this made my blood pressure increase back up to 180/100. I then had to be given large amounts of intravenous medication to get my blood pressure back under control. After spending a long three hours in recovery, I was finally able to go back to the Maternity ward.
Once I got there, I immediately asked to go and see Airlie in the nursery and for the midwives to call James to let him know that I was okay. However, it again took a while to get my blood pressure under control.
Airlie was born at 4:57pm and by the time I was able to see her it was after 10pm. It was the longest 5 hours of my life. She was covered in wires and tubes. It was so confronting. I was only able to reach over from my bed to hers and touch her little hand.
At the time, I was absolutely devastated that I didn’t get skin to skin after she was born and I didn’t get to breastfeed in the first few hours of life. Now that I think back, I’m just so glad I went into hospital when I did and that Airlie is safe and healthy, and thankfully, not having that skin to skin and early feed didn’t effect how she breastfeeds today.
Have you got any advice for women who are diagnosed with pre-eclampsia?
My advice would definitely be to ask a lot of questions. I didn’t initially and ended up attempting to research myself which ended up making me more confused than I already was. It was also quite scary as a lot of things online talk about how fatal it can be if left untreated, but not about how manageable it is when it is being treated!Luckily I had a very supportive midwife who was very helpful and knowledgeable about the whole thing.
I would also advise to listen to your body. My body was telling me I needed to take it easy and slow down. My feet and legs would be so painful after finishing a shift at work and the best thing I did was finishing up early. I now look back and think how lucky it was that I did finish work when I did, as she arrived so much earlier than expected.