Birth story – A mother’s experience of a high-risk pregnancy

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Understanding what a high-risk pregnancy is can be fairly hard. Sure, you can read up about it, understand the different complications that can cause one, and even sympathise with someone who is going through this trying time, but it is almost impossible for you to really understand what pregnancy problems are, unless you’ve faced it yourself. Growing up, one of my most dearly held dreams was to start a family. While many in my peer circle feel the pressure of having children keenly, and thus avoid it, I was able to find a partner who agreed wholeheartedly with my vision, and jumped on board when I felt I was ready.

After consulting with a number of friends and family, we decided that the most important decision was to shortlist a good maternal hospital. After a lot of deliberation, we decided to go with Apollo Cradle, one of the leading maternal hospitals in the country. With a panel of experienced specialists supporting us, we received both empathetic and competent medical support. This was reflected in the first step that they took, which was to take us through the pregnancy completely, and also help us understand what we could expect. During the preliminary prenatal appointments, our doctors also took a very careful look at our medical history, and also of our families.

During our next round of visits, the doctors, having gone through our family medical histories, revealed that my elder sister, during her pregnancy, had suffered from preeclampsia, a condition that results in hypertension and high blood pressure. The fact that there was medical history of this in my family meant that I too could be at risk. As I was reeling from the news, my doctors gently informed me that while there was no way to prevent this particular condition from happening, regular prenatal visits, and constant monitoring of my weight and exercising regime could help to reduce the chances.

While initially shaken by this news, my family and support system helped to ensure that I didn’t give way to depression, and instead channel all my energy to following the plan my doctors had made for me. They also helped me understand that preeclampsia was a pregnancy-induced hypertension, or high blood pressure, which was dangerous as it could get in the way of the placenta’s ability to delivery nutrition and oxygen to my baby. This condition could also impact my kidneys, liver as well as my platelet count

While monitoring my weight, my doctors helped me keep myself healthy by sticking to a healthy diet, and also helped to ensure that I included at least 40 minutes of exercise each day. Each visit was a complete check-up to see if there were any conditions or symptoms that I was facing that could indicate preeclampsia. Initially, things progressed normally, and I felt that there was nothing to worry about.

Around the 22nd week of pregnancy, though, I began to notice that my fingers were starting to swell. When I brought this up during my next prenatal appointment, my doctors immediately checked my blood pressure, and also took a blood and urine test. At the time, the results came back normal, but the symptoms that indicated that I was suffering from high blood pressure kept surfacing. Over the next few appointments, the doctors kept testing to see if they could confirm preeclampsia.

Finally, when I was in my 28th week of pregnancy, my doctors confirmed what I’d been fearing all along; I was suffering from preeclampsia. By this time, the swellings in my hand has increased, and the only way the doctors could help control my symptoms, and also ensure that my baby was delivered safely, was to recommend hospital bed rest. While this news filled me with dismay, and left me in a tizzy of panic and stress, my doctors and family were able to help me focus on being proactive, and helped me come to term with having to spend the remainder of my pregnancy in the hospital, where the doctors worked towards keeping my blood pressure from rising.

During my time in the hospital, I underwent regular ultrasounds to measure my baby’s growth, as well as frequent blood, urine checks, and the inevitable blood pressure checks. The frustration of being stuck in the hospital was compounded by the swellings, which had increased and spread across my body, caused by the hypertension. Both my hands and my face had swollen so badly that it became hard to communicate well, or even hold a pen (little exaggeration). What really haunted my time in the hospital, though, was the fear for my unborn child.

During this time, I found support from both known and surprising corners. The medical team and my family spent weeks helping to make sure that I was taken care of, and that I did not spend too much time worrying or brooding. A welcome addition to my support system, though, were the other expecting mothers in the hospital. Many of them were going through high-risk pregnancies of their own, and were able to understand me in a way that no one else could. They not only helped me understand the stress of having a high-risk pregnancy, but also used their own experiences to help me get through it.

After almost 4 weeks in the hospital, though, things came to a head. The doctors, despite moving heaven and earth, were no longer able to do much to keep my protein count and blood pressure from rising every day. Calmly taking all the factors into account, both my regular doctor as well as the high-risk pregnancy specialist from Apollo Cradle concluded that it was not a good idea to extend my pregnancy any further, and immediately prepped me for an emergency C-section.

My daughter was born later that day, at week 32 of my pregnancy, weighing 1.3kgs. She was immediately rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit, while my doctors helped to stabilise me after birth, as my blood pressure had shot up dangerously, but was came under control after a short while. After the delivery, the swelling that I was facing also began subsiding. All told, it took my baby and me three weeks to get ready to leave the hospital, and 2 more weeks for me to completely stop my blood pressure medication. I am happy to note that I have been healthy ever since.

While the situation was fairly stressful, the help of an incredible support system really kept me going. This included a loving partner, family and friends around me at all times, fellow mommies-to-be who were going through similar complications as well as an empathetic and experienced medical team. Everyone understood what I was going through, and gave me the support I needed. I would strongly urge that, if you also are facing complications during your pregnancy, to reach out to other mothers who have been in your place, and also experienced medical experts who can help guide you through this trying time.