I have never really talked about what happened to Olivia. I thought that if I could make one more person aware that writing about it might be of benefit. It also might do me some good to get if off my chest.
Olivia's official cause of death was Severe Early Onset Pre-Eclampsia. She had IUGR (Intra Uterine Growth Restriction) as a result of this. We declined a post-mortum having seen the state of the placenta and my symptoms, I already knew what the cause was.
The pre-eclampsia increased my blood pressure - although it was only to normal levels in hospital terms, for me it was very high. This affected blood flow to the baby. The blood vessels into the placenta grew thick and the blood wasn't reaching the placenta properly which caused certain spots on it to die. This continued to happen until more of the surface area was covered until Olivia wasn't getting enough blood to survive. The scary part - besides the "normal" blood pressure was that I had a scan 3 days before she died and everything looked fine, they couldn't even find an obvious problem when the scanned me after her heart stopped.
My intent is not to scare monger but to highlight to pregnant women that you can't put you health in someone else's hands. I should have gone straight to hospital in Lanzarote as soon as my blood pressure climbed and protein showed in my urine. Since the origins of pre-eclampsia are thought to be in early pregnancy when the blood vessels and placenta are being formed it was unlikely that Olivia would have been ok had she been delivered at that stage. She had not grown since 28 weeks and I was 32 weeks.
I should point out that what happened to Olivia was extreme, not the norm. While it's common to have late onset pre-eclampsia on your first pregnancy, it's uncommon to have early onset pre-eclampsia on you second after the late episode.
Early Onset and Late Onset Pre-eclampsia have different rates of recurrences and morbidity. I wish I had have known that it was different from what I experienced on Eve. I would have run straight to a hospital. My understanding is that before 34 weeks is considered early onset and is much more serious.
The cause of pre-eclampsia in unknown but the symptoms can be obvious. I would urge you to see your doctor or midwife if you are concerned at all. Even a quick phone call will put your mind at ease. They will let you know if you need to come in.
The symptoms: You may have only one of these or a combination. They show after 20 weeks.
- Protein in the urine
- High Blood Pressure 140/90 (but mine was normal! If you normally have low bp talk to your doctor)
- Sudden swelling of face, hands, legs etc
- Sudden weight gain after 20 weeks
- Blurred vision, visual disturbance
- Severe headache that doesn't respond to paracetamol
- Abdominal pain - upper right rib
My symptoms were swelling (hard to bend my knuckles, face was also puff, legs large), severe headache (like my brain was being crushed), protein in my urine (4 times the normal amount for pre-eclampsia) but normal blood pressure. Had my blood pressure been high they would have intervened. I usually have low blood pressure (98/54 average) so for me to reach 130's/80's was serious but it wasn't taken seriously because it was still within the safe parameters of pre-eclampsia. On that note, they need to change the definition of pre-eclampsia.
If I could give pregnant women one piece of advice having been through Olivia's death it would be to take your health into your own hands. Don't be passive like me, sitting there hoping you're not bothering the staff with your woes. Hoping they can see what's going on in your body. They can't. It's a bit of an Irish tradition to say 'Sure it'll be grand, don't worry', this was my downfall. I should have shouted it from the roof tops until someone listened. It's your life, it's your baby's life, don't wait.
With so much love,