Tag Archives: Hypertension

It is not witchcraft!

30 Aug

If you’ve read the About page on this blog, then you know that I am African. My son’s name should help to demonstrate just how much of a connection I have with home. This open acknowledgement and awareness that I have about who I am and where I come from doesn’t always allow the decisions I make comfortable to contend with. I have to consider my family, both immediate and extended. How do my decisions affect others’ views of me and my family? Really, I’d be ok if the backlash was only toward me but, in most cases its not. Every Mugala or DaCosta out there might be looked at differently all because of my decision. It’s a heavy load and one that is sometimes hard to juxtapose between two very different worlds.

Luckily, I was raised in the Western world and therefore, a product of two distinct cultures. I have the liberty to take from each one the best practices and customs. Some actions that are not understood by my own or other Africans can just be chucked up to my Americanness. I’m fine with that.

I am sure sharing something so personal on such a public forum is one of those things that has left some of my family scratching their heads. But it’s not just for me, it’s for you.

The decision to start this blog weighed on my mind for a few months before I finally decided to get on with it. The main impetus being how many women from my own community I could reach and make aware of this thing called Preeclampsia. I have heard so many stories from women in this community about their hypertensive problems during pregnancy that I am convinced (like many other illnesses) we are disproportionately more affected than our counterparts belonging to other races. Of course, there can be many explanations (social economic status, access, education and awareness, racism, etc.) for this but without any references; it is hard to say for sure.

I work in public health so this seems like a natural course of events for me. Something happened; I wasn’t aware; now that I know; I want to share and make others aware. When one is aware, she can make better decisions about her health.

I find it stunting that African women do not share such vital information as what could happen to complicate a pregnancy and, in some cases may result in death. We are raised to keep matters of the family to ourselves and not call attention to ourselves by highlighting our misfortunes. But what about when these misfortunes could mean a cousin, sister or another family, doesn’t have to suffer your same fate. What do I gain by keeping the cause of the loss of my son to myself?

It isn’t witchcraft. I know there are many who probably think this but, it isn’t. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. At least I think I’m a good person. The tens of thousands I have read about since losing my son, they couldn’t all have been bad people could they? The unthinkable happened to them too. And you know what? They aren’t all African, so can we stop with the taboo over sharing vital information?

No matter which of your enemies you don’t let see you pregnant or see you happy, it is no indication that your pregnancy will not end in tragedy. Far more likely, is the fact that in spite of your enemy seeing you happy, good things still continue to happen to you. So live your life without fearing the ill intentions of another human being. They are just human! The best thing you can do for yourself is be as aware as possible and take your health and the health of your unborn child into your own hands because doctors are not foolproof.

We are doing a much bigger disservice to our daughters, nieces, cousins, etc., when we shield them for these lifesaving experiences which should help shape their futures as pregnant women and then mothers. After all, we are always supposed to learn from our experiences. What good is the lesson if you cannot/will not pass it on?

We are in the year 2013. There has been much advancement in medicine and still some being researched now. We do not have to suffer from the same infirmities our sisters suffered 100 years ago. We should be building upon all these experiences and lessons so that our daughters know how to respond. So they don’t suffer the same traumatic experiences.

I cannot just be silent. I must share. My experience touches on a wide range of subjects related to pregnancy and postpartum that I know we African women don’t and won’t talk about but, someone has to start. It is for the good of our community.

 

If you have questions about what preeclampsia is, visit the Preeclampsia Foundation for more information.

My symptoms

8 Jul

One of the main reasons for starting this blog was to share my experience while I was pregnant with Demilade so that others might have a reference to help them decide when to take action if experiencing similar symptoms. When I lost my baby boy, I was hopeless and I was angry. Angry at my doctors; angry at myself; and eventually, angry at everyone who could have counseled me and didn’t. Women can lose their child and their lives due to pregnancy complications. We don’t like to think about it and definitely don’t want to talk about but, it happens and these realities should be shared when the information is there.

Preeclampsia occurs in 5-8% of all pregnancies  and still births occur in 1 in 160 pregnancies (of which preeclampsia is just one possible cause).  These seem like small numbers but, for those of us who experience it, it is too many and a far too traumatic experience to not be explored further.

I share my symptoms and experience keeping in mind that not everyone will go through the same exact pattern of events as I did and, that some of these events mean nothing for some pregnant women. It is important to be diligent about our own health listen to our own instincts. There is no one who knows how you are feeling but you, no matter how many abbreviations come after the names of so called experts.

I’ll start from the beginning because it might help to piece together the the final diagnosis.

At about 6 weeks into my pregnancy I had severe abdominal cramps which took the wind out of me and knocked me out. The cramps crept up on me and within about 5 minutes because so severe that I could not walk and eventually blacked out. My husband had to throw me over his shoulder to the emergency room. By the time the nurses and doctors in the ER had checked me out, the pain had gone and I felt fine again. Blood tests were done and ultrasounds performed and none of it came back with any conclusive information. I was released to go home about 6 hours later and didn’t experience this again.

At about 4 months, I noticed that I had hardly gained any weight. I mean, I couldn’t keep anything down for the first 3 months but, at 13/14 weeks I was slowly getting my appetite back so I expected some weight gain. When I raised this concern with my OB, I was reassured that it is normal. Especially when a woman is so sick in the first trimester.

At 5 months, I had gained 10 pounds between the previous month and at this point. I remembered reading the weekly pregnancy blogs and being told that more than 2 lbs in weight gain per week was a cause for some concern, so I made sure to mention it to my OB. She again reassured me that this was normal. This is also the time I started experiencing sleepless nights. When I also brought up this concern, I was told that it was to be expected. In all honesty, every other mother I encountered and who gave me that precious unsolicited advice corroborated the doctor’s assessment that the sleepless nights are to be expected. But, what about the fact that I felt like something was sitting on my chest. Or that my poor sister would take midnight walks with me just so that I could feel tired enough to try and close my eyes when I laid down. And when I could close my eyes, I would abruptly wake up multiple times every night, heart racing and sweating profusely. For about two months, I could not calm myself enough to sleep more than 3 or 5 hours every night. I was tired and I was frustrated and it still was not enough of to raise concern from my health care provider.

At 25 weeks I went to the ER yet again. This time preterm contractions were the cause. Unlike the usual interruptions to my sleep, I was awakened this day by what felt like cramping in my abdomen. I knew there would be stretching and shifting so I wasn’t immediately alarmed. When I finally got out of bed to head to work, the pain was still there and constant but nothing alarming. It was not until about 12:00N that day that I realized I was having contractions. They have a rhythm you know. I asked a friend of mine at work who had just had a baby if these could be Braxton-Hicks contractions and she immediately let me know that if they were, they would not hurt.

Contractions are supposed to feel like very bad cramping, this is what I’ve been told for the longest. But how is one supposed to measure the pain when the regular menstrual cramps are a horror to go through. The thing is, I’ve had cramps that leave incapacitated and when I compare the contractions I was having that pain would rank at a 5. My 10 is extreme.  Later that afternoon I went to the ER and was hooked up to a heart monitor for Demilade and then given fluids via IV. For about 5 or 6 hours the contractions were relentless and showed no signs of stopping. Dehydration wasn’t the problem and the baby was not in distress but the contractions kept going strong. Finally after I had been in the ER for about 5 hours a nurse came to tell me that they would give me something to stop them. She gave me one shot of Terbutaline. The most they can give is 3 shots with some time lapsing in between each shot. Nothing happened. The contractions were still steady. 30 minutes later, I was given a second shot. This time the contractions slowed and stayed that way for the next 30-40 minutes. The nurses were confident that they would eventually stop soon and discharged.

The moment my husband and I got back home and prepared to sleep (it was now after 2AM), the contractions came back to the same level they had been all day. They did not end until late afternoon this day. At this point I had had them for over 36 hours.

The next episode was what happened two days before I lost my child. I had all of the symptoms you will find if you google Preeclampsia.

  • Headache for 3 days straight
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in my chest (under rib cage) and back at what seemed like the mirrored spot
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarhea
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Lower back pain
  • Swelling

Other than my trips to the ER, I suffered from sleepless nights and fatigue as a result. I had occasional swelling of my feet but they always returned to normal. Some of my colleagues said my skin looked grey and eyes yellowed. I felt a great amount of stress all of the time. Much more than I ever have.

Discuss your symptoms with your doctor and seek guidance and/or treatment. If a doctor can’t put it together, it is good to know the signs so that you can seek life saving action sooner.

The Preeclampsia Foundation is a great source of information regarding this disease.

I hope this is helpful to someone.

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