Trish Adkins is one such woman, and we were fortunate enough to meet through a local networking group. During her first and second pregnancies, Trish suffered from preeclampsia, a severe and rapid rise in blood pressure. It’s a change so alarming to the body that it can lead to seizure, stroke, organ failure, and can even be fatal to the mother and/or baby.
Trish underwent emergency deliveries for both pregnancies, first at 29 weeks and then at 31 weeks. Her oldest child is also a survivor of brain cancer, and I have the deepest admiration for her incredible strength.
Because of her story, when I was pregnant with my second child I was sure to ask my doctor about my blood pressure levels and whether they were a cause for concern. Though I did not have preeclampsia with my first delivery, I knew that it can be a possibility with any pregnancy. Having spent several weeks on hospital bed rest, I ended up with round the clock blood pressure monitoring.
A recent study revealed that women who are deficient in vitamin D in the first 26 weeks of pregnancy may be at a significantly higher risk of developing severe preeclampsia. It also found that getting a sufficient intake of vitamin D led to a 40% reduction in risk of severe preeclampsia. Though more work still needs to be done on this topic, it could prove to be a tremendous breakthrough in solving this potentially life-threatening condition.
One of the reasons why preeclampsia can be so baffling and scary is that sometimes there are no symptoms at all, while other times symptoms can reflect typical changes that occur during pregnancy. If you experience an onset of any of the following, you should notify your doctor: hypertension, Edema (swelling), headaches, nausea or vomiting, pain in the abdomen or shoulder, lower back pain, sudden weight gain, changes in vision, or changes in your reflexes. Other symptoms may include: a racing pulse, sudden confusion, a sense of anxiety, shortness of breath, or chest pain.
While pregnant women should not load up on vitamin D supplements just yet, it may be helpful to keep an eye on your diet during pregnancy. Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. Smaller amounts can be found in egg yolks, some mushrooms, beef liver, and some cheeses. Speak to your doctor if you fear that you may be vitamin D deficient, and keep in mind that exposure to sunlight is the body’s primary source of vitamin D.
Even though preeclampsia often happens during pregnancy, it can also occur post-delivery. Without learning about preeclampsia through Trish Adkins, fellow writer Sarah Hughes would not have been on alert about her own scary postpartum onset of preeclampsia. Since her own frightening experience, Sarah has become the volunteer walk coordinator for the Promise Walk in Philadelphia to benefit awareness and research.
As Sarah said, “With so much amazing research going on, my hope for the future is that we find a cause and a cure for preeclampsia so that my daughter will not have to suffer like I did.”
Please note that this post is intended to share information and ideas, as well as to create conversation. Please consult a medical professional before making changes to your lifestyle.
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