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The New Normal: Coping With A Traumatic Premature Birth

premature baby in the NICU8 1/2 weeks ago, Jessica Valenti was enjoying a totally normal pregnancy. Then, at a routine exam, after a routine blood pressure test, she was suddenly told she needed to be hospitalized. Her blood pressure was extremely high, and pre-eclampsia was suspected. So she went into the hospital even though she felt fine. She thought everyone was being overcautious until two days later, when she developed an onslaught of symptoms of Pre-Eclampsia and HELLP syndrome. These serious conditions threatened her life and led to the premature birth of her daughter at 29 weeks gestation.

Pre-eclampsia is one of the most common causes of premature birth as well as maternal death during pregnancy. Valenti’s blog entry about the birth and its aftermath is harrowing, emotional, and inspirational all at once. But mostly it’s a rare, extremely articulate window into an incredibly tough experience. Read on to see what Valenti went through, and find out how a new discovery about pre-eclampsia might help make this experience a lot rarer.

I was hospitalized after a routine exam showed I had dangerously high blood pressure Andrew and I assumed it was all an overreaction because I didn’t feel sick.  Even though the doctors were telling us I wouldn’t leave the hospital until I gave birth and that I might need to deliver in days, we didn’t really buy it.  We even pooh-poohed the neonatologist who spoke with us about what we should expect having such a premature baby.  We planned as if I would carry Layla to term, bringing DVDs and books to the hospital and starting to create a schedule of visits from family and friends.

But within two days it became clear that I was sick really sick.  All of the pre-eclamptic symptoms I hadn’t had previously were suddenly overwhelming.  My doctor told us we had to deliver.  So I was given magnesium sulfate for my blood pressure (which basically makes you feel incredibly shitty and confused) and my labor was induced with Pitocin.  We tried to stay positive, but after a few hours we were told that my liver was in danger of failing.  I was rushed into an emergency c-section, and Layla was born weighing just 2 pounds, 2 ounces.

Read the rest of the story at jessicavalenti.com.

I am happy to be able to add a little optimistic information about pre-eclampsia to this post. We’ve heard a lot about ways of preventing the condition, whether it’s getting the right amount of sleep, eating chocolate, or avoiding cigarette smoke. A new finding was announced today:  researchers have isolated what they believe to be the “switch” that causes hormones to increase blood pressure in pre-eclampsia. They are hopeful that this discovery will eventually lead to a way to turn that switch off. So am I.

photo: MattandJanet/Flickr

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