Downton Abbey Shocker Raises Awareness of Preeclampsia

Lady Sybil

Movies and television shows may often offer us just pure entertainment and escapism meant for merely passing the time. But sometimes popular culture can shed light and bring awareness to a topic that may not get the kind of attention that it deserves. Case in point, the latest installment of the extremely popular PBS drama Downton Abbey.

Spoiler Alert:  Do not continue reading if you have not watched Season three – episode four.



On Sunday’s episode of Downton Abbey, American audiences were shocked by the death of the youngest (and sweetest) of the three Crawley sisters. In this episode the pregnant Lady Sybil is under the care of two doctors; Dr. Clarkson, who is the family doctor, and a royal baby deliverer by the name of Sir Philip. But not everything goes smoothly.

Lady Sybil begins to complains of a headache and very swollen ankles. Sir Philip thinks she’s just anxious and that there is nothing to worry about, while Dr. Clarkson declares he believes she developed eclampsia. Dr. Clarkson, sadly, was correct. But his suggestion to take her for a C-section was ignored and after Sybil gives birth, she begins to have convulsions and dies. It was, to say the least, a very dramatic and shocking end to her storyline. But what’s really shocking is how many women and babies die from eclampsia in the real world. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, about “76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths occur each year.” And this isn’t just in Downton Abbey’s 1920’s Europe. Those are modern day numbers, deaths that are happening now.

The Preeclampsia Foundation defines the disease as:

“Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, it is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.”

And this is where the trouble lies, as the foundation says, “The problem is, few people are aware and adequately informed.” But with a giant plot point in a extremely popular show like Downton Abbey, countless people have now been introduced to eclampsia. You’ve got to wonder if this raised awareness of eclampsia via Lady Sybil’s fictional death will save real lives. Let’s hope so.

Has your life been touched by preeclampsia?

You can find out more about the disease here:

Preeclampsia Foundation
The Mayo Clinic

Photo Source: PBS

Article Posted 4 years Ago

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