A Birth Story, Preeclampsia and Eclampsia

Hmmm..sometimes, pregnancy is just so scary, and when a woman goes through and has a healthy baby, it is really a thing of joy and thanks to God. Downton Abbey is, like any soap worth the name, without its twists. Last night we had one of those shocking episodes that reminded me of Grey's Anatomy, not only in the way it made me cry but also that I went hunting webMD and Wiki. For those who haven't watched it, there may be spoilers ahead.

On Sunday , after the two weddings of the first few episodes, there was a death. Sybil Crawley went into labor, but the joy of having a baby was stifled when the family doctor, Dr. Clarkson, noted that she was suffering from symptoms of preeclampsia - she had swollen ankles, her mind was muddled and there was excess protein in her urine. However, there was a know it all medical man, Sir Philip, who insisted the symptoms were just normal signs of labor.

As they were debating rushing her to the hospital for a cesarean, (her father and Sir Philip preferred a home birth befitting nobility), Sybil goes into labor. She gives birth successfully and there we were thinking it was all over, and was well that ended well. That was not to be.

Sybil's seizures woke everyone up, and before we could catch her breath, she was gone! I almost couldn't believe it, and the way the two doctors stood around wringing their hands made me want to wring their necks! The only way I could forgive them was if it was in tune withe their times that Eclampsia had no remedy then.

So off I went on a search and found that Sybil's condition called preeclampsia, or toxemia, is not just for the 1920s and even today, pregnant women still die from it or the full-on seizures that later killed her - known as eclampsia. Eclampsia is a series of convulsions that occur in pregnant women that are not related to any preexisting epilepsy or other brain disorders. And to think this still claims accounts for a good percentage of maternal deaths, hmmm. Symptoms to watch out for include;

Happens in 1 out of 2,000 to 3,000 pregnancies.
Occurs in the third trimester, sometimes at the end of the second.
The placenta stops working properly.
Warning signs for moms: High blood pressure, swollen legs, feet, and hands. Also severe headaches, sudden dramatic weight gain, nausea, blurred vision, decrease in urine.
Warning signs for baby: Slowed development and low weight because the placenta isn't sending enough blood.
There can be long-term complications following the baby's birth.
Tests reveal high levels of protein in urine for moms.
Preeclampsia can't be cured, but it can be managed: Doctors can prescribe medications to manage symptoms. Bed rest is also usually recommended to help the placenta remain attached.

This is when things get really scary.
Symptoms for mom include seizures, stroke, and heart failure.
Doctors often have to delivery the baby immediately, by c-section.
Untreated, mothers could go into a coma or, worse, die.
In Downton Abbey, the doctors could have given Sybil magnesium sulfate when she went into seizures after the delivery. It was inexpensive and readily available then, as it is now.
Baby can die as well.
Eclampsia can strike after delivery. This is why doctors should keep monitoring you after you deliver.  - Source

For those who are pregnant, please pay attention to your doctor or midwife and don't complain if they want to see you and take your blood pressure all the time. And do make sure to attend those antenatal and prenatal classes. Your child's and your life may depend on it.