I was reading well watching this post by the very lovely Karin at Cafe Bebe. And was moved by her obvious distress at how she is being managed, or otherwise, in her pregnancy. I have contacted her and offered some of my "wisdom" following my bitter experience.
Just to explain, in our area your pregnancy is managed by a community midwife based in your GP surgery. Then you go to hospital for your 12 week and 20 week scan. Some lucky people, like me, have to have "shared care" where you are consultant led, but you still see the community midwife for regular appointments.
I kind of fell pregnant by accident. Sort of. I had previously been on depo provera shots, but had gained a lot of weight and was having problems with maintaining a healthy blood pressure. I decided to stop the injections aobut six months before our wedding in September 2008. We decided that we would just go with the flow, and not prevent pregnancy but not actively try either. To our joint astonishment, we found out we were pregnant in the November.
Now throughout my pregnancy I felt "wrong". I had been pregnant twice before, but sadly miscarried, this was my first pregnancy that had gone longer than 8 weeks. With every passing week, it felt more "wrong". At every appointment my blood pressure was a little higher. By 16 weeks I was incredibly concerned, because I started feeling awful. Not just "morning sickness" but crushingly tired, and just generally "not myself", little things really rattled me, I felt highly anxious and worried all the time.
At the end of my 15th week of pregnancy I was signed off with complications of pregnancy. My GP thought I might have ante natal depression. It was suggested I take antidepressants, but I didn't feel that was appropriate, and I felt my baby was at risk as it was with my blood pressure and didn't want to add to the problem by taking medication for depression. I also didn't feel clinically anxious. I felt like something was wrong.
I saw my midwife just into my 18th week and she referred me to the hospital, although I had been marked for consultant led care due to my high BMI I had never seen one. So I toddled off to see the consultant at 18 weeks.
What followed still upsets and shocks me. I was seen by a very junior doctor, not a consultant. He was nasty. He told me I was incredibly fat and irresponsible (now I am fat, I'll admit it, but I was/am a size 20-22 and had not gained a gramme in pregnancy) and that I would get gestational diabetes and have a 12lb baby. He told me I was ridiculous to be worried about pre eclampsia, it was clear I had essential hypertension (which I had never been diagnosed with). He refused to listen to the heartbeat or refer me for scan on the grounds that I was so fat he wouldn't be able to hear me, and the sonographer would be unable to perform a scan.
Um, I'd had no problems at my 12 week scan, and the trainee midwife had heard the heartbeat at my appointment the previous day. He went on to book me for a diabetes test at 28 weeks (I was horrified to hear that I'd have to buy my own Lucozade!!!) He left me by saying that I was to avoid all stress, but not to avoid work (um I worked in a call centre managing complex spinal surgeries, in patient admissions and ITU stays as well as complex chemo requests) and to basically stop wasting everyone's time.
So I did what anyone would do. I howled all the way home. I was so upset. I felt like a child being told off. Once the tears died down, I got mad. I rang my hospital's PALS (Patient Advisory Liaison Service) and made a complaint. The kind lady was absolutely horrified at my treatment and promised that something would be done. I rang my community midwife and went to see her the next week.
My community midwife was also horrified as was my GP, they both felt I needed regular monitoring from the consultant team at the hospital, which is standard practice for expectant mothers with high blood pressure. So the midwife rang the chief midwife, who must have, by that time, heard about my complaint and arranged me to see the "head honcho" the following day.
It was a Friday, the beginning of my 19th week of pregnancy. The consultant was lovely, and in complete contrast, reassured me, but looked at me and shook her head. She said "you might be at risk of pre eclampsia and I want to monitor you closely" I could have kissed her. I was booked for an anaesthetic review and growth scan the same day as my diabetes check, at 28 weeks pregnant.
At 24 weeks I went again, but the consultant wasn't available, but I saw a different junior doctor this time, who was just adorable. She checked everything carefully, put me on medication, and then explained to me exactly what to look for in terms of pre eclampsia. She was just amazingly kind, but also thorough.
From that point on, my monitoring became daily. I had to attend either the walk in centre or midwife every day for blood pressure checks. My last check was on the 6th May. I missed my appointment on the 7th May, I still feel guilty as I had forgotten to call the surgery, I was in hospital by this time. On the 8th May my baby had been delivered.
I felt so sorry for my community midwife. She'd popped into the hospital on the Friday just to go through all her notes and cases and saw "Mrs Hodges......delivered" she nearly fainted, on the Wednesday morning I was ok, by the Thursday I was critically ill. That's how quick pre eclampsia is. One minute your pregnant, the next minute your not.
I am very grateful to the NHS, when it mattered, they were brilliant, but it could have been so very different had I not queried that first doctor and in my next post I want to explain more about what do when things go wrong.