Wednesday 23 May 2012

Pre eclampsia and Kicking Through The Roof

I was thinking about doing a post about some of the funny things doctors say, and recalled an incident that happened in hospital in the hours before Joseph was born. It's turned into quite a sobering post!

When my pre eclampsia was diagnosed, although I was scared, I felt like a blanket of calm was laid over me, and all the people treating me. My somewhat disjointed antenatal care became joined up, co-ordinated and like a well oiled machine, plans were put in place and followed. I listened to what was being said, and asked question. I felt well-informed, but I didn't ask too much about the detail of what they were doing.

One of the things that baffled me was the knee hammer. Quite often doctors would come and bash my knees to watch my legs. The first time, a quite young doctor came and said "just testing reflexes". He tapped at my knee and to my surprise my leg appeared to fly through the air like Bruce Lee kicking a bad guy. The doctor looked at me with utter concern and said "did you do that?" and I said "um no, I didn't think I was capable of kicking that high", and he ran off to get a senior.

No one really explained to me why they were bashing me every hour, and there was so much more going on that I didn't think to ask. When the next doctor came he told me to relax. Which is very difficult. When someone tells you to relax, when they are about to knock your knee with a hammer, and your worried you might kick them into the middle of next week, it's no mean feat. From that point on I would do my creative visualisation and pretend I was somewhere nice. My legs still continued to fly alarmingly, if anything slightly worse each time.

Out of interest I have just googled pre eclampsia and heightened reflexes. This is what I found

I believe the most useful application of reflex testing is in a woman who has already been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. In this patient, the severity of her reflex responses (3-4+, or even clonus) will help me gauge how close she may be to having an eclamptic seizure. The more brisk the reflexes, more danger of seizure.
 I had already been diagnosed at this point, and this is what they were watching for. Eclampsia, as I have explained before, means "bolt from the blue" and describes the devastating seizures that can result from pre-eclampsia not being picked up in time.

I will never ever be anything other that exceedingly grateful to my medical team, for the care they gave me, their expertise, but also protecting me from some of the scarier facts. I did hear "seizure" mentioned a few times and "risk" and I was never left alone for long during my 24 hours of intense monitoring.

I could see the fear in the faces of the younger doctors at the time, and I now understand why I was so interesting! Even doctors who weren't treating me asked to come and see me, and take notes, I must have been a great learning opportunity! And that actually makes me happy, if me being so ill, and also so open to having students attend at the bedside saves another woman, that makes me feel it was all worthwhile.

I never stop hoping and praying that one day we'll see a vaccine, a treatment or a better predictive tool, and a cure for pre eclampsia that doesn't involve delivering the baby so early.

Speaking of knees, I am doing the Bupa 10,000 in London this Sunday to raise money for Tommy's, who fund research into pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia. Please sponsor me if you are able. 



  1. I remember having clonus. Terrifying, seeing your toes tic along without you having any control. There were no students in the unit when I was in, but I definitely saw my fair share of doctors (along with a midwife at all points whilst I was still poorly), and the company was appreciated

  2. I have been looking I to reduce my risk of pre eclampsia and good nutrition is vital no refi ed sugar. 80-100g protein a day salt ur food to taste