Do you know what preeclampsia is? Many women do not -- so they don't recognize the symptoms of this potentially life-threatening disease. Preeclampsia, formerly known as toxemia, is a disorder that is found in one out of 12 pregnant women today and is marked by headaches, excessive swelling, high blood pressure, and stomach pains, and can lead to massive internal organ failure of the mother. Worldwide, nearly 76,000 mothers and half a million babies die each year because of preeclampsia, and rates of preeclampsia, maternal deaths and prematurity are all rising.
For now, the only treatment starts with delivery of the baby. Since symptoms can start as early as 20 weeks into pregnancy and occur up to six weeks postpartum, preeclampsia patients have a high risk of premature birth, pregnancy loss or maternal mortality.
However, there is something we all can do to help those suffering from preeclampsia: help raise awareness and provide education to all pregnant women. The Preeclampsia Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing maternal and infant illness and death due to preeclampsia, is proud to launch the fourth annual Chicago Promise Walk and 5K Run for Preeclampsia™ on Sunday, May 19, 2013 at the Busse Woods in Elk Grove Village/Schaumburg, Illinois. This annual event is part of a nationwide effort to support innovative research and raise public awareness about the warning signs of preeclampsia, a life-threatening disorder of pregnancy.
The Preeclampsia Foundation is committed to reducing maternal and infant illness and death due to preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy by providing patient support and education, raising public awareness, catalyzing research and improving health care practices. The Chicago Promise Walk and 5K Run for Preeclampsia™ is an opportunity for Chicagoans to show their support for the urgent need to find better outcomes for those whose lives have been or will be touched by preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. That “promise” includes finding a cure, supporting families, and ensuring education and awareness for all pregnant women.
I was 31 years-old and expecting my fist child. I went to the doctor for a routine visit and my blood pressure was up. They did a lot of tests and said that I had preeclampsia. My blood pressure was 195 over 120 and the drugs they gave me could not bring it down at all. My husband joined me. I was only 28 weeks. I was too sick to drive so I was transferred to Evanston Hostpial by ambulance. There, they told me that the baby had to come out that night. The thing was that I had an asymptomatic case. I was tired, but feeling fine otherwise when I went into the doctor's office that day. I didn't have blurry eyesite or any of the other usual symptoms.
They wouldn’t show me the baby when she was born because I was so sick. I felt like this couldn’t be happening. My whole body was swollen from head to toe. I spent three days in a total daze before I could even see the baby. My daughter was 1 pound, 15 oz. when she was born. She went on to have many complications and we were in the hospital for 8 months. She had 4 surgeries before she was 6 months-old. I had her in May and brought her home in January. She continued to have many therapies and services.
A few years later, I decided to get pregnant again. There is no medical gene predisposing you to preeclampsia, but there is still a risk. At 31 weeks into my second pregnancy, my blood pressure shot up and I was put on bed rest. At 33 weeks, I looked in the mirror and I felt like my belly wasn’t growing but I never got that far along in the first pregnancy. A scan showed that the baby has started losing weight in the past two weeks. My blood pressure 160 over 100. I had to have another emergency c-section. I was in shock and denial. This time was emotionally more difficult for me. My son did cry when he was born and I was able to see him. He came home 21 days later with no complications.
Still today I have high blood pressure and I am monitored by a cardiologist. It is really important to spread the word about the symptoms women should be aware of. Women also need to know their own family history. I found out that my mother had high blood pressure with one of her pregnancies. In my home country of Nigeria, this disease kills so many mothers. I am visiting in May to help spread the word. We need to educate first-time moms. Watch for headaches. Even if you are just really tired, make sure there is a connection between you and your doctor so you can speak up if you are concerned. I am just a regular mom who documented what happened to her and self-published her book to share my story.
Visit www.promisewalk.org/chicago for more details and to register for the Chicago Promise Walk and 5K Run™. Those interested in forming teams or participating individually are urged to register at the Promise Walk website, though walk-up registrations will be accepted on the day of the event.