Pregnancy and Pre-eclampsia – an interview with high-risk patient Cathleen Simnick

Question: Have you ever come across the term Pre-eclampsia before or in the beginning of your pregnancy?

Cathleen Simnick: Frankly speaking, I have never heard of pre-eclampsia before I got pregnant. I did know the term ‘toxemia of pregnancy’ but I had no idea what this was actually all about.

 Did you notice any of the “typical” symptoms of pre-eclampsia? If so, when and in which form did they appear?

During my pregnancy I had a subtle form of placental insufficiency. However, very luckily, this did not affect my baby’s growth. But besides that, I felt well and enjoyed my pregnancy. A week before I was diagnosed with HELLP I had the typical symptoms such as elevated blood pressure and severe water retention.

What was the screening test like?

I really appreciated that my physician recommended these measures. It was very easy and for me it felt like a normal prenatal appointment.

 When and how did your physician diagnose your pregnancy as an at-risk pregnancy?

I got the diagnosis when I was 13 weeks pregnant.

Did you feel well informed concerning risks and possible treatment?

My doctor told me about the consequences of pre-eclampsia and how to identify the different symptoms. We then decided I should take ASS100[1] during my further pregnancy to reduce the risk of developing pre-eclampsia. Moreover, I was monitored more frequently. Consequently to my diagnosis, my gynaecologists gave me a sick note and from pregnancy week 27 on I was officially prohibited from working.

 How was your state of health throughout your further pregnancy?

I must say that I actually really enjoyed my pregnancy. I felt fine and never noticed any particular problems. Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve when I was around 30 weeks pregnant, I attended another appointment at my perinatal centre and the doctors detected a rapid deterioration of my results. In a follow-up appointment one week later the results have gotten even worse. Hence I was advised to consult a clinical unit and to consider lung maturity injections. It was very clear by then that I would not be able to carry my baby to full term. Later I visited the Hospital Lueneburg where I was supposed to stay for two days for 24-hour blood pressure monitoring and urine collection. However, all of a sudden, my blood pressure sky-rocketed also the second measurements showed a result above 100. The doctors then tried to medicate me accordingly and I got steady magnesium infusions to prevent seizures. They also took daily blood samples. By then I had increasing water retention in my legs and feet. To play it safe, in pregnancy week 33+6, I received the mentioned lung maturity injections. After one week at the hospital I noticed subtle but increasing epigastralgia. This pain grew stronger and eventually reached my back. I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know how to handle the pain any longer. After another blood test they found out that my liver function reading had deteriorated and that my pregnancy had to be terminated immediately. So on 19 January 2017, I became Mum to my little baby girl Martha Elisabeth. She was delivered at 34 weeks by C-section.

You were not only at risk to develop pre-eclampsia but did in deed develop HELLP. Has this experience influence on your feelings regarding a possible future pregnancy?

I must admit that these events do influence me a bit regarding a future pregnancy. I will definitely opt for exhaustive prenatal check-ups. Looking back, I am glad that my complications had been detected at an early stage and that the doctors did everything to counteract these developments. I think all these steps enabled me to continue my pregnancy for as longs as possible and to take a healthy daughter home, only 13 days after she had been born. 

With hindsight to your own pre-eclampsia experience, is there anything you would recommend other affected women?

I would definitely recommend other women to go with their gut. Everything, even if it may feel irrelevant, should be taken seriously in case of a diagnosed pre-eclampsia. The situation can change at a moment’s notice and one can end up feeling really bad. This can be in deed life threatening for both mother and baby. I am indeed glad I was already in hospital when things started to get worse.  

Thank you very much for your time and your frank and insightful answers.


[1] An acetylsalicylic acidic blood-thinning medication, only available on prescription