I had no idea I had HELLP syndrome in the days leading up to giving birth.
I had many appointments in the weeks before my due date, seeing my Midwife every two weeks. Towards the end of my pregnancy I started to experience some concerning symptoms. My midwife told me everything was fine.
The last few months of my pregnancy was tough and I expected that to be the case. I had never carried a child (far less two) to full term before so assumed the symptoms I had was normal, and my Midwife reassured me.
The month before I gave birth to the boys, I had various ailments.
I felt really tired. My heart was racing everytime I moved out of my bed. I was so exhausted that I had to have a sleep after making a cup of tea or having a shower. When I mentioned this to my Midwife, she reassured me that this was normal in the final trimester of a pregnancy.
The huge rash on my tummy was itchy, raised and sore. Progressively, it spread over the next few weeks, to the point it was all over my bump. The Midwife said to use cream; it was only stretch marks.
Black spots darted about in front of my eyes. I found them frightening and they made me feel panicky. The Midwife said that this was just a sign of tiredness.
My blood pressure was high and my heart raced when I tried to do anything.
My Midwife told me to take readings each day on a home monitor. When I took my high readings to later appointments the Midwife said that my heart was just coping with carrying the extra weight of twins around.
I had a pain on the upper left side that never went away. The Midwife said this was a foot sitting under my rib-cage.
I had a sharp pain when I breathed in deeply. The Midwife said the babies were running out of room and my organs were shifting to accommodate them.
My morning sickness had returned. Not to the extreme of the first trimester but I was nauseous, a lot. The Midwife said this was normal towards the end of pregnancy.
Headaches. A constant dull thud. Awful, painful headaches. The Midwife said that I needed to eat more. That was difficult because I felt nauseous and my stomach had shrunk to the size of a pea. And I was tired. So tired.
I was swollen. Everywhere. When I look back at photos, I struggle to recognise myself in the final few weeks. At the time, the Midwife said that was normal because it was so hot that summer.
I had protein in my urine. The Midwife said it was on the high side of normal so not to worry.
In any normal pregnancy, the Midwife would have been right with the prognosis of these individual ailments. But, as it turns out, mine wasn’t a normal pregnancy. And my Midwife missed the underlying cause. Rather than look at my symptoms in their entirety, she was assessing them individually.
Over the many appointments I had with my midwife, I had started to notice that she put ‘everything is fine’ on my notes every time.
I felt nowhere near fine. Having no experience of full-term pregnancy, I believed her; the Midwife was the expert after all. I didn’t have a ‘funny feeling’ that something wasn’t right, well not at this stage anyway. To be honest, I didn’t know any different. I was just generally anxious throughout the pregnancy.
The Midwife wasn’t the only one who missed it. High-risk twin pregnancies are often consultant-led. They didn’t seem concerned either. Although it seemed to me that they mostly read the notes from the Midwife and assumed everything was okay.
Then everything changed.
I went to a routine check-up at 36.3 weeks; my Midwife was not there. Her colleague was taking her appointments that day. I think this colleague saved my life and the lives of my children.
He asked how I was feeling. So I slowly explained all my ailments, somewhat fed-up having to go through the whole rigmarole again, seemingly just like at every other appointment. But this time, he looked concerned. He asked to look at the rash on my tummy. He looked even more concerned. Despite his consternation, I still felt dismissive. None of this had meant anything before.
He said: “How long have you had these symptoms?”. I said: “Oh, weeks, my Midwife told me they were normal”.
He explained that collectively these symptoms together were concerning, particularly the rash on my stomach which indicated problems with my liver (I later found out that he was right, it was a sign my liver was failing).
He calmly explained I needed to go to the hospital. I asked if I could go when my husband finished work. He said: “No, go straight away, I don’t want you to wait”.
So off I went to the hospital. I walked into the hospital and threw up in reception.
I had never heard of HELLP Syndrome before… unfortunately I would not hear the words for another four days. The hospital staff didn’t tell us what was wrong. But that is another story…