It was January 4th, 2020 at 9 a.m. I’m sitting in my robe on my bed, no pants, messy hair everywhere, staring over my bulbous baby belly at my outstretched hands. My hands are now significantly more swollen than they were yesterday. There is a stiffness in my finger joints that I had started to feel the day previous but it had doubled overnight as I slept.
I was concerned. I typed daily for work and this swelling was going to make life mildly frustrating. Pregnant women balloon up all the time though, right? At 35 weeks along during my first pregnancy, it made sense that my tiny body’s process of packing on the pounds had finally moved away from my butt and thighs to other parts of me that had been awaiting increased thickness.
I ended up posting a question on Facebook asking for advice from my fellow moms about how to reduce swelling because I had been experiencing this strange hand swelling and stiffness over the past 48 hours.
I eventually got up and waddled to the bathroom as expecting mamas are known to do. While taking care of business, my bestie Jonathan (not a mom or parent, but a trained medic) texted me an article about various causes of pregnancy swelling. Within the article near the end, the term preeclampsia was mentioned as well as its symptoms. It’s a high blood pressure complication that can lead to serious harm to the baby and mother.
I felt my gut metaphorically drop as my baby girl literally kicked around. I apparently had more pain and correlated symptoms with preeclampsia than just sudden swelling and stiffness resulting in dexterity reduction. Preeclampsia is most often experienced by women starting in the 34th week or in the later weeks leading up to full term. Preclampsia can also cause pain in the upper right side of the torso as well as lead to nausea. Oh snap.
I often experienced pain in my right side near my ribs but had always attributed it to baby pressing on my ribs with her little feet. Was I wrong in this assessment?
The past two days I had been consistently nauseous. Should I be taking my queasy tummy more seriously as an issue?
I was definitely in the range of time where preclampsia could hit at 35 weeks.
And my hand swelling was definitely its own unique kind of awful.
So, what do I do as an anxious individual with all these new scary worries swirling through my head? I go stare at my body in our bathroom’s full-length mirror.
Lo and behold, I noticed that my shins looked thicker. And then my feet. They were puffy too. Hmmm. I tested out my toes and ankle joints. Stiff just like my hands. I tried moving everything around. Alas, my knees and elbows were stiff during movement too! Eeep! TOO MANY COINCIDENCES.
Must not panic.
Back on my bed, I stared at my phone for at least five minutes. I hate phone calls and also asking for help. Both make me feel awkward and embarrassed. Alas, my next step required me to do BOTH.
I called my hospital’s triage center and spoke to the on-call doctor about all that I had been experiencing within the past 48 hours as well as my discovery that they suspiciously lined up with preeclampsia—hence the call. WHAT DO I DO????
She honestly wasn’t too concerned and didn’t think I needed to drive over for testing.
BUT. She did advise me that if I was still feeling anxious or paranoid about possibly having preeclampsia to go do one simple thing:
Go to your local pharmacy and use their free blood pressure checking machine!
Her pro advice: If my reading’s top number was over 140, or the bottom number was over 90, that meant that my blood pressure was too high and it was necessary to head on over to the hospital.
But if my BP reading was under the numbers she had specified, I would save myself the hassle of having to pay a hospital triage bill for a false alarm.
So, off to the drugstore I went.
And, it turns out, my blood pressure was fine. Hallelujah!
I was just finally packing on those pounds and swelling as mothers generally do… but really late in the game.
Lesson learned? It is always appropriate to call your provider with questions, no matter how silly, panicked, or complicated your question may be. If it’s about a symptom you’re dealing with you may very well be catching something early! But most of the time your pregnancy paranoia will be assuaged instead.