I was greeted by those words during a patient’s recent post partum exam and was both gratified and humbled. A potential disaster was avoided and her pregnancy had a happy ending.
Katina* (name changed) had registered for prenatal care early so when her blood pressure was a little “different” at 32 weeks, the change was duly noted. She wasn’t complaining of a headache, her feet weren’t swollen but this was her first pregnancy which placed her at an increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia. A blood pressure of 120/82 would seem normal to most people but in Katina’s case it wasn’t. She was sent to the hospital and home with instructions to monitor her blood pressure daily and I asked her to return in one week for close scrutiny.
Upon Katina’s return, her blood pressure was 140/90 so off she went to the hospital’s triage department of a labor and delivery for further evaluation. Upon her arrival, the blood pressure appeared to have improved. The resident physicians on duty made snide remarks, insinuating that she was referred inappropriately. She was still on the fetal monitor when they gave her the discharge papers to leave the hospital and then the baby’s heartbeat dropped precipitously. Before Katina could blink, a team of physicians and nurses descended upon her with full force. They shoved papers in her face requesting a signature for an emergency c/section; informed her that it was possible she could die as well as her baby. Her blood pressure was back up and her heart was racing dramatically. She was quickly put to sleep and her baby was born alive. For the next four days, the hospital staff had difficulty controlling her blood pressure and her heart continued to pound at rates above 150 beats per minute. It was one of the most harrowing experiences of her life however in the end, both mother and baby were discharged home and are now fine. Katina experienced what we n medicine call a “diagnostic save.” A life was saved because the proper diagnosis was made in a timely manner. How often do they happen? No often enough. The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy was written to improve those statistics.
A healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.