Avril Flynn, Motherboard podcast presenter, mum-of-one and midwife, talks about meeting two women who suffered difficult pregnancies, and the importance of being supportive of those who have suffered from the after-effects of difficult pregnancies.
There is no denying that at some stage, most women will find pregnancy tough. Even the “smoothest” of pregnancies usually entails several discomforts, whether its nausea or morning sickness, back or pelvic pain, sleep disturbance…. the list goes on. However, by any measure, some pregnancies have complications which, by anyone’s standard, makes the pregnancy incredibly difficult.
While most serious pregnancy complicationsare thankfully rare, when they do occur, they can have an immense impact on the health and well-being of the mother. In this week’s Motherboard podcast, I spoke to two mums who both suffered extremely challenging pregnancies.
Karina Fee is the mother of beautiful 2-and-a-half-year-old Noah. Karina was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. HG occurs in 1-2% of pregnancies and involves severe and debilitating symptoms including vomiting upwards of 20 times a day, constant nausea, weight-loss and dizziness.
As with Karina’s pregnancy, it can render the mother totally unable to leave home and involves frequent hospital admissions. It can occur for the entirety of pregnancy: Karina was still getting sick while in labour! Karina also had to deal with the challenges of severe SPD (Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction), where her pelvis was overly affected by the hormones of pregnancy and effectively separated, causing severe pain and difficulty moving and walking. Karina still lives with the ongoing effects of this and walks with the aid of a crutch.
I was amazed at her resilience and her honesty and also her words of wisdom as to how we can better support people going through such a challenging pregnancy. Lynn O’Connell is a mum of two gorgeous girls, Lily and Gracie. She suffered from a condition called pre-eclampsiain both of her pregnancies. Pre-eclampsia is a condition that only occurs in pregnancy.
While we know some factors which may pre-dispose mothers to pre-eclampsia (such as a family history), the exact reasons why it affects some mothers and not others remain a mystery. It is a serious complication and it is estimated that it occurs in between 5-8% of pregnant women and can have major consequences for both mother and baby.
Pre-eclampsia is a collection of symptoms that are usually picked up later in pregnancy. It is diagnosed when there is pregnancy hypertension (high blood pressure) alongside protein in the urine and oedema (fluid collection causing swelling).
The symptoms can include severe headaches, disturbed vision, high blood pressure, abnormal kidney and liver function and abdominal pain. It can affect the baby’s growth and the only ‘cure’ is the delivery of the baby. This alleviates the pressure on the body and hopefully the symptoms.
However, sometimes mothers can still suffer with it postnatally. As with Karina, it can be very frightening and may involve having to deliver a pre-term baby. It’s important to say that it’s possible that you can have symptoms of pre-eclampsia, like swelling or high blood pressure, but not have pre-eclampsia.
Thankfully, one of the major reasons that midwives and other healthcare providers are so (hopefully) diligent at every antenatal visit is to pick up any symptoms as early as possible.
Every pregnant mum will be familiar with getting their blood pressure checked and their urine sample dipped at every antenatal check. Lynn gave great insight into the challenges of this diagnosis along with how it affected both her pregnancy journeys.
You can listen to their stories on the new episode of Motherboard.
For further information and support on these conditions: