I always knew that Beyonce and I had something in common.
Well, one thing in common.
I guess if you include that we are both black women, three things in common.
I digress, already. The queen of the Bey-Hive revealed recently to VIBE magazine that she developed preeclampsia, also known historically as toxemia, while pregnant with her twins. As a result, she needed to undergo an emergency c-section.
I love this conversation so much! No, I don’t love that she had preeclampsia, but I love that she decided to discuss it in a world where false pretenses prevail and beach bodies follow eerily closely behind pregnant bellies.
How do I know if I have preeclampsia? What are the signs?
While everyone thinks that their cankles equal preeclampsia, leg swelling is no longer a part of the criteria to diagnose preeclampsia. *A Cankle is a term that describes the fusion of a Calf and an Ankle, btw.
The way we doctors, nurses and midwives diagnose preeclampsia is by a few signs, or criteria:
- Elevated blood pressure
- An abnormal amount of protein in the urine
- Blood work abnormalities, sometimes.
A woman can also experience symptoms of preeclampsia, but they are not always consistent with the diagnosis.
Said differently, a woman can have symptoms that seem like they are caused by preeclampsia but NOT have it, and conversely, a woman can not have ANY symptoms but have full-blown severe preeclampsia.
I was one of those people. I was a second-year OBGYN resident and was getting my prenatal care at Rush University Medical Center by an amazing nurse practitioner. My entire birth story is in this previous post, but the summary is that I developed preeclampsia in the course of a week without ANY symptoms. I even had to deliver early because of it. My delivery was a whirlwind too!
What I hope women take away from Beyonce’s story,
… is that getting prenatal care is vital to the health and safety of mothers and babies. There are some who think that doctors and hospitals are the enemy. Especially after the stats recently came about that maternal death rates are higher in the US than in many other industrialized countries and are rising.
The fact is that those stats suck, but as sad and true as they are, the solution is not to avoid hospitals or doctors. The answer needs to come from improving administrative systems that will stop preventable deaths. Monitoring blood loss closely, managing high blood pressure carefully and responding to changes in vital signs and symptoms are just a few ways that subtle yet dangerous maternal complications can be prevented.
Serena Williams had pregnancy complications too.
Serena had the knowledge to advocate for herself in the face of her life-threatening blood clot. Beyoncé was, I’m sure, being monitored 24/7 because of the complications that can occur with twins. But what it you aren’t The Queen Bey or the best tennis player in the world (she’s coming back y’all)?
My advice is simple:
- Pay attention to your body.
- Ask questions.
- Take notes.
- Get clarity if there is something you don’t understand.
- Ask again if your question is not being addressed completely.
- Get a second opinion if you are uneasy.
There is no evidence behind this advice. No studies. There is only my desire to keep you under the care of someone who you can understand and who will communicate with you. The root of so many medical pitfalls is poor communication. I think as the patient, you should start there.
And as always, like, share and subscribe. Please and thank you.
Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald is a board certified OBGYN. She began practicing medicine in 2007 and now uses her extensive knowledge and growing following to increase health awareness in a fun and viral way. She is the founder of The Gyneco-blogic and an author of numerous books for adult and childhood health education and social growth. For more, check me, I mean her out at dreverywoman.com