“I had no idea it could get so serious so quickly.”
Renee Harvey noticed that something wasn’t quite right at 29 weeks into her pregnancy, when her feet and ankles started swelling more than expected.
A blood pressure check with her doctor showed that her levels were higher than normal, so Renee was sent off for testing and monitoring.
“But they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. It was just a case of going home, going back to the hospital if I noticed more symptoms, get tested, then repeat,” Renee says.
Deciding to take matters into her own hands, Renee regularly checked her blood pressure on her home monitor. It was this that saved her.
One night, Renee’s monitoring showed her blood pressure was extremely high, and she knew something was wrong. She went to hospital and was immediately admitted. Two days later, she gave birth to her daughter Amelia.
It had been just two and a half weeks since she had first noticed symptoms. “I was diagnosed with preeclampsia just two days before giving birth, so it all happened very quickly.
“My advice is to listen to how you’re feeling, be empowered to know what you can do, know what to look out for and to trust that you know your body. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t right.”
Renee was assured throughout her pregnancy that everything was okay, even though she knew something wasn’t right. She adds, “It was really hard to find someone to take me seriously”. She felt her concerns were dismissed due to it being her first pregnancy.
“I think people can often say you're just going to worry yourself and get anxious about it, but it was something that was worth being anxious about.”
As Amelia was born prematurely, she was only the size of a 28-week gestation baby and had breathing issues. She spent her first 10 days of life at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne undergoing treatment. She spent her first six months in and out of hospital for complications related to her premature birth. Eventually, Amelia stabilised, started growing well and is now healthy.
“I was also in and out of hospital for my preeclampsia while Amelia was in hospital,” Renee recalls.
While Renee’s symptoms eventually ceased and her blood pressure returned to normal levels after about six weeks, she is now keenly aware of how preeclampsia can affect mothers, babies and families.
“It’s good to have opportunities to keep talking about it and getting people more aware of it.”