Lady Sybil

How tragic to see the lovely Lady Sybil lose her life to such a treatable illness, eclampsia in last nights episode of Downton Abbey. I’m sure for those who watched it found it just as difficult to see her family witness her having an eclamptic fit whilst the family doctor watched on in horror as there was nothing he could do to save her. Luckily in this day and age, pre-eclampsia is a managable condition and with the right detection and diagnosis situations such as these are extremely rare.

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that only occurs during pregnancy. It causes high blood pressure and it also causes protein to leak from your kidneys into your urine. This can be detected by testing your urine for protein. Pre-eclampsia usually comes on sometime after the 20th week of your pregnancy and gets better within six weeks of you giving birth. The severity can vary. Pre-eclampsia can cause complications for you as the mother, for your baby, or for both of you. The more severe the condition becomes, the greater the risk that complications will develop. Somewhere between 2 and 8 in 100 pregnant women develop pre-eclampsia.

Eclampsia is a type of seizure (a fit or convulsion) which is a life-threatening complication of pregnancy. Less than 1 in 100 women with pre-eclampsia develop eclampsia. So, most women with pre-eclampsia do not progress to have eclampsia. However, a main aim of treatment and care of women with pre-eclampsia is to prevent eclampsia and other possible complications.

Your midwife will want you to produce a urine sample at every antenatal appointment

She will also check your blood pressure

And measure the fundal height of your bump

The severity of pre-eclampsia is usually (but not always) related to your blood pressure level. You may have no symptoms at first, or if you only have mildly raised blood pressure and a small amount of protein in your urine. If pre-eclampsia becomes worse, one or more of the following symptoms may develop. Contact your midwife urgently if any of these occur:

  • Severe headaches that do not go away.
  • Problems with your vision, such as blurred vision, flashing lights or spots in front of your eyes.
  • Abdominal (tummy) pain. The pain that occurs with pre-eclampsia tends to be mainly in the upper part of your abdomen, just below your ribs, especially on your right side.
  • Vomiting later in your pregnancy (not the morning sickness of early pregnancy).
  • Sudden swelling or puffiness of your hands, face or feet.
  • Not being able to feel your baby move as much.
  • Just not feeling right.

In the case of Lady Sybil, many opportunities were missed by the family doctor, Dr Clarkson to detect pre-eclampsia. She was heard complaining of abdominal pain, swollen ankles and a serve headache despite her doctor quoting ‘Lady Sybil is just a healthy young woman going through a very natural process.’ However medicine has moved on from the post Edwardian era and pre-eclampsia is much more widely known and understood. for more information click here.

P.s did anyone notice the nurse present at the birth as the doctors aid and not a midwife?! Shame on you ITV, bring on Series 2 of Call the Midwife!