Women's experiences of preeclampsia: a prospective survey of preeclamptic women at a single tertiary centre Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Preeclampsia (PE) can suddenly disrupt a normal pregnancy experience. This project aimed to see how PE was experienced close to the time of birth, in a group of hospital patients. Women with PE who gave birth at The Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, from October 2010 to May 2012 were asked to complete a survey designed with consumer input. There was a 74% response rate. Regarding diagnosis, 90% experienced PE, 2.5% experienced eclampsia and 7.5% experienced HELLP. For 60% of women, their baby was born earlier than expected. Although 67.5% of women knew little about PE prior to pregnancy and diagnosis, 67.5% believed PE was serious or life threatening. Fifty-five percent were afraid that their baby might die. The women in the study identified the need to obtain more information about PE (97.5%), and 60% indicated that their PE experience would either delay or contribute to the decision to not undertake a future pregnancy. This project details that PE can have a substantial psychological effect on patients around the time of birth. Maternity caregivers can direct counselling to address the specific vulnerabilities raised in PE and thus improve the care of women with PE.Impact StatementWhat is already known on this subject? Qualitative research from New Zealand showed that women experiencing preeclampsia (PE) can have a number of psychological issues with their pregnancy experience, including feeling no longer in control of their pregnancy, dealing with an unexpected medicalised preterm birth, and feeling fear for themselves and their baby's life, even if no formal psychiatric issues are identified. A PE support group surveyed their own members and found that these psychological issues are present in most of their members who had PE.What the results of this study add? This study was a survey of 40 women experiencing PE around the time of birth in a tertiary hospital in Melbourne, Australia, to see if these themes could be applied to a general hospital group. There was a 74% response rate. For 60% of women, the baby was born earlier than expected. Although most women knew little about PE prior to diagnosis, 67.5% believed PE was serious or life threatening at diagnosis. More than half (55%) were afraid their baby might die and 47.5% of women identified that separation from their baby impaired their ability to bond. Most women planned to obtain more information about PE (97.5%) and 50% indicated that their PE experience meant they would either delay or not undertake future pregnancy.What the implications are of these findings for clinical practice and/or further clinical research? This study demonstrates the significance of psychological factors in the care of women with pre-eclampsia or eclampsia and offers a range of issues that the health care provider can use in discussions with women in the early postnatal period, in the inter-pregnancy interval and in subsequent pregnancies. Further research would ideally involve a large sample in a range of hospital settings (primary through tertiary) to further consider the prevalence and enduring nature of themes identified in the present study.

publication date

  • 2020