04 August 2015

The arrival of Popette: my experience with pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome

Welcome to my new blog series “Having a Premmie". Throughout this series I will be sharing my experience and knowledge on what it is like to have a premature baby in the NICU. 

By sharing my experience and stories here, I hope anyone who has friends or relatives going through a similar situation will find these posts useful.

My Husband and I left it late in having children. We had been married for 13 wonderful years, was paying off a mortgage, had travelled overseas numerous times, enjoyed going out with friends and taking long-weekends away. We both had fairly good careers and were really happy. It took us some time to realise, that what we both wanted was a family of our own.

So in late 2007 we started trying for a baby. We had been trying to conceive for over 12 months, so it wasn't until I was 35 before I finally fell pregnant. 

We were both thrilled, and couldn't wait to see our little tiny baby on the ultrasound. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be, and at 5 weeks gestation I miscarried. As you could imagine we were devastated. 

Due to my age and history of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), I was considered a high risk pregnancy, so after talking with our GP he put us onto a wonderful obstetrician. The obstetrician placed me on Metformin (to help with insulin levels) and monitored me closely over the next couple months. Thankfully within two months I was pregnant again!

I was pretty fortunate not to have morning sickness throughout my pregnancy. I was eating healthy, doing light exercises, generally I felt great. I loved seeing my little bump getting bigger and bigger. I loved the feeling of Popette (the nickname we gave our bub early on) kicking me. It always gave my Hubby and I the biggest thrill when we felt her kick.

At around 18 weeks gestation, I started to develop Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) that caused my blood pressure to get extremely high during my pregnancy. Before I was pregnant, I never had issues with my blood pressure.

During my 2nd trimester I was a frequent visitor at the Fetal and Maternal Assessment Unit (FMAU) located at our local hospital where nurses took my blood, checked my blood pressure and tested my urine over a 4-hour period for possible signs of pre-eclampsia.

On my last FMAU visit, a week before Popette was born, the Head Nurse told me to get some clothes together as I was being admitted into hospital for a few days evaluation. At the time I was experiencing terrible migraines, oedema (swollen ankles), high blood pressure, and protein in the urine. Just some symptoms of pre-eclampsia. I was 28 weeks gestation + 2 days.

It was 3 days after Christmas, and my husband and I were making plans with our friends to see the fireworks in the City as well as celebrate my birthday, which also happens to be on New Year’s Eve. However my blood pressure had a mind of its own and didn't show any signs of lowering, so I was forced to stay in hospital missing New Year's Eve (my birthday), and New Year’s Day (my husband's birthday).

At 29 weeks gestation + 2 days, a week after I was admitted, the doctor's noticed that my platelet levels were dropping. The first reading at 14,000 then to 11,000 million per millimetre (ml) of blood, the next reading was as low as 7,000 ml. A normal number for platelets during pregnancy is around 150 and 400 million per millimetre (ml). 

I was told by my renal physician that I was developing severe pre-eclampsia and that the baby may need to be delivered soon. 

My husband and I were then given a bunch of fliers on what to expect if our baby was born early. There was details on what it was like having a baby inside a NICU, a list of long-term problems associated with premature birth (i.e. blindness, cerebral palsy etc) and a graph showing the mortality rates for premature babies born at different gestation periods. Reading through the information terrified us both. We didn't want to have our baby now we wanted her in 3 months time when she was due.

The night before Popette was born, I remember having terrible back pain and experiencing reflux. I hadn't been pregnant before so thought it was a normal sign of pregnancy, what I didn't realise was that my body was going into HELLP syndrome. By the morning, the doctors could feel my liver protruding through to my stomach. I was experiencing a lot of pain. My face became swollen and jaundice due to my kidneys failing.
Me the morning of Popette's birth
My doctor's told me that the placenta was rejecting my liver, causing my liver and kidneys to shut down and that it was critical for the baby to be delivered. Due to a lack of beds in the hospital's NICU, I was transferred to another hospital.

I burst into tears as I rang my Hubby who was getting ready to leave for work, and told him the news.

"Popette" was born at 29 weeks + 3 days (11 weeks premature) via an emergency 

Although she was tiny, weighing 1.148kg, she was remarkably healthy for a premmie. After the delivery, I was moved to acute care for 27 hours. I had not seen my husband since the operation, or knew if the baby was a boy or a girl as they whisked her away after the cesarean.
The Polaroid photo of Popette
During the course of the evening, I was monitored around the clock by nurses, who had me hooked up to an automated blood pressure machine that took my blood pressure every half an hour, a drip containing magnesium sulfate to reduce the risk of me going into seizures or full-blown eclampsia, a catheter, and epidural.

Before my husband left me for the evening, he gave me a photo of Popette that the nurses had taken when she was first born. This was my introduction to my sweet baby girl.

We sticky-taped the photo to the side of my bed, which I looked at throughout the night wishing I could go see my little girl.
Finally meeting my gorgeous girl 27 hours after she was born

Popette spent a total of 50 days in the NICU. We are
 so grateful that we had such good doctors and nurses looking after my daughter and myself.

Its hard to believe that was 6 1/2 years ago. 

Popette is now in Year 1 at school and is a healthy, happy little girl. Thankfully she has no long-standing health problems from being born early.

You can find further information on Pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome via the links below:


Australian Action on Pre-Eclampsia

Questions about Pre-Eclampsia


Austprem - HELLP general information

Austprem - Pre-eclampsia general information

Please note, I am not a medical professional. This post is a description of what I have experienced, and intended for your information only. Please check with your healthcare professional for further or more specific information on how this condition might affect you throughout your pregnancy.

I am linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT


  1. I had HELLP syndrome with two of three pregnancies. My middle child was five weeks premmie and my youngest was ten weeks early. Such a scary time. My youngest is now 14 and while I've touched on her story, on the blog, I'm still not able to go into any great detail. Just too stressful. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Thanks, it is such a stressful and scary time. I hope your children are both healthy. Its taken me a long time to get over Popette's birth (although I don't think you ever get over it) I found it therapeutic in writing it all down. Maybe one day you might write it down even if its just for yourself. I found it a good release. xx

  2. Oh my goodness how terrifying! I can't even imagine how you coped going through this. Brilliant that Popette has no lasting impact of being so premature!

    1. Thanks Mumma McD, yes it was a very scary and traumatic time for us both. I'm so happy Popette's had no health problems, apart from the occasional cold or tummy bug like she has today :( xx

  3. What a precious little girl you have. Our boys were born at 30 + 6 and 32 +1 and even though we knew they would both be early you can never totally prepare for a preemie birth. Well done for making it to 29 weeks x

  4. Oh I got quite teary reading this. It must have been so frightening. My friends partner lost her baby to pre eclampsia at 30 weeks gestation.

    1. Oh no that is so sad. To lose a baby so far along in the pregnancy would be heartbreaking. Its such a scary and frightening thing to go through. We are just so lucky to have had my good bunch of doctors looking after me and Popette, if they hadn't thingy could have been a lot worse for both of us. x

  5. Ahh Julie. I was on the edge of my seat reading this. I'm so glad everything worked out for you and your precious daughter. How are you health wise now? Did you recover okay? I hope there wasn't any long-term damage for you. I think I mentioned to you last week, my brother had twins at 32 weeks in March this year. They are both doing remarkably well. Isn't it amazing?! #teamIBOT

    1. Thanks Renee, I am well thanks, thankfully no permanent damage although I do need to keep an eye on my blood pressure and have a test done on my kidneys every so often. My husband and I are so grateful for the doctors who looked after me.

      I'm glad your brothers babies are doing well. :)

  6. What a scary situation to be in. My first-born was only in the NICU for 5 days due to being low birth weight, and 5 days was enough. I take my hat off to any parents with babies in the NICU for longer periods of time. Glad to hear that Popette hasn't had any lasting effects from being born premmie, and good on you for sharing!

  7. I'm so glad it had no long-term effects for her. That must have been terrifying. My youngest threatened to come at 26 weeks, but then hold on. I was rather glad, as you can imagine :)

  8. Oh hun - that must have been so scary for you guys. I felt the anxiety rising just reading what you went through so I cannot imagine how hard it was in your shoes xx


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