Documentary: Preeclampsia Diaries
Preeclampsia Diaries # 1
On the 29th of September, 2022 APEC Ghana in collaboration with the SPOT-impact study released the 1st patient documentary series titled; Preeclampsia Diaries #1, to raise awareness on Hyertensive Disorders of Pregnancy (HDP). Participants from Ghana and beyond including France, Kenya, Malawi and Netherlands were in virtual attendance to hear the experiences and effects of Preeclampsia directly from survivors. The documentary at the beginning explained what preeclampsia is, what the symptoms are and what the consequences can be. This was then followed by the narratives of the characters; Adwoa Dansoa Ewudzie, Philipa Kplende, Nidra Araba Yebuah and Hannah Ann Yebuah Amo who openly talked about their experiences as survivors of preeclampsia.
Adwoa, a 35-year-old businesswoman with three children, explains how her pregnancy was healthy with almost no issues until she approached the delivery time. Her blood pressure started to rise around 27 weeks, and she was not feeling well. Adwoa went to the hospital, but they just told her she was OK and that these symptoms were typical so she should take some rest. Later on, she was rushed to the emergency room because her blood pressure was too high. Still, nobody told Adwoa about preeclampsia. Fortunately, she delivered a tiny but healthy baby. Adwoa highlights how previous knowledge about preeclampsia would have helped her to deal with the issues; she had never heard of the disease before despite having two earlier pregnancies.
Hannah, a 32-year-old Customer Service Executive at an Electricity Company Ghana, tells her story about her first pregnancy in 2018. During the first months, Hannah was nauseous and tired and eventually, she experienced issues with her vision. At the hospital, they didn’t tell her much. Her blood pressure was high, but she was told that could be caused by stress and is not abnormal. In the 30th week, Hannah did not feel her baby anymore, so she went to the hospital. Hannah’s baby had died, but she was too confused and could not believe it was true. Hannah could not stop crying and told herself never to get pregnant again. She felt sad to see other women leaving the hospital with their healthy newborns. In the weeks and months after the loss, it was difficult for her to hold other babies or see pregnant women. The doctors did not tell her anything; she had to use google to find answers to what happened to her. Luckily she received much support from her family and friends. Eventually, Hannah started to feel better and wanted to give it another try. This time she took the necessary precautions but still suffered Preeclampsia at a later stage and delivered a small but healthy baby. Hannah emphasises that patients should be educated, as they do not understand the numbers’ implications, such as blood pressure values or protein reading. She also recommended that doctors should be given more time to spend with women to manage such issues better.
Nidra, a 36-year-old Geologist at a multinational oil company, tells how she had three miscarriages before her firstborn baby. Both Nidra’s parents were hypertensive, so Nidra knew she was prone to high blood pressure. Due to hormone imbalances, she had issues with getting pregnant. Because of the high blood pressure and miscarriages, she was closely monitored by the doctor during her fourth pregnancy and took medication most of the time. As a result, she did not get Preeclampsia and had her baby at 39 weeks. Her subsequent pregnancy started pretty well, but then Nidra got COVID at 29 weeks which threw her off balance and made her lose her appetite. The doctors got worried since the baby was smaller than usual, and after urine tests, they found out the protein level was very high. After drinking a lot of water and getting steroid shots, the numbers started improving slightly. However, a few weeks later, the BP readings reversed, so the doctors took the baby out . The baby was tiny compared to her first child, weighing 1.97 ounces, but luckily the baby turned out healthy. Nidra argues that Ghanaians have insufficient exercise and bad eating habits and do not know enough about the consequences of such bad habits on maternal health. She advises more information should be given to women to improve their lifestyle habits.
Philippa, a 33-year-old Midwife, is married and has two sons. She got preeclampsia during both pregnancies. Philippa says she had migraines during her first pregnancy, which initially seemed normal. However, at seven months, she was continuously tired and had headaches that did not go away. There was no history of HDP. After urine checks, Philippa was admitted to the hospital and put on medication and close monitoring. After a few weeks, the numbers did not go down, and she experienced gastric pains, so a c-section had to be performed. Because of these issues, Philippa was scared for her second pregnancy. Therefore she focused on self-care and not stressing after getting pregnant again. At 34 weeks, she experienced preeclampsia again, but the issues were less severe. She articulates that the midwives were very caring. Philippa and her doctors knew what to expect in the second pregnancy. At 37 weeks, she was delivered through c-section and had her second baby.
Several conclusions can be drawn from the experiences of Adwoa, Hannah, Nidra and Philippa. Firstly, the doctors often do not tell the patient what is happening to them despite the visible symptoms. Secondly,Pregnant women do not know what they can expect and have to research on their own to discover what is happening and what their symptoms could mean. This uncertainty makes dealing with pregnancy issues very hard. Thirdly, most people are not educated on maternal health issues and complications and how to respond to them. Thus many have not heard of preeclampsia and do not know what the symptoms are. Fourthly, many Ghanaians do not know and/or take for granted how exercising and healthy eating habits can influence maternal health issues.
Adwoa Dansowaa Ewudzie “We all need education, men or women. I have had two children, seen people who have had children and I have never heard about preeclampsia. I feel like education is much needed and thank you APEC Ghana for this opportunity given us to voice out what happened to us and also give others the education. It is something I wouldn’t wish for anybody”.
Nidra Araba Yebuah “A big thank you to the team for putting together this documentary. If you look at the demographic of Ghana, the amount of people who don’t have access to information the way some of us do, especially for those of us in the metropolitan cities, it becomes a real big issue and we still have all these kinds of reasons. I’m sure if you get into the villages, there are all kinds of reasons people will be explaining for a pregnant woman with swollen feet and so many things, instead of actually going to the hospital because of our traditional beliefs and customs and all that is interfering with care. Let’s find a way to put the message out there. I think it’s about time we start talking about preeclampsia much more.”
Hannah Ann Yebuah “I’ll advise that, even at antenatal, the midwives should educate the women right from the time they are referred to the hospital. That’s what I think will help. Most pregnant women don’t even know what is happening to them sometimes. This documentary needs to go on television and broadcasted in some of the major hospitals as well.”
Philipa Kplende “This condition will make me a better midwife because I am starting my rotation and I’m very particular about hypertensive conditions. When I am at the ANC and pregnant women come in, I will do my best to educate them on the condition.”
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