Five to eight percent of births in the U.S. are impacted by preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders, according to www.preeclampsia.org. Nearly 76,000 mothers and a half million babies die each year because of preeclampsia. Today, the only effective treatment for preeclampsia is delivery.
Sarah and Bryan Oglesby found out they would be first time parents the day before Christmas Eve. The pregnancy was progressing fine until Sarah's blood pressure started elevating.
“My doctor came in and told me that we had preeclampsia,” Sara remembers. “And it was so severe she honestly thought that we were going to have to have the baby like right then.”
“Usually they have hypertension, they have proteinurea, which means they have protein in the urine and clearly that's a bad condition,” said Dr. Antonio Pena, NICU Medical Director. “The treatment for it other than medical treatment is ultimately delivery of the baby, even if the baby is delivered prematurely.”
“At 27 weeks and 4 days, we delivered our little baby girl at 7:36 in the morning,” said Sarah. “We actually heard her cry, which was a big sigh of relief because we didn't think that she was going to have anything to cry about.”
Little Leia Louise weighed only one pound and 16 ounces.
“Which is equivalent to 2 sticks of butter almost, is how much she weighed,” Sarah marveled.
Leia spent 70 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center.
“It's hard,” said Bryan Oglesby, Leia’s father. “You have to kind of remove yourself from time to time to just take a breath and gather yourself, so you can go back in there and be the strong one for them.”
“These nurses and these doctors up here, you know, they put themselves in that position to do what's best for your baby and to take care of them and to feed them and to change them and be their support,” said Sarah.
Leia was released from the NICU a little over a week ago. She still needs oxygen, but she's growing and getting stronger each day.
“And we're not sleeping...but that's ok,” said Sarah.
“My girls are everything to me,” said Bryan. “I didn't know that I could love anyone as much as I love my wife...and then Leia came along.”
Amid the normal effects of pregnancy on a woman’s body, the signs of preeclampsia can be difficult to recognize. Here are some signs to look for:
Know your normal blood pressure and track your blood pressure throughout pregnancy. High blood pressure may be a sign that you're developing preeclampsia. Also, make sure your doctor is checking for protein in your urine. Take a selfie: Do you have swelling in your face, hands or around your eyes? Share a pre-pregnancy photo with your doctor to compare what "normal" looks like for you. Unexplained headaches, vision changes and sudden onset nausea -particularly after mid-pregnancy- can also be signs of preeclampsia.