Amy Keyishian, a 47-year-old writer from San Francisco, had postpartum preeclampsia after the births of both her daughters, who are now 5 and 3. The first time, the high blood pressure was caught in a post-delivery checkup.
“The doctor said he wanted me check into the hospital and he wouldn’t let me drive because at any moment I could have a stroke,” said Keyishian. “I had no symptoms. I felt like a million bucks.”
She warns other new mothers to be aware of the possibility of postpartum preeclampsia in a 2010 blog on The Stir, "Preeclampsia After Delivery: It Can Kill You."
“They say birth is the cure like it was the Bible,” she said. “Giving birth is natural and wonderful, but you could have high blood pressure without knowing it. Check it at home or at Walgreens, but just check it.”
As for Hughes, by the time she got to the hospital emergency room, it took six hours before she was transferred to an obstetrics floor where doctor recognized the symptom as post-partum preeclampsia. Her blood pressure was 220/110 and her skin had a “dusky” look to it, according to Hughes.
“I could have had a seizure or a stroke,” she said. “When I eventually got to the delivery unit, they shut the lights totally dark and started me on magnesium sulfate so I would not seize and put me on oxygen.”
Her oxygen levels had dropped to below 85; normal levels are 95 to 100 percent and anything under 90 is considered low.
Tsigas said when women end up in the ER, medical teams are “not used to taking care of obstetrical issues where they are more tuned in,” she said.
Because preeclampsia can run in families, the foundation has created a registry and will soon be collecting genetic data to understand better the disease.
Today, Sarah Hughes and her two children, 3 and 5, are healthy, but she has decided not to have more children. “I worry it might happen again,” she said.
Join ABC News’ chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser for a tweet chat on high blood pressure today at 1 p.m. ET where he’ll be joined by experts, researchers and patients. If you've never participated in a tweet chat before, here’s everything you need to know to get up and running.