Monday, January 30, 2017

The Body Who Cried Wolf

I kept waiting for a more definitive report to post another update. I may need to accept that nothing is going to be be definitive for a while, if ever. I am beginning to feel like my body is the medical equivalent of the "Boy Who Cried Wolf".

So first there was the rising BP readings at home, at work, and really anywhere besides my doctor's office. Of course because they are normal in the office, the OB isn't very concerned. I've made others verify the readings so I know I'm not making it up, but it still makes me feel crazy. I comfort myself by telling myself that my readings are "stably high", as in they haven't gotten any higher over the last few weeks.

Then there was a tachycardia that prompted a EKG, echocardiogram, and 24-Holter monitoring. The cardiologist didn't seem very concerned by any of the results, although some of the words sound scary to a lay-non-cardiologist-person ("frequent sinus tachycardia", a max HR of 154 on a day where I most active by walking from car into the office, "very rare multifocal ventricular ectopic singles", and "rare supraventricular extopic singles"). The final medical impression that that I will be fine and it is all benign.

The blood-work prompted by the tachycardia also ruled-out thyroid issues and gestational diabetes.

At my last OB appointment on exactly 27 weeks, my BP was again considerably lower then the readings I'd been getting at home (diastolic in the 60s compared with 80-90s), but he asked about my home monitoring and then suggested a dipstick urine test on what seemed liked a whim. This resulted in a protein measurement of 1+, significant for protein and a diagnostic marker of preeclampsia.

However, the dipstick tests are known to be inaccurate and frankly even more baffling given my random BP readings (usually with preeclampsia, BP will rise first and then eventually you will find protein in the urine, not the other way around). So he ordered a 24-hour urine sample, which is considered the gold standard for assessment, and I spent my weekend peeing into a hat and collecting a jug of urine kept cold in our refrigerator.

I am leaning towards the results being negative and the dipstick urine test having shown a false reading. That seems consistent with everything that's been happening lately. My concern is that the trend of "My Body Who Cried Wolf" is going to leave everyone (including myself) to begin ignoring symptoms and discounting evidence. Alternatively, if the results come back positive then this is really not good prognostically considering I am only 27.5 weeks. Mostly, I am being driven insane and the idea of 12 more weeks of this roller-coaster is almost too much to bear and so, too, is the idea of such an early labor.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

24 Week Update: Hypertension and tachycardia

The week before Christmas and New Years, I began feeling unwell. I felt more tired, short of breath easier, and just... off. I started getting concerned about my blood pressure again and kept making a point to get it checked but then kept putting it off.

Until January 2nd, when I finally went into the drugstore and my suspicions were confirmed: 141/84, up from 104/66 at my last doctor's visit three weeks prior. Panic began to set in as I wasn't even at 24 weeks gestation yet. At my scheduled counseling appointment on 1/4, she checked it again and it was 142/85. I was glad to have my OB appointment scheduled for the following day. To say I was panicking would have been a slight understatement. I realized that in my last pregnancy I was blissfully naive to the true dangers and likely course of preeclampsia, but this time I have been reading and studying, for better or worse.

At exactly 24 weeks, I saw my OB and was able to tell him my concerns and symptoms. Of coarse, my manual BP in his office was within normal limits ( 130-something over 75-ish), so he wasn't overly concerned. Then he listened to my heart. Immediately, he said that it was pounding and then informed that I had tachycardia at 120 beats per minute. So this bought me a trip to cardiology later that afternoon, an EKG, many vials of blood, and a follow-up appointment in the next week.

The cardiologist, upon review of my EKG, didn't seem overly concerned. However, he did order an echocardiogram and a 24-hour halter monitor, just to cover our bases. Of coarse my blood pressure was also within normal limits at this appointment, just making me feel a bit crazy.

The following day, one of my nursing co-workers checked my blood pressure twice. The first time it was 168/79 and the second time it was 139/92. I bought a home automatic monitor and the systolic has ranged from the high 120s up to the 150s and the diastolic has ranged from the mid-70s to the low 90s.

At my OB appointment, he didn't seem concerned about the BP because was good when they tested me, but was more concerned about my heart. I am more concerned about my blood pressure given my past history of preeclampsia. I asked if I should continue to monitor it myself and he said this would be okay, but didn't give me a specific guideline (with my first pregnancy, he gave me specific instructions to check 3-4 times per day when it started raising in his office). I asked when/if I should contact him if it got "too high" and he said to call with anything over 140 or 80. When he told me this, I internally rolled my eyes knowing that I would likely be calling him the next day because it seemed like my readings at home were always higher than this.

I haven't called. I am giving myself a higher threshold because I feel like a complete fool to go into the office and have the manual reading be within normal limits. I will call if it escalates, but in the meanwhile I am working on being content that I have a cardiology appointment (for the echo) on Wednesday and see the OB back on Friday. At this point I will have made it 25 weeks. I did not expect to be so focused on "making it" this early on. That part is terrifying.

On a positive note, the baby seems to be doing well. I am measuring on track and her heartbeat was 151 bpm. Now we just need to keep her incubating.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Break. Re-set.

After walking out the door today, I will not return to my office for a full week! My last break of this magnitude was in June and I didn't realize how much I was looking forward to/needing this.

It comes at impeccable timing. In meeting with the therapist last week, we decided collectively to focus on behavioral changes first and keep medication as an option to consider down the road if things don't improve or get worse. I know the behavioral changes that improve mood. I am a psychologist. I just haven't been listening to my own advice. A week off of work is the perfect opportunity to hit the "reset" button and put an emphasis on my health and mood.

Here is the action plan:

  1. I have a follow-up therapy appointment in early January. 
  2. Focus on sleep hygiene to get enough sleep an feel well-rested. This means turning off the screens before getting to bed, having a relaxing cup of tea or cocoa to down-shift, and taking my heartburn medication as recommended. 
  3. Try to get in physical activity every day. Elevate my heart-rate, which is great for endorphin-release and a mood boost. Bonus points if it is outside in the fresh air (but no hard feelings and mentally beating myself up if there is a blizzard and I opt for the treadmill or mall walk!). 
  4. Ask for help. Accept that I am growing another human being while working full time and raising a toddler and this is hard work. Don't expect for C to read my mind, but ask to him to assist me completing the first three things on this list or giving me a break from the toddler. 
These are basic, but things that I have not been managing up to this point. Three daily tasks to make my emotional health a priority as we close out the year and I enter the second half of my pregnancy. Now I just need to consistently follow-though. Wish me luck!