Juliet's Personal Preeclampsia Story: Podcast Episode #138
Juliet Meyer shares her personal preeclampsia story with Kristin that led to her work with the Preeclampsia Foundation. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Welcome. You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Let’s chat!
Kristin: Hello, hello. This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I’m joined today by Juliet Meyer, and Juliet is the director of the West Michigan Promise Walk for Preeclampsia and is also involved in the Preeclampsia Foundation. Welcome, Juliet!
Juliet: Thank you for having me!
Kristin: So excited to have you here. So I would love to start out by having you share a bit about your own personal journey with preeclampsia.
Juliet: Yeah. First of all, I’d just like to state, you know, I’m not a medical professional. I’m just a survivor that works with my MFM and I’m educated and trained through the Preeclampsia Foundation. But with that, I have survived one of the hardest things I’ve gone through in life, and that was giving birth to my daughter at 30 weeks gestation, and that was due to preeclampsia. It was a very, very long recovery. It happened so suddenly, and it really is just so unknown to everyone who encounters this, and it’s so scary. I was blessed to have such a great team of doctors behind me to pick up on it so quickly and get me the recovery and the help that I needed to be able to deliver my daughter safely. It was a very long process, and they don’t take anything with this lightly, and so it’s so, so crucial for women to just be on top of this and to understand their bodies so that they can understand what to look for that doesn’t seem right to them.
Kristin: Yes. And so for those of our listeners who don’t know what preeclampsia is, could you give us a brief definition, the signs, and some of the risks once a birthing person develops preeclampsia?
Juliet: Yeah. Preeclampsia is a life-threatening disorder of pregnancy and postpartum period that can affect both the mother and the unborn baby. All pregnancies are at risk of preeclampsia, up to 1 in 12 women who are pregnant, which is about roughly 300,000 pregnancies each year. There are many, many different signs to look for with this. It can accelerate quickly to a life-threatening situation. And these symptoms can include swelling, sudden weight gain, unrelenting headaches, extreme shortness of breath, water retention, pain in the upper abdomen, and changes in vision are the big signs to look out for.
Kristin: Yes. So the Preeclampsia Foundation also deals with other hypertensive disorders, correct?
Juliet: Yes. We do a lot of work with the HELLP syndrome and eclampsia, as well.
Kristin: And would you mind defining those, Juliet?
Juliet: Yeah, HELLP syndrome is very similar to preeclampsia in the fact that it’s also very difficult to pick up, and that is more of hemolysis or your elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count. Those are some of the top things with HELLP syndrome. And eclampsia is just more of the seizures that can occur during a woman’s pregnancy or shortly after giving birth, which also can follow with preeclampsia, as well.
Kristin: Yes. And so as you know a bit about my story, I also had preeclampsia, but it was later in pregnancy than you experienced. So as you stated with those numbers, it’s more common than one would think, and eclampsia is such a lesser-known experience, but I’ve had clients have eclampsia, and so I’m so grateful for the work the Foundation’s doing and the education that you’re providing on all the hypertensive disorders.
Juliet: Yes. We are so happy to have created this Foundation back in 2000. We are the only national 501(c)(3) nonprofit patient advocacy organization serving the 5 to 8% of pregnant women, and so we really pride ourselves in our medical board that oversees everything we do with the top medical and scientific experts in preeclampsia and HELPP and eclampsia, as well.
Kristin: So it’s not only research-based, and you have information not only for pregnant individuals but also for healthcare professionals, correct?
Juliet: Yes. We really rely on our medical staff and the medical staff that cares for the pregnant women to be trained and educated to catch this and to also rely back to us on what they’re seeing out in the field and what the numbers are and all of that kind of stuff.
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Kristin: So what led you to getting involved in the Foundation, of all the things you could give your time and talents to, Juliet?
Juliet: I was one of the many people who get very frustrated with the “I don’t know” answer from doctors, and that’s a lot of what I got with my experience with preeclampsia, because it’s so unknown, even to our medical staffs. I really wanted to take this horrible experience that I had and really turn it into a more beautiful, blossoming story that I can be a part of this footprint that we are leaving in pregnant women and help anyone that goes through this and be a person to listen to and understand what someone goes through. Everyone at the Foundation is amazing. They do amazing work and are just so genuine, and they’re just the best listening ears. That really makes a difference in someone, especially like me, who had this nightmare happen, and now I can just walk with them and help guide women who are just as frustrated and scared as I was.
Kristin: I know I was scared. So it is wonderful to have this type of support. When I went through pregnancy and was on bedrest with preeclampsia, I really didn’t know anyone who’d gone through a similar circumstance and didn’t have a network. So I’m thankful that this exists.
Kristin: So Juliet, as the director of the West Michigan Promise Walk for Preeclampsia, I would love to get more details on that for our audience.
Juliet: Yeah. So our promise walk is happening July 2nd, 2022. We will be at Millennium Park in Walker at the Grant Pavilion, and this is going to be the first walk back in Michigan in a few years here. We are just setting up for a great day full of wonderful memories to make and be encouraged. You know, moms to be or moms with kids or just any family who has been affected by this, or you know someone – we just want to come out as a community and walk together to raise money and raise awareness for this and just join together as a whole unit and celebrate our lives and our children and that we can get through this preeclampsia pandemic.
Kristin: I’m excited to walk as a survivor, and Gold Coast is thrilled to be a sponsor of the walk, as well.
Juliet: Yes, we love that Gold Coast is sponsoring us, and everything that you guys have done to help sponsor us is phenomenal, and we thank you for your contribution to the Foundation.
Kristin: We are so thrilled to be able to give back in this way. So Juliet, there are Promise Walks all over the country, correct? So our listeners, of course, live all over the world, so I would love some more info about how you can find a Promise Walk near you.
Juliet: Yeah. You can go to our website, and there you can click on our Promise Walk locations, and you can search anywhere in the United States. I believe we have at least one in big major cities around the country right now.
Kristin: Wonderful. And then your website can also give, again, research and support for healthcare professionals, as well as women?
Juliet: Correct, yes. We have all of our information on our website. You can read our purpose, what we do. We do have all of our highlights and our numbers out there for everyone to be able to read, and it’s just a great resource for women to go and look over, even if they don’t have it. It’s just something that they can read about and be aware.
Kristin: Yes. So you also have a local Facebook page for the walk, correct?
Juliet: Yes. Our local Facebook page is the West Michigan Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. We have the little footprint logo as our profile picture. In there, we just update everyone with things going on with our walk and in our community, and we just keep everyone updated with new information. We’re still coming out with fun things that we’re going to be doing at the walk, and we just can’t wait to share those with everyone on there.
Kristin: Thank you. Any final tips for our listeners in regards to, again, symptoms of preeclampsia or prevention?
Juliet: Yeah. We just want to make everyone aware that all pregnancies are at risk for this, and that preeclampsia research is drastically underfunded. The research needed to elucidate the cause, to develop better diagnostic tools and effective interventions and to fully understand the effects of preeclampsia on the women and babies’ long-term health is so crucial. And so if you can get out there and just donate or get in contact with someone in the Foundation and see what you can do to help, it’s more than we can ask for.
Kristin: Wonderful. Thank you for sharing your story and all of the advocacy that you’re doing. We really appreciate it, Juliet.
Juliet: Thank you so much for having me.
Kristin: And I’ll see you in July at the Promise Walk!
Juliet: We can’t wait to see you!
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