Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Have I ever mentioned ....

... how much I hate, loathe and detest going to hospital? Or how nervous I get encountering medical personnel, on whatever level? Lots of things come into play here - past medical experiences, the attitude of doctors to non-doctors, the culture of passive, non questioning dependence on the judgement of medical staff encouraged by our National Health Service. Many other things too. A routine appointment is bad enough but if I am in a situation where I have to question or challenge medical opinion my anxiety levels soar. I am in that situation - or at least will be tomorrow morning.

Here it is in a nutshell: at my last consultant's appointment my blood pressure measured 120/80. Absolutely normal. The consultant announced that she was placing me on blood pressure tablets and a low dose aspirin straight away. She told me that I was at risk of a stroke and developing pre-eclampsia. I was in such total shock at this that I didn't ask a single question or raise an objection. I am kicking myself for this. Her words came directly after she dropped her pen in shock upon hearing that we declined the Nuchal Fold Scan which assesses your risk factor of having a baby with a chromosonal abnormality. She wanted to know exactly why and was clearly astonished that, having had a baby with Edwards Syndrome, we would decline it. I can't say she was interested in hearing my explanation, she just wanted to register her surprise and concern.

I am assuming she put me on the medication just in case there was something wrong with the baby, something that would cause my blood pressure to rise suddenly and sharply. When I was pregnant with Esther my blood pressure did shoot up and we were told that that was probably due to the placenta and cord being affected by her condition. The high blood pressure was controlled by the medication and I never had any of the other symptoms of pre-eclampsia. I've never had blood pressure problems or symptoms of pre-eclampsia in any of my previous pregnancies. I don't have them now!!!! Even worse, I found out (thank you Dr. Google) that the medication she put me on is a high strength beta blocker. It is used in pregnancy, but only usually in those cases where other types of blood pressure medication have failed. If I continued on it until the baby was born, the baby would have to be monitored very closely afterwards. It also enters breast milk.

Tomorrow when I visit the hospital I am going to ask all the questions I should have asked at my last appointment and unless the doctor can come up with some compelling reason why I should continue taking the medication I will explain to her that I will stop taking it. I am having my blood pressure checked weekly at my doctors surgery, I take it daily at home and have the testing sticks used for detecting protein in the urine (protein in the urine is one of the pointers for pre-eclampsia). If my blood pressure does go up over the danger level, I'll happily go back onto a different medication and see how I fare. I do not think I am in any danger, but I don't want to be reckless.

Some people relish encounters like this. I do not. I don't like upsetting people, and in my experience doctors do not take kindly to having their decisions challenged or even questioned. Your prayers for courage, wisdom and favour would be greatly appreciated!