Beyoncé reveals she suffered from toxemia during her last pregnancy. What is it?
The anticipation surrounding the release of Vogue’s September issue is always high, but this year it reached fever pitch thanks to a cover entirely art directed by Beyoncé and her first interview in years.
In an as-told-to feature, the pop star reveals that she suffered serious complications while pregnant with her twins, Rumi and Sir, last year.
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“I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth to Rumi and Sir. I was swollen from toxemia and had been on bed rest for over a month,” she said. “My health and my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section. We spent many weeks in the NICU.”
The Formation sensation went on to praise her husband, Jay Z, for being a “strong support system” and said she now feels a connection to any parent who has had to undergo the same experience.
“I was in survival mode and did not grasp it all until months later.”
Toxemia is a rather out-of-practice term for preeclampsia, a condition that occurs during late-stage pregnancy, and that’s characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It can also affect various organ systems, especially the liver and kidneys. Although it’s typical in pregnant women in their third trimester, it can sometimes present in the postpartum phase.
“There are a number of complications with preeclampsia,” says Dr. Deborah Robertson, assistant professor at the University of Toronto and obstetrician gynaecologist at St. Michael’s Hospital. “You have to monitor the woman’s blood pressure because if it goes very high, there’s risk of bleeding in the brain and of developing seizures — [at that stage it’s diagnosed as eclampsia]. Women with preeclampsia often have more swelling and puffiness, and can run the risk of liver or renal failure.”
There are possible risks to the baby as well, including restricted growth and an overall negative health status.
“Patients who are pregnant for the first time with one partner are at higher risk — it can have something to do with the male partner and some studies have shown that the male fetus was more associated with the disease, but we don’t know why,” Robertson says.
There are other risk factors involved, including a history of hypertension, advanced age, being pregnant with twins or triplets, or having a preexisting rare medical condition like lupus.
However, the important thing is that a woman with preeclampsia can deliver a healthy baby.
“The treatment is to deliver the patient. If they’re at full term and we think the baby is safe to deliver, then it’s a no-brainer. But if it’s remote from term, we weigh the pros and cons of staying pregnant and managing it with medication and monitoring versus having a premature delivery.”
In the latter scenario, she says, sometimes steroids will have to be given to the baby (or babies) to help with lung maturity.
And although Beyoncé says she had an emergency C-section, Robertson says that’s not always a given.
“If possible, we try for a natural vaginal delivery.”
The one thing Robertson questions in the pop star’s scenario, however, is her month-long bed rest, which she says isn’t always the obvious course of action.
“That’s controversial because it’s never been shown to be an [effective] treatment,” she says. “It makes intuitive sense that if someone has high blood pressure and they have a very stressful job that they should leave it earlier than planned. But once you have preeclampsia you have it, and rest isn’t the only answer.”
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