There is a lot of difference between saying you have a cold vs. saying you have bacterial pneumonia. In the world of writing especially medical writing, it is very important that you as the author understand the proper diagnosis and treatment of your character. If it is not clear to you then surely your readers will be confused as well.
Be assured that you will have readers that have either had the condition that your character has, knows someone who has been through it, or like myself, have treated individuals with it. I am more of reader than a writer at this point, and from a readers perspective I will ascertain that nothing will frustrate me faster than an inappropriate diagnosis and/or the incorrect treatment of that condition.
I focus on the perinatal patient because that is my area of expertise, but I’ve been known to check on a condition if I’m exposed to it in a story. If your story does not center or pivot around the diagnosis and treatment of your character, then it is best to keep everything as simple as possible and not try to overload your reader with information you’ve gathered on the internet. All this being said, I would like to take the time to address the three most prevalent pregnancy related complications written about in general fiction: Preeclampsia (PIH), Eclampsia, and HELLP Syndrome.
Preeclampsia, Eclampsia and HELLP syndrome are all serious complications that are fairly common and can occur during pregnancy. In fiction these conditions are often used interchangeably by writers, but these are three very different conditions requiring different levels of care in the world of obstetrics.
Preeclampsia is also known as toxemia or pregnancy-induced hypertension. It presents clinically as high blood pressure and extra protein in the urine after twenty weeks of pregnancy. Signs of Preeclampsia include severe headaches, temporary loss of vision, blurred vision or light sensitivity, upper abdominal pain that usually occurs under the ribs on the right side, unexplained anxiety, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, decreased urine output, blood in the urine, rapid heartbeat, ringing in the ears, fever and sudden weight gain such as more than two pounds a week or six pounds in a month.
Eclampsia is a life threatening condition of pregnancy. Signs of Eclampsia are seizures, severe agitation, and unconsciousness, musculoskeletal aches and pains, involuntary movements, the relaxation phase of deep-tendon reflexes may be longer, apnea, and vision problems. Usually the patient has been previously diagnosed with preeclampsia, but this is not always the case.
The most serious complication of Preeclampsia besides death is the HELLP syndrome. Hemolysis (rupture of red blood cells); EL stands for Elevated Liver enzymes; LP stands for Low blood levels of Platelets. Women who have this syndrome may have problems with bleeding, high blood pressure or liver problems. The most obvious signs of HELLP syndrome are nausea, epigastric pain (pain just below the ribs), or right upper quadrant pain, feeling tired, bad headaches, and there may be swelling that occurs in the face and hands. The compromised body functions can cause seizures, liver failure, kidney failure, heart failure or stroke.
Have you written a scene with one of these syndromes?