I stumbled across a claim on another blog recently that got my blood boiling. Not much sends me into hyperactive research mode now that I am a stay at home mom. But I haven’t forgotten how to do it.
There is a diet that claims to prevent 100% of preeclampsia and HELLP. My sniffer went into overdrive. 100%? There is almost nothing in medicine that can accurately have the word 100% attached to it. I did some reading about this diet and started becoming enraged. I found many sites that spout the claim found on the diet’s website. Their claim follows in blue…word for word from the homepage of the site.
“Toxemia. Pre-Eclampsia. HELLP Syndrome. Premature birth.
Low birth weight. Intrauterine growth retardation.
It’s not genetics. It’s not random. The cause is NOT unknown. Toxemia CAN be stopped. Preeclampsia CAN be stopped. Best of all, YOU can stop it!
HOW? All the scientific research being done on toxemia and preeclampsia these days is focusing on treatment, and none of it is promising. But the research has already been done, many times and many ways in the past 50+ years, and we know that you can PREVENT this from happening to you in the first place, no matter what your personal history may be. The simple answer? GOOD NUTRITION.”
Oh, gosh! Why the hell didn’t I think of that? Good nutrition? Guess it is my fault my son was a preemie!
Except….except that it’s not my fault. You see I followed this diet. I clicked on their sample diet and I can tell you….that is what I was eating. Yet, I still developed Class I HELLP.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe nutrition and protein intake play a huge role in pregnancy. It is this idea that pre-e and HELLP would go away if we all followed the diet. But it won’t. You see, preeclampsia is a syndrome. (ie. a disease that may be triggered by several independent factors that leads to a common situation (compromised placenta) In my particular case, I was in ridiculously good shape going into pregnancy. My resting heart rate was in the low 60’s, my baseline BP was 105/60, I worked out and taught classes at the gym 6 days a week, and (as I recently discovered) I ate this site’s recommended diet.
When the underlying reason for your pre-e and HELLP syndrome IS actually genetic, diet manipulation can only go so far. In my case my homozygous MTHFR c677 was my problem. Following the diet to the letter would not have saved me from pre-e or HELLP. Knowing prior to conception that I had this thrombophilia might have….heparin could have been given from early on.
I think there is even a bigger picture here. It is the “Pregnancy is not a disease” movement. For most women….it isn’t a disease. It is a natural part of life. But there are those of us that fly in the face of that fanciful notion. Those of us (and our babies) who need medical intervention, sometimes drugs, and science to intervene throw a huge monkey wrench into that movement. So what is the solution to explain us outlyers? That the bad things that happen to us ~5% of pregnant women must be OUR fault. That is essentially what this diet is purporting.
This is not only grossly inaccurate but emotionally damaging to women who have done everything right and still ended up with pre-e, HELLP, and/or a premature baby.
I love it when I see that new research is uncovering more of the mystery behind pre-e and/or HELLP. All that I ask is that before some well-meaning soul tells me about it, writes about it, etc, that you actually check to see what kind of research is being touted. Is it peer-reviewed? Randomized? Double blind? Placebo controlled? Prospective or retrospective? The answers to these questions matter. You see this is the benchmark to which I was held every day of my professional life. I worked for a pharmaceutical company and whenever I presented a study to a physician these were the criteria they asked about. When a “study” didn’t meet all of these criteria, it was treated with great skepticism. I have searched extensively for studies done on this “diet” that meet the above criteria. Surprise! There are none.
This theory makes me angry. It makes me sad. I wonder how many former pre-e or HELLP sufferers have read information about this “miracle diet” and felt their heart sink and then blamed themselves. It is this kind of misinformation that further damages already traumatized women.
There is a wonderful thread I found on the Preeclampia Forum website that has numerous links to peer-reviewed studies that will dispel the notion that “Mommy could have prevented it.”
I think moms spend enough time playing the guilt game in their own heads without adding unsubstantiated fuel to the fire.