Despite her stunning maternity announcement photo that instantly went viral after she shared it in February 2017 — four months before she and husband JAY-Z welcomed their twins Sir and Rumi — Beyoncé‘s pregnancy was far from picture-perfect.
In her new Netflix documentary film Homecoming, out now, the 37-year-old singer opens up about the struggles that she went through while carrying her two youngest children — explaining that she developed preeclampsia during what she dubbed “an extremely difficult pregnancy.”
“My body went through more than I knew it could,” Beyoncé admitted.
Preeclampsia, also known as toxemia, is a pregnancy condition that can cause serious complications and is “characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys,” according to Mayo Clinic.
Kim Kardashian also suffered from the condition during her pregnancy with her daughter North, 5½, as did Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kenya Moore during her pregnancy with now-5-month-old daughter Brooklyn Doris.
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Preeclampsia typically develops suddenly in women who previously had normal blood pressure after the 20-week pregnancy mark, Mayo Clinic says. Besides sudden weight gain and swelling, symptoms may include severe headaches, shortness of breath, nausea, upper abdominal pain, blurred vision, impaired liver and kidney function and decreased urine output.
According to PEOPLE’s Health Squad pediatrician, Dr. Elizabeth Murray, preeclampsia “can be very serious” — and as such, “is something that obstetricians monitor for regularly” in their pregnant patients.
“The concern is for the development of high blood pressure during the second half of pregnancy or even shortly after the baby is born,” she says. “However, as symptoms progress, severe headache and swelling can happen. It can be dangerous for both the mom and baby.”
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While the condition is not one to be taken lightly, it’s not extremely common. As Dr. Murray explains, preeclampsia only affects about 3 percent of pregnancies — and it’s much likelier to occur during a woman’s first pregnancy, as well as in moms-to-be with a history of diabetes and/or high blood pressure.
“Preeclampsia can make it difficult for the baby to grow properly,” she tells PEOPLE. “The only true cure for it is to deliver the baby, so the other major risk is prematurity. Of course, we want the baby to stay inside her mother as long as possible, so strategies such as bed rest or using medications to control Mom’s blood pressure are tried first.”
“The good news,” Dr. Murray says, “is that with regular prenatal care, it is usually caught early and steps can be taken to help prevent the dangerous side effects.”
“Medical problems such as preecclamspia are a good reminder about the importance of routine prenatal care, as most woman don’t feel any different at first so it’s not something that would make an expecting mom stop and say, ‘I need to have a checkup,’ ” she explains.
Beyoncé first learned she was expecting in late 2016. At the time, she was scheduled to headline the 2017 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival but ended up having to postpone.
“I was supposed to do Coachella the year prior but I got pregnant unexpectedly,” she recalled in Homecoming, as footage of her displaying her baby bump played. “And it ended up being twins which was even more of a surprise.”
By the time she gave birth in June 2017, she was 218 lbs., the singer revealed — and her delivery wasn’t easy, either. “In the womb, one of my babies’ hearts paused a few times so I had to get an emergency C-section,” she said.
Homecoming is streaming now on Netflix.