Pennsylvania Birth Injury Attorneys
According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, the rate of preeclampsia nationwide has increased by 25 percent in the last two decades, and is a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death the world over. Preeclampsia and other pregnancy-related hypertensive disorders impact 5–8 percent of all births in the US.
While preeclampsia can be effectively managed, it can’t be cured before the baby is delivered. And since it often sets in around the 20th week of pregnancy, doctors of mothers with preeclampsia have a long-lasting duty to their patients which they sometimes fall short of. In addition to possible complications, certain types of preeclampsia can cause an early delivery, which can raise the chances of the baby being born with cerebral palsy by a factor of 5.
What is Preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is high blood pressure in an expectant mother who previously had normal blood pressure. Excess protein is often found in her urine, and other end-organ dysfunctions may begin to manifest.
As symptoms sometimes don’t begin to show until the condition becomes more serious — and other times can be mistaken for other pregnancy complaints — proper screening through blood pressure monitoring and urine testing throughout the pregnancy is essential.
Other pregnancy-related hypertensive disorders include:
- Gestational hypertension: High blood pressure without excess protein in urine or other signs of organ damage. Some women with gestational hypertension eventually develop preeclampsia
- Chronic hypertension: Chronic hypertension isn’t pregnancy-related, but because high blood pressure usually doesn’t have symptoms it may be mistaken for preeclampsia
- Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia: With this condition, women with pre-pregnancy chronic high blood pressure develop worsening high blood pressure and protein in the urine or other health complications during pregnancy
The Mayo Clinic lists the following as risk factors for preeclampsia — which an attentive doctor will consider in their treatment plan:
- History of preeclampsia
- Chronic hypertension
- First pregnancy
- A different father than previous children
- Maternal age of 40 or older
- The race of the patient — black women are diagnosed with preeclampsia at a higher rate than women of other races
- Maternal obesity
- Multiple births (twins or triplets)
- Long or short interval between pregnancies
- In vitro fertilization
Proper Treatment of Preeclampsia
A proper treatment plan must first determine whether the preeclampsia is mild or severe. For mild preeclampsia, a doctor may:
- Check the mother’s blood pressure twice daily
- Increase prenatal checkups and diagnostic tests for the baby
- Design a plan with the mother that includes rest; a low-salt, high-protein diet; and ample hydration
In cases of severe preeclampsia, doctors may try a variety of techniques until the baby reaches 34 weeks and pregnancy can be induced. These include:
- High blood pressure medication
- Home or hospital bed rest
- Dietary changes
- Corticosteroids to help the baby’s lungs develop more quickly
The Dangers of Untreated Preeclampsia
Both mothers and children can suffer health consequences from poorly managed preeclampsia. In mothers, these complications include:
- Eclampsia — a condition marked by maternal seizures, followed by a coma which can pose a threat to the health of both mother and baby
- Blood clots
- Kidney or liver failure
- Disorders of the central nervous system
The health risks for babies are no less life-threatening. They include:
- Placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus)
- Premature delivery
- Brain damage
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)
- Cerebral palsy
- Sensory impairment
- Developmental disabilities
Determining Medical Negligence or Professional Malpractice
Because preeclampsia is a known pregnancy complication — and one with severe consequences if left untreated — doctors are held to a standard of care centering around risk management. If mother or infant suffers a birth injury resulting from any of the following errors, they may be the victims of medical negligence.
- Failure to diagnose preeclampsia
- Failure to properly monitor fetus and mothers during pregnancy, labor or delivery
- Failure to appropriately manage high-risk mothers with preeclampsia
- Delayed C-section, or failure to perform C-section or induction
- Induction errors, including inappropriate use of labor-inducing drugs
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When to Seek Legal Help
If complications result from preeclampsia or a missed diagnosis, the best course of action is to consult with an expert law firm like McEldrew Purtell as soon as possible. With 30 years of experience in birth trauma, McEldrew Purtell is well suited to evaluate the situation and help determine if the injury suffered involved acts of medical negligence or professional malpractice. All birth injury claims are handled on a contingency basis.
To schedule a meeting for a free consultation, fill out our form or call us directly at (215) 545-8800.