Preeclampsia & Potential Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
When an expectant mother develops high blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy, this may indicate a condition known as preeclampsia. Problems with the function of organs such as the kidney and liver usually accompany the high blood pressure. Risk factors for preeclampsia include a pregnancy involving twins or other multiples, a history of this condition, and pre-existing high blood pressure, as well as diseases such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and kidney disease. Age (over 35), obesity, first-time pregnancy, previous pregnancy complications, and the use of in vitro fertilization also have been linked to preeclampsia. Doctors may prescribe low-dose aspirin to prevent preeclampsia in women at high risk of this condition.
Less often, preeclampsia may occur up to six weeks after childbirth. Symptoms and potential complications are similar to those of preeclampsia during pregnancy. Mothers who had high blood pressure or preeclampsia during pregnancy, or who had a C-section, may face a higher risk of this condition.
Unmonitored or untreated preeclampsia can cause devastating and sometimes fatal consequences for both the mother and the baby. Complications affecting the mother may include stroke, brain damage, blood clotting problems, and harm to the kidney and liver. In extreme cases, they may suffer from postpartum hemorrhage (heavy bleeding after birth) or eclampsia, which involves seizures or coma. Complications specifically related to the baby include placental abruption, low birth weight, and a condition known as intrauterine growth restriction. IUGR occurs when high blood pressure in the mother compresses the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. This prevents a baby from growing properly before birth. Preeclampsia also increases the risk of premature birth, even if it is treated.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia can be a challenging condition to spot immediately because many of its symptoms arise during a normal pregnancy. However, any sign of potential preeclampsia should be investigated. Some possible symptoms include:
Nausea or vertigo
Sudden weight gain
Vision problems, which may include light flashes, spots, or more general light sensitivity or blurriness
Swelling in the face, hands, or legs
A doctor can diagnose preeclampsia through blood pressure checks and urine tests that analyze protein content. These should be conducted routinely throughout a pregnancy. A doctor also may conduct tests such as ultrasound imaging, which can capture fetal growth, and a non-stress test that checks fetal heart rate.
Treatment for Preeclampsia
If a woman has a relatively mild case of preeclampsia, a doctor may monitor the condition rather than devising specific treatment. A woman who develops mild preeclampsia when they have been pregnant for 37 weeks may be advised to induce labor so that their pregnancy does not continue. Otherwise, a doctor will want to carefully monitor the blood pressure and urine of an expectant mother with mild preeclampsia. They may need to spend time in the hospital, schedule more frequent doctor visits, or perform simple monitoring at home, such as checking their blood pressure and tracking fetal movements.
A more serious case of preeclampsia usually requires a hospital stay that allows for more regular monitoring. A doctor may prescribe corticosteroid drugs to accelerate fetal lung development. They also may prescribe magnesium sulfate and blood pressure medication.
Premature Birth May Be Required
When severe preeclampsia does not respond to treatment, a doctor may urge a mother at least 34 weeks into pregnancy to induce labor or schedule a C-section as soon as this is safe.
Medical Malpractice Claims Involving Preeclampsia
Failing to promptly diagnose and treat preeclampsia can have severe or even fatal consequences for a mother and a child. If parents suspect that this condition went unrecognized or unaddressed for too long, they should consider bringing a medical malpractice claim. This can allow them to recover compensation for the costs of treating preeclampsia complications and subsequent conditions. If preeclampsia results in a tragic loss of life, family members of the deceased mother may be able to bring a wrongful death claim.
A personal injury or wrongful death claim based on medical malpractice involves proving that a health care provider did not meet the professional standard of care. Medicine is a highly specialized field, so a family bringing a medical malpractice claim likely will need to provide expert testimony about the standard of care and the actions of the defendant that deviated from it. They also may need to submit an affidavit or certificate of merit from an expert at the outset of their case. An experienced birth injury attorney can retain experts, compile the necessary paperwork, and make sure that a case complies with other procedural rules.