Failure to Diagnose Preeclampsia

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Failure to diagnose preeclampsia can be a serious medical oversight with significant implications for both the mother and baby. Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver or kidneys. It typically occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy and can lead to severe complications if not treated promptly and effectively.

Consequences of Not Diagnosing Preeclampsia

The consequences of failure to diagnose preeclampsia risk the health of the birthing parent as well as the baby.

Health Risks to the Mother

  • Eclampsia: Eclampsia is a severe progression of preeclampsia that manifests with convulsions and, in some cases, coma. These seizures are not related to other brain conditions like epilepsy. The onset of eclampsia is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment to prevent life-threatening complications for both the mother and the unborn baby. Management typically involves the administration of magnesium sulfate to prevent further seizures, and the immediate delivery of the baby is often necessary, regardless of the gestational age.
  • HELLP Syndrome: HELLP syndrome is a particularly dangerous variant of preeclampsia and includes hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells), elevated liver enzymes (indicating liver injury), and low platelet count, which affects blood clotting. Symptoms might include nausea, vomiting, headache, and upper abdominal pain. HELLP syndrome can lead to serious complications such as liver rupture or stroke, and like eclampsia, often requires early delivery.
  • Cardiovascular Issues: Women who have experienced preeclampsia have an increased risk of long-term cardiovascular issues. These can include hypertension, heart disease, and stroke later in life. The risk persists even after the pregnancy is over, and thus, women who have had preeclampsia should have ongoing cardiovascular monitoring as part of their long-term health care plan.

Health Risks to the Baby

  • Preterm Birth: Preeclampsia may lead to situations where the healthiest option for both the mother and the baby is early delivery. This can result in preterm birth, which occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy. Babies born prematurely may face numerous challenges, such as underdeveloped lungs, difficulty maintaining body temperature, poor feeding, and developmental delays. They often require care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
  • Placental Abruption: Preeclampsia increases the risk of placental abruption, a serious condition where the placenta detaches from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery, which can deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients. This is an emergency situation as it can lead to severe bleeding, threatening the life of both the mother and the baby. Immediate medical intervention is necessary to manage this risk.
  • Growth Restriction: Preeclampsia can impair the placenta’s ability to deliver adequate oxygen and nutrients to the baby, leading to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). This condition can result in the baby being small for gestational age, which is associated with various health challenges and a higher risk of mortality near the time of birth. Babies with IUGR may also face long-term developmental and health issues due to their slow growth in the womb.

Final Thoughts

Healthcare providers generally use a combination of blood pressure measurements, urine tests, and sometimes blood tests to monitor for preeclampsia. It’s crucial for expecting mothers to attend all prenatal appointments and report any concerning symptoms such as severe headaches, changes in vision, upper abdominal pain, or sudden swelling in the face and hands to their healthcare provider.

If you or your baby have been harmed as a result of undiagnosed preeclampsia, get in touch with Gray and White today. We can discuss your case and help you determine options going forward. Call (502) 210-8942 or fill out our online form to request a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced attorneys