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Preeclampsia in Pregnancy

Preeclampsia is a condition that can seriously affect a pregnancy and the birth of a child. Preeclampsia occurs in 5 to 8 percent of pregnancies. It is identified by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the mother’s urine. Typically preeclampsia will show up around the 20th week of pregnancy. If preeclampsia goes untreated or undiagnosed, it can have life threatening consequences for the mother and or the baby.

Signs and Symptoms of Preeclampsia

Expectant mothers should be educated by their doctor, their nurses and other health care providers as to the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia.

Some common characteristics include:

  • Blood pressure readings greater than 140/90
  • Presence of protein in the urine (greater than 300 mg)
  • Swelling in hands/ legs/feet
  • Abdominal pain
  • Severe headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive vomiting and nausea
  • Increased weight gain (usually retained fluids)

Other Risk Factors for Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is often associated with other conditions, such as Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH), Toxemia, and HELLP (Hemolytic anemia, Elevated Liver syndrome, Low Platelet count). These conditions are dangerous for both the mother and the baby. In the mother, preeclampsia can increase the risk of stroke, and kidney and liver problems.

If left untreated, preeclampsia can evolve into eclampsia which leads to seizures in the mother. Seizures can put the mother into a coma or result in the death of the mother and/or baby. Preeclampsia reduces the blood supply to the placenta, so the fetus is often underweight or born prematurely.

A lack of oxygen can also result in a Placental Abruption. The placenta is a temporary organ that connects the mother and fetus; it provides nourishment from the mother to the baby and allows the release of carbon monoxide and waste from the fetus. A Placental Abruption occurs when the placenta partially or completely separates from the wall of the uterus. In cases of Placental Abruption the baby is left with no nutrient source or oxygen. Finally, the baby can also suffer from acidosis.

Acidosis occurs when the lack of oxygen in the placenta causes the fetus to use the oxygen in his/her own body. This results in a buildup of lactic acid which can render the unborn baby unconscious. As a result, the infant may suffer from brain damage, cerebral palsy, hearing and vision problems, learning problems, epilepsy and sometimes death.

What Causes Preeclampsia?

The causes of preeclampsia are unknown, but some correlation appears to exist between the increased age of the expectant mother, pregnancies with multiple fetuses, poor nutrition or high body fat in the mother. Regardless of its causes, the potential for a Kentucky medical malpractice case or a Kentucky medical negligence case arises when a doctor, nurse or other health care provider fails to recognize the preeclampsia and or treat preeclampsia resulting in injury or death to the mother or baby.

The only way to cure preeclampsia in pregnancy is the birth of the baby; however, preeclampsia can often be managed by doctors if correctly and timely diagnosed. Expectant mothers may need to go on bed rest or medication so as to safely extend the pregnancy. In more extreme cases, hospitalization may be required for more thorough monitoring. Generally, physicians want the mother to progress to at least 36 weeks of pregnancy before delivering the baby via c-section.

Clearly, failure to timely or correctly diagnose preeclampsia, failure to timely or correctly treat preeclampsia and delays in performing a c-section can result in life threatening consequences for the mother and her baby. Research from the Preeclampsia Foundation indicates that less than half of all pregnant women are educated as to the risks and warning signs of preeclampsia by their health care providers.

Contact Kentucky Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you feel that you or a loved one has suffered as the result of a failure to timely diagnose preeclampsia or a misdiagnosis of preeclampsia or has experienced poor prenatal care once diagnosed with preeclampsia, you may want to contact a Kentucky medical malpractice attorney who can help you in understanding if you have a case against a doctor, nurse or other medical provider. Brett H. Oppenheimer, PLLC will be more than happy to listen to your concerns and allegations and answer your questions about a medical malpractice case in Kentucky involving preeclampsia.

You can reach Brett via our contact form or call (502) 242-8877.