Understanding the Risks of Preeclampsia
Welcoming a new member into your family can be both exciting and frightening; but ultimately, it should end up being the most joyous experience of your life. Unfortunately, having a baby can sometimes present certain health obstacles and problems that may endanger both the life of the mother and her child. A dangerous complication that can occur before, during, and after delivery is preeclampsia.
While this condition has many risk factors, expectant mothers can take certain precautions – as long as the risk is detected by the medical team attending to the pregnancy. If the warning signs are missed, or proper medical interventions are not taken, serious injury and even death can happen. No family deserves to experience such a stressful, possibly tragic, ordeal, especially if medical professionals failed to diagnose or treat the condition. Medical malpractice such as this should be legally reprimanded with a lawsuit, so that the family who suffered this painful experience can receive the compensation they deserve.
What is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy. It can occur in women usually after 20 weeks of pregnancy, usually presenting with hypertension (high blood pressure) where previously the pregnant woman had exhibited blood pressure within normal range. If caught early enough, preeclampsia can be monitored and its progression slowed with blood pressure medication, but depending on the severity of the rise in blood pressure, early delivery may be recommended. The only definitive treatment of preeclampsia is delivery.
Occasionally, preeclampsia can occur after the delivery, and this is called postpartum preeclampsia. If left untreated, preeclampsia can cause serious injury to both the mother and the baby, and can even be fatal.
Per the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of preeclampsia (other than hypertension) include:
- Excess protein in urine (proteinuria) or other signs of kidney problems
- Decreased levels of platelets in blood (thrombocytopenia)
- Increased liver enzymes that indicate liver problems
- Severe headaches
- Changes in vision, including temporary loss of vision, blurred vision or light sensitivity
- Shortness of breath, caused by fluid in the lungs
- Pain in the upper belly, usually under the ribs on the right side
- Nausea or vomiting
Occasionally, a patient may have no noticeable symptoms and still be experiencing preeclampsia, so it is important to attend regular checkup visits and receive regular tests.
What are the causes of preeclampsia?
The causes of preeclampsia are something of a mystery, but medical experts are finding that certain pre-existing conditions seem to increase the risk of developing the complication. There seems to be a consensus that it begins with the placenta and insufficient blood flow in newly developed blood vessels. The National Institutes of Health states that other risk factors may include:
- Genetic factors
- Environmental exposures
- Nutritional factors
- Maternal immunology and autoimmune disorders
- Cardiovascular and inflammatory changes
- Hormonal imbalances
The Mayo Clinic also includes these other risk factors:
- Preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
- Being pregnant with more than one baby
- Chronic high blood pressure (hypertension)
- Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes before pregnancy
- Kidney disease
- Autoimmune disorders
- Use of in vitro fertilization
According to The Kentuckiana Health Collaborative, “heart disease and stroke are the first and fifth leading causes of death in Kentucky respectively, and approximately 38% of adults in Kentucky have hypertension.” Hypertension is a leading cause of heart attack and stroke, as it can cause significant damage to the arteries. Compared to the national average, far more women of all ages in Kentucky have high blood pressure. Hypertension is a significant cause of maternal mortality in Kentucky, especially in the immediate days after the delivery.
Complications of preeclampsia
Aside from the long-term arterial damage and immediate risk of stroke or heart attack, preeclampsia poses multiple other risks to pregnant women and babies. In the most serious cases, it can lead to organ failure/organ system failure (as a result of HELLP syndrome), or to eclampsia, a seizure disorder that can induce a coma. It can also increase the risk of a placental abruption, a potentially life-threatening condition where the placenta separates from the uterus; it is often accompanied by hemorrhage, which is another leading cause of maternal and fetal injury and death.
How can medical malpractice lead to preeclampsia?
While the causes of preeclampsia can be difficult to determine, the medical team in charge of a woman’s pregnancy, labor, and delivery are supposed to take certain steps in order to best mitigate, prevent, and treat complications. These include regular check-ups and tests, as well as prescribing the correct medicines and therapies.
When a doctor fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses preeclampsia, it can be fatal to both the mother and the child. In these cases, you may wish to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Birth injury and wrongful death lawsuits may also be an option, depending on the outcome of the delivery.
Legal action is one of the main ways in which to find justice for you and your child’s injuries, or your child’s death. The medical team meant to take care of you during your pregnancy had a duty of care, and if they failed to take the proper actions and preventive measures to lead to a healthy and safe delivery, you and your family deserve financial compensation for your damages, pain and suffering. At Wilt & Associates, we care about patients who have been harmed by their healthcare professionals. We want justice for mothers and families, and we have secured millions in settlements for people just like you in the past. Let us help. To schedule a free consultation, please call us or fill out our contact form. We maintain offices in Lexington and Louisville, and proudly serve clients throughout Kentucky.