Pregnant women care for themselves throughout their pregnancy so they can bring a healthy baby into the world. Unfortunately, you can do everything right and still have traumatic labor and delivery. One of the most serious conditions a mother-to-be can develop is preeclampsia. If it is not quickly diagnosed and addressed, the life of the mother and the child could be at risk.
Preeclampsia is a medical condition that causes high blood pressure and increased protein in the urine, which can lead to kidney damage. Most women are diagnosed after 20 weeks of their pregnancy. There is no known cause of preeclampsia, and the condition affects about one out of every 25 pregnancies. What research does show is there are risk factors attributed to the condition, such as:
- Kidney disease
- Family history of preeclampsia
- Maternal obesity
- Twin pregnancy
- Preexisting chronic hypertension
- Advanced maternal age
- First-time pregnancy
Even considering these risk factors, your chances of suffering from the condition are unknown. When you experience the following conditions, you must see a medical professional for testing:
- Persistent headaches
- Low blood platelet levels
- Shortness of breath
- Blurry vision
- Decreased urine output
- Upper abdominal pain
- Impaired liver function
Some symptoms overlap with common pregnancy symptoms, and you must have regular prenatal visits to determine the difference between the condition and normal pregnancy.
Why is preeclampsia so dangerous?
Preeclampsia complications can lead to maternal and fetal injury or death if left untreated. Some complications you can suffer:
- Severe bleeding
- Kidney disease
- Placental abruption
- Heart attack
- Cardiovascular disease
Some cases require at-home care and continuous monitoring, while others require the immediate delivery of the baby. The at-home care means daily monitoring of the mother and fetus with frequent doctor visits. After an emergency delivery, symptoms can subside after six weeks. If the condition becomes severe, hospitalization is necessary.
When doctors are liable for preeclampsia
One reason that preeclampsia happens is that there is a failure to diagnose this manageable condition. Unfortunately, the condition results in life-threatening symptoms like a spike in blood pressure leading to organ failure or stroke in the mother or fetus. Obstetricians must begin testing for the disease after the 20-week mark. The failure to diagnose is the leading cause of the condition worsening or becoming deadly. Additionally, when a medical professional does diagnose the condition but fails to react, that is also medical negligence, and the doctor must be held accountable.
Failure to provide standard care during labor, delivery, or pregnancy falls under the medical malpractice umbrella. When doctors could have reasonably prevented an injury, or could have reduced the severity of the injury by acting quickly and appropriately, the injured mother can file a medical malpractice claim where they can recover compensation. The award can be for the mother and/ or baby, and is meant to cover the medical expenses for the mother or child's lifelong care, as well as any income losses (current and future) and pain and suffering.
Washington State is unsafe for pregnant women
Over the years, Washington State Maternal Mortality Review Panel has analyzed mortality rates and other pregnancy-related concerns. Their findings state a steady maternal mortality rate, meaning no increase or decrease. They also report that 60% of maternal deaths are preventable.
In the 2019 report, which uses data collected between 2014 and 2016, the Panel “identified 100 pregnancy-associated deaths [during that time frame, including] deaths that occur during pregnancy or the first year after pregnancy.” Per their data, 20% of all deaths were related to hemorrhage – a common risk for women with preeclampsia during labor and delivery – and 10% were the result of what they call “hypertensive disorders in pregnancy.” These disorders include preeclampsia, eclampsia, and HELLP syndrome, “a life-threatening pregnancy complication usually considered to be a variation of preeclampsia that can lead to liver rupture or stroke.”
The leading cause of preventable deaths during pregnancy was what the Panel calls “systems of care,” which includes issues like coordination and case management, access to and continuity of care, and standard practices regarding the reporting of maternal deaths. What this shows us is that these issues are not unique to one hospital, or even to one type of medical condition: they are systemic in the healthcare industry.
These numbers have been steady for decades, so Washington is clearly not doing enough to protect pregnant women and their fetuses. Officials can do a lot more. It starts by holding medical professionals responsible for their actions; when you hold someone accountable, they won't make the same mistakes in the future, leading to better care overall. While Washington has work to do, our medical malpractice lawyers in Kennewick and Richland will hold individuals and entities responsible.
The United States is one of the most dangerous places for childbirth, even though we are one of the most advanced nations. When an expectant mother suffers an injury during labor and delivery, the baby can also be born with an injury or cognitive disability. Doctors and everyone in the delivery room must be aware of all possible outcomes and work to prevent them. Pregnant women can have a doula or other support in the room to identify any negligence or possible injury. Ultimately, the medical staff must take responsibility for their actions, and Telaré Law is here to help you get justice. Visit or call our Richmond or Kennewick offices for a free initial consultation today.