Failure to Diagnose Preeclampsia
By Eric Harvey, J.D. | Legally reviewed by Garrett Monteagudo, Esq. | Last updated December 02, 2022
Deciding to bring a child into the world can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a person's life. While pregnancy itself can be a physically taxing experience, certain other conditions can arise after the 20th week of pregnancy. At that time time, if these conditions are left undiagnosed, they can lead to serious complications. Complications can include the death of the mother or the unborn baby.
One such condition is preeclampsia. It is a medical complication affecting the expectant mother, which is characterized by a rapid rise in blood pressure. It can often also cause protein in the mother's urine. This can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure, and death of the mother and/or baby. For both the mother and child, this is a potentially life-threatening condition. As a pregnancy complication, preeclampsia can result in birth injuries, as well.
Sadly, there is no cure for this condition other than giving birth, but there are certain tests a physician can administer to the mother to help diagnose the condition and monitor it throughout the pregnancy cycle. Yet despite the best intentions of health care providers, there are situations where a doctor simply fails to diagnose preeclampsia. If this has happened to you or someone you love, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses.
If you believe that you have suffered from preeclampsia complications that should have been caught and treated by a physician, resulting in injuries or death, consider speaking with a skilled personal injury attorney.
Continue reading for a general overview of preeclampsia, risk factors, and possible legal theories under which you might be able to file a lawsuit.
According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death worldwide.
Preeclampsia is typically diagnosed during routine blood pressure checks at prenatal appointments. Two blood pressure readings higher than 140/90, taken at least four hours apart, can indicate this condition. A doctor should closely monitor the mother's health for possible preeclampsia. At this point, there are several blood, urine, or ultrasound tests the doctor can perform to get a more accurate assessment.
If a physician fails to recognize the symptoms or treat them properly, it can result in major problems for the mother and her baby. The doctor may then be liable for medical negligence or malpractice.
Risk Factors for Preeclampsia
There are several risk factors that make certain women more susceptible to preeclampsia than others. The following put someone at a higher risk of developing or having preeclampsia:
- Being under 20 or over 40 years old at the time of pregnancy
- First pregnancy
- Multiple fetuses (twins or triplets)
- History of certain conditions, examples of which are chronic high blood pressure, migraine headaches, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, a tendency to develop blood clots, and lupus
- Family history of preeclampsia
Possible Causes of Action
Failure to diagnose and properly manage a mother and her baby, when they are affected by preeclampsia, can be considered negligence.
Moreover, if this negligence causes the baby to have a birth injury, it can be claimed as medical malpractice.
If the mother dies as a result of a failure to diagnose preeclampsia, the health care practitioner may be on the hook for a wrongful death action. If the fetus or child dies, the mother may also be able to sue for damages.
It is best to discuss the intricacies of these types of lawsuits and the possible monetary damages available by contacting an attorney.
As failure to diagnose and properly treat preeclampsia falls within the scope of medical malpractice cases and medical malpractice lawsuits, handling a claim related to preeclampsia is best left to medical malpractice lawyers, most specifically.
As serious a medical condition as preeclampsia is, an obstetrician or other doctor that fails to deliver the required standard of care under such circumstances should be held accountable.
Birth Injury as a Result of Preeclampsia
Unlike what occurs during normal pregnancies, preeclampsia can cause fetal distress, which can include growth restrictions to the fetus. The condition may also cause hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy.
HIE is a brain injury. It occurs when the baby's brain is deprived of oxygen or blood flow.
Preeclampsia may result in premature birth, which can cause many different health complications for the baby. Preeclampsia also increases the risk of placental abruption. This problem is caused by the placenta separating from the inner wall of the uterus prior to the delivery of the baby. It can result in severe bleeding and be life-threatening for both the mother and the baby.
Symptoms of Preeclampsia
The following can be signs of preeclampsia, and you should consult with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms during your pregnancy:
- Severe headaches
- Sudden swelling of various body parts, including the feet, ankles, face, and hands
- Severe thrombocytopenia, which refers to a condition caused by a low platelet count and can manifest as bruising or even internal hemorrhaging as well as it being much harder to stop the sufferer from bleeding after sustaining a cut
- Blurred vision or seeing flashes of light
- Sudden weight gain
- Sudden appearance of edema, which is swelling of body tissue
- Abdominal pain occurring immediately below the ribs
A condition known as HELLP syndrome may also occur in those also suffering from preeclampsia. Many pregnant people are diagnosed with HELLP syndrome after they are diagnosed with preeclampsia.
Symptoms of this condition can include nausea, pain in the abdomen, headache, and swelling in various body parts. It also causes hemolysis, which is a condition characterized by elevated liver enzymes. It is also characterized by a low platelet count. Possibly causing heavy bleeding and kidney failure, HELLP syndrome can be lethal to both the mother and the child. It is a rare condition.
Failure to Diagnose Preeclampsia: Additional Resources
Consider reviewing the following resources for more information about preeclampsia:
Connect with an Attorney About Your Preeclampsia Situation
If you or a loved one has suffered injury related to a failure to diagnose and treat preeclampsia or a misdiagnosis related to the condition, you may be eligible to initiate a medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuit. A good first step in that process is to connect with a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your potential preeclampsia legal action. Their legal advice is invaluable in navigating the fallout of preeclampsia. They can assist as birth injury lawyers, as well.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney to make sure your rights are protected.