Preeclampsia is an extremely serious and potentially deadly condition of pregnancy that affects millions of expectant mothers each year in the United States. It involves unusually high blood pressure in the mother and is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as protein in the urine and swelling of the hands and feet. In most cases, preeclampsia comes on suddenly after 20 weeks. However, it can sometimes develop gradually beginning much earlier in the pregnancy.
While preeclampsia is a relatively common complication during pregnancy, it can cause serious injuries if not diagnosed and treated effectively. This is why expecting mothers should be aware of the signs and their doctors should monitor carefully for any “red flags” throughout the pregnancy.
The Signs of Preeclampsia
The signs of preeclampsia during pregnancy may include:
- High blood pressure
- Excessive swelling in the hands and face
- Excess protein in the urine
- Blurred vision or changes in vision
- Sudden weight gain
- Abdominal pain or shoulder pain
- Lower back pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hyperreflexia or overactive reflexes
It is important to note that many of the above symptoms, such as swelling, back pain, weight gain, and nausea, are common and mundane symptoms of any healthy pregnancy. And it is also important to understand that every mother-to-be is different, and symptoms can vary. Some women with preeclampsia may not display any outward symptoms at all.
Treating Preeclampsia and Avoiding Eclampsia
While extremely serious, preeclampsia is very treatable. The only real cure for preeclampsia is the delivery of the baby, but there are ways to keep the mother and baby safe until delivery is an option. Depending on what stage of pregnancy the mother is in when preeclampsia strikes, C-section or early delivery may or may not be the best option. If the doctor decides that delivery is not yet an option, mothers may be given medication until the baby develops further. Mothers may be asked to see OB-GYN or neonatal specialists who can help with their treatment and the health of their babies. The possible courses of treatment for preeclampsia are well documented, and doctors carry a responsibility to determine which one is best for each patient.
When preeclampsia is misdiagnosed or left unchecked, however, full eclampsia can develop, which could be life threatening to both mother and child. Eclampsia can cause serious complications, including:
The mother’s elevated blood pressure alone can cause placental abruption—the separation of the placenta from the uterus—which can lead to severe bleeding and, in many cases, the death of the fetus. If a mother suffers seizures during pregnancy, labor, or delivery, those seizures can compromise blood flow to the baby, and the baby’s brain can be damaged by a lack of sufficient oxygenation.
When Doctors Fail to Manage Preeclampsia and Eclampsia
Preeclampsia is a relatively common condition that all obstetricians should be checking for with each patient. Doctors have a responsibility to recognize and effectively treat the condition in order to keep the health of mother and child intact. It is imperative that doctors monitor pregnant women closely for this serious complication through regular blood pressure and urine checks.
While the illness is easily treatable when discovered, some doctors fail to recognize the symptoms of preeclampsia. This is a mistake that can lead to permanent injuries for babies and mothers. If this has happened to you, you should know that you may have the right to hold doctors legally and financially responsible for failing to prevent complications when they should have.
Getting Legal Help When Misdiagnosed Preeclampsia Affects the Health of a Mother or Baby
At the law firm of Lane & Lane, LLC, our lawyers have broad experience handling all types of preeclampsia cases against medical providers and hospitals in Illinois. If you, your wife, or your child has been seriously harmed because of undiagnosed preeclampsia, it is important to know why the medical condition was not discovered and whether the damage should have been prevented by the medical professionals caring for you or your loved one. If you believe malpractice or negligence could have been involved, speak with one of our Chicago-based attorneys today at 312-332-1400. We offer free, confidential case evaluations to anyone who has been adversely affected by preeclampsia as well as any other complications of pregnancy, labor, and birth.