Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition that happens to pregnant women. This pregnancy complication involves high maternal blood pressure, proteinuria (which is protein in the urine), and edema (swelling). If it is not properly diagnosed and managed it can be deadly. It is extremely important that doctors respond quickly and provide the mother with emergency medical treatment to save the lives of both the mother and her unborn child. Unfortunately, there are times when the doctor will fail to do so.
A mother can develop pre-eclampsia as early as 20 weeks into gestation. When this condition is diagnosed between 20 and 32 weeks it is called early onset. Pre-eclampsia can also be diagnosed between 32 weeks of gestation and term, and even up to 6 weeks post-partum.
Pre-eclampsia occurs when there is a placenta and once the placenta is removed it is resolved. Therefore, if the mother experiences elevated maternal blood pressure and seizures, early treatment is critical since advanced pre-eclampsia could require the delivery of the fetus through cesarean section to prevent the mother’s death.
There are some early signs of pre-eclampsia. They include swelling and weight gain. As the disease progresses, pregnant women will often experience other symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Decreased urination
- Stomach/abdominal pain
- Vision problems
If pre-eclampsia is not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, it may develop into eclampsia. Eclampsia can cause tonic-clinic seizures, cortical blindness, liver failure, and even maternal death.
Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia occur more often in first pregnancies and young mothers. However there are other risk factors for pre-eclampsia. These include:
- Family history,
- Multiple gestation
- Pre-exiting maternal vascular disease, and
- Thrombophilic disease.
The “standard of care” is the legal concept cases medical malpractice often revolve around. This means that the actions of the doctor will be measured against the actions of a similar health care provider in similar situations.
With regards to pre-eclampsia the standard of care is well-defined. However, an OB-GYN, midwife, nurse, hospital, or other health care professional may fail to act in accordance with the standard of care. If this occurs the health care provider can be held accountable for any harm caused.
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