About Eclampsia and Preeclampsia Injuries
Preeclampsia and eclampsia are syndromes of potentially harmful changes in a pregnant woman’s blood pressure. The blood pressure normally decreases around the middle of the second trimester (20 weeks), and increases during the third trimester (weeks 29 to 40). Women with preeclampsia instead have increased blood pressure after 20 weeks. Eclampsia is a very severe form of preeclampsia.
Risk Factors for Preeclampsia and Eclampsia
There are several risk factors that should place an obstetrician on notice that an expectant mother may develop preeclampsia. Those risk factors include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure) before pregnancy
- Preeclampsia in prior pregnancies
- Women younger than 20 or older than 40
- Pregnancy with more than one baby
- Kidney disease
Injuries Caused by Preeclampsia and Eclampsia
When preeclampsia and eclampsia are present, there are numerous risks. The risks to the baby include premature delivery injuries, placental abruption, and wrongful death. The risks to the mother, particularly with eclampsia, include seizures, organ damage and death. These severe consequences require obstetricians to carefully monitor the mother’s health to identify and treat preeclampsia and eclampsia.
Symptoms of Preeclampsia
Particularly after risk factors have been identified, obstetricians must carefully observe their patients for signs of preeclampsia. High blood pressure, excessive protein in the urine, swelling in the hands and face, headaches, blurred vision and abdominal pain are all possible indications of preeclampsia.
Negligent Failure to Identify or Treat Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia must ultimately be treated by delivery of the baby. When the baby is at term or has mature lungs, labor can be induced. Cesarean delivery is only necessary if a trial of labor fails, or if there are other obstetric reasons for cesarean delivery. Women are often treated with magnesium sulfate during and immediately after labor and delivery to prevent seizures.
Symptoms of Eclampsia
Eclamspia, a severe form of preeclampsia, is identified because of maternal seizures. These seizures can occur at any time: before labor (25%), during labor (50%), or after delivery (25%). Seizures occurring after delivery usually happen within 48 hours, however they have been detected as long as several weeks after delivery. Seizures are tonic-clonic, meaning that the woman’s body will tense up as she loses consciousness, and then the body will convulse as muscles relax and contract in rapid succession. These types of seizures are often, though not always, preceded by an aura (lightheadedness, dizziness, unusual emotions, sense of foreboding, repetitive movements, for example).
Negligent Failure to Identify or Treat Eclampsia
Seizures can be difficult to detect, but when the symptoms are noticed, doctors should consider medication for blood pressure control and seizure control. Magnesium sulfate is often given, which must be carefully monitored. That drug can resolve the seizures, but can also depress the central nervous system, cause loss of deep tendon reflexes, respiratory depression, paralysis, coma or cardiac arrest. Without treatment, the pregnant woman can experience cerebral hemorrhage, aspiration pneumonia, blood clots or hypoxic encephalopathy.
Delivery can only be considered after the seizure has ended. During a seizure, a baby’s heart rate may show dangerous decelerations, which obstetricians should treat by providing extra oxygenation to the baby. If those decelerations do not resolve, an emergency cesarean section is required.
If you had hypertension, preeclampsia or eclampsia during pregnancy, and you or your baby was injured, contact our medical malpractice lawyers at (855) 712-7818 or online for a free consultation. We can examine your medical records to determine whether your doctor timely identified and treated preeclampsia or eclampsia.