Pregnancy is a wonderful and unique time for expecting families. Often, families will seek out a skilled Ob/Gyn physician to help them prepare for the delivery of a healthy baby. An Ob/Gyn doctor will monitor the baby’s prenatal development through physical examinations of the mother, blood tests, prenatal ultrasounds, and fetal monitoring, in order to anticipate, and prepare for, possible problems prior to delivery.
A serious, prenatal / pregnancy complication that Ob/Gyn physicians and hospitals must monitor and beware of is placental abruption. Placental abruption can be life threatening to the fetus and to the mother if it is not handled promptly and properly. The baby depends on the mother’s placenta for its nutrients and oxygen. If the placenta separates, either partially or completely, from the mother’s uterine wall during pregnancy, the baby can be deprived of oxygen, causing severe developmental delays in the child (e.g., cerebral palsy, brain damage, etc.), or possibly death. Risks to the mother include: severe blood loss, hypovolemic shock, blood clotting, and organ failure.
Pregnancy Complications & Risks : How to Know if You are Suffering from Placental Abruption
Expectant mothers, and concerned family members, are understandably frustrated to learn that medical professionals and researchers have not identified the specific cause(s) of placental abruption. Though a specific cause of placental abruption cannot be traced to every pregnancy, there are known risk factors associated with placental abruption including, but not limited to:
- previous placental abruption;
- high blood pressure;
- abdominal trauma;
- cigarette smoking and/or substance abuse;
- premature rupture of the membranes;
- blood-clotting disorders;
- multiple pregnancies; and
- maternal age (especially women 40 years and older).
A pregnant woman who is involved in an auto accident (however minor) and/or a fall accident should contact her Ob/Gyn and/or other health care providers immediately. Expectant mothers should see a health care provider, call 911, and/or go to the emergency room if they experience any of the following symptoms of placental abruption:
- vaginal bleeding;
- abdominal tenderness, cramping, and/or pain; and
- rapid uterine contractions;
Diagnosis and Treatment of Placental Abruption – Pain & Bleeding
Physicians will generally diagnose placental abruptions by taking the amount of vaginal bleeding and pain into consideration. An ultrasound will help doctors detect any clotting, separation, or rounding of placental edges as well as abnormal thickening of the placenta, which may indicate an abruption.
Once the placenta separates from the mother’s uterine wall, however, it is not possible for doctors to reattach it. The medical care rendered to the mother at that point will depend upon the seriousness of the detachment, the age of the fetus, fetal health, and the severity of the mother’s bleeding. If the abruption is not severe, and the baby’s heart rate is normal or able to be controlled in a pregnancy that is not close to full term, it is general practice to hospitalize the mother in order to closely monitor her and the baby for the remainder of the pregnancy. However, in the case of a less severe abruption, if the bleeding stops, the mother may be sent home and placed on bed rest.
Where the baby is close to full term, after 34 weeks, simply monitoring the baby may not be enough. A closely-monitored vaginal birth may be indicated, or, in other cases, an immediate delivery via C-section may be necessary.
Failing to Timely Diagnose Pregnancy Complications or Treat Placental Abruption
In the unfortunate event that a pregnancy complication / placental abruption is not timely addressed with appropriate care, the child and the mother may sustain serious injuries. The reality of losing a child to medical error is indescribable, and conversely, if the child should survive, the expense of caring for a disabled child can be astronomical. Doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners who fail to diagnose and/or treat complications in pregnancy, should help families shoulder the expense associated with their errors. But health care providers will not simply admit fault in these circumstances. A malpractice attorney must investigate the medical care that was, or was not, provided to the expectant mother and to her child in order to help families who have lost their child, or are living with a child who has sustained physical and mental disabilities as a result of birth injuries.
The attorney investigation is free, confidential, and does not obligate you to file a lawsuit. To ensure that the lawyer has sufficient time to consult with experts and investigate the matter properly, it is best to contact a lawyer early on, so that investigative efforts can get underway. An investigation may reveal actionable malpractice related to pregnancy complications.
Ultimately, parent(s) must beware of the Statute of Limitations. In Pennsylvania, the Statute of Limitations prevents lawsuits from being filed after the child’s 20th birthday. Whereas, in New Jersey, the Statute of Limitations is more restrictive, and birth injury claims cannot be filed after the child’s 13th birthday. In the event of fatal birth injuries, a lawsuit cannot be filed after two years from the date of the baby’s death.