Both preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome are pregnancy complications that can cause severe health risks for both the pregnant mother and her unborn child. Although they are separate diseases, they are often linked, with many women being diagnosed with one and then later also having the other.
In both conditions, the only treatment is to deliver the baby as soon as possible to reduce risk to both mother and child. When physicians do not properly diagnose these diseases, the damage to the fetus can alter the child’s life forever and even lead to death.
Preeclampsia: Symptoms And Risks
Preeclampsia is a hypertension disease that affects an estimated 5-8% of women during their pregnancy. There is no known cause for the disease, though some risk factors include women who are over 40 years of age, overweight, multiple gestation and those with a history of high blood pressure. Generally the disease affects women in their late second trimester or third trimester, often without any noticeable symptoms. However, even though the woman may feel fine, if not diagnosed, it can lead to health risks for both them and their baby.
Physicians should be monitoring pregnant women for symptoms of preeclampsia. High blood pressure, high protein counts in the urine, swelling and low platelets can all be signs of the disease. Once it is diagnosed, the only cure is to deliver the baby as soon as possible. Depending on how far the mother is along in her pregnancy and how severe the preeclampsia, the physician should discuss possible early labor induction or even delivering the baby by C-section. Risks to the child if not delivered are:
- Low oxygen. Reduced blood flow to the placenta can affect the oxygen level of the fetus. Restricted oxygen levels can cause brain damage and lead to diseases such as cerebral palsy.
- Acidosis. If the placenta is compromised, the fetus will become low on oxygen. The body will begin to try to derive energy from the fuel supply, but this can cause a build up of lactic acid, called acidosis. The baby will then stop moving and must be delivered immediately to be saved.
- Death. An estimated 10,500 babies die each year from preeclampsia. Some of these may have been saved if the mother’s doctor had caught the disease in time to recommend early delivery or treatment.
HELLP Syndrome: Symptoms And Risks
HELLP syndrome stands for Hemolysis (breakdown of the red blood cells), Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelet count. The cause is also unknown, affecting women usually in their third trimester. The disease occurs in only 1-2 pregnancies per 1,000, and in 10-20% of women with severe preeclampsia or eclampsia. As with preeclampsia, delivering the baby as soon as possible is recommended to avoid further risks to both the mother and child.
The pregnant mother’s doctor should be aware of symptoms that may indicate HELLP syndrome. These include high blood pressure, abdominal tenderness, headaches, fluid retention and excess bleeding. Tests include checking platelet counts, liver function tests and a CT scan of the liver for enlargement and bleeding. One out of four women have severe complications from HELLP, including kidney failure, liver failure, placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the uterus wall) and fluid in the lungs. For the unborn child the largest risk is when the placenta is compromised. A placental abruption causes fetus distress and for those that survive, 40-50% will have some type of complication including:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Brain Damage
Unfortunately, many children have died or have been born with severe health complications due to preeclampsia or HEELP syndrome not being diagnosed in time. These are well known complications of pregnancy and any doctor that does not diagnose or treat their patient for them has put the mother and child at risk. If you have been victim to this kind of poor medical care and it has resulted in the loss of your child or injury, you deserve a chance to find justice.
Our team of birth injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers will take the time to meet with you for a free consultation to discuss your case. We are experienced medical malpractice attorneys, working extensively with child injury cases. Please give us a call to discuss your options for compensation for medical expenses, loss and ongoing treatment costs. Contact us today.
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