Is it preeclampsia? Obstetricians must monitor moms carefully

Some women appear to have pregnancies that are nine months of joyful expectation, while others cope with typical side effects like morning sickness, indigestion and gaining too much weight. But there is a third group of mothers-to-be that really struggle trying to carry a healthy baby to term.

These mothers often face complications of pregnancy that are life-threatening to both them and the fetuses they carry. A doctor’s failure to diagnose preeclampsia during a woman’s pregnancy can be a fatal error for both mom and baby.

Because the symptoms of preeclampsia closely mirror typical pregnancy side effects that are not life-threatening, it can be a difficult diagnostic call to make. However, obstetricians that fail to consider the condition as a diagnosis in their pregnant patients can open themselves up to charges of medical malpractice.

Women are at higher risk for the dangerous condition if one or more of these factors are present:

  • Family history of hypertension
  • First pregnancies
  • Maternal age 40
  • Carrying multiple fetuses
  • Maternal obesity pre-pregnancy
  • Different fathers for subsequent pregnancies
  • The interval between pregnancies is fewer than two years or more than 10
  • Maternal history of migraines, kidney disorders, hypertension, lupus, type 1 or 2 diabetes or blood clots

As all of the above predispose certain women to the condition, their obstetricians should be especially alert to the following indications of preeclampsia:

  • Excruciating headaches
  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • Reduced urine output
  • Gaining weight quickly
  • Dizziness or vomiting

When preeclampsia is suspected, there are blood and urine tests that can confirm a diagnosis. The obstetrician should also order a fetal ultrasound to monitor the baby. Often he or she will order a biophysical profile a non-stress test.

If you or someone you love suffered adverse effects from undiagnosed preeclampsia during pregnancy, a case may be made for medical malpractice. A Miami attorney can subpoena the medical records to determine whether or not the error rises to the legal definition of malpractice.

Source: Mayo Clinic, “Preeclampsia,” accessed June 03, 2015