The number of pregnancies medical providers handle each year does not negate the fact that complications occasionally develop. Some conditions can put the lives of both an expectant mother and a developing fetus at risk.
Proper prenatal care can help doctors discover potential complications early in the pregnancy. This should include checking for indications of preeclampsia.
How might a woman know when she’s at risk?
Formerly known as toxemia, preeclampsia refers to a pregnancy complication caused by undeveloped or dysfunctional blood vessels designed to transport oxygen and nutrients to the placenta.
Swelling in the extremities, excess protein in the urine and high blood pressure are common characterizations of the condition. In addition to seizures, serious medical problems like kidney or liver damage can result. Left untreated, preeclampsia could become fatal – for both the mother and baby.
Weight gain, nausea and fluid retention are relatively normal during pregnancy. Yet, if blood pressure rises, an OB-GYN would be wise to check for other indications of a high-risk pregnancy.
The possible symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Decreased urine output
- Vision impairment
- Reduced blood platelet count
- Pain under the rib cage
The potential for developing preeclampsia increases throughout gestation, with a typical onset of symptoms after 34 weeks. Medical professionals consider earlier symptoms to correlate with higher risk.
Appropriate care could help a mother carry her baby to term
Optimal medical attention might allow a fetus to fully develop in utero. Yet, depending on the situation, a provider may order an expectant mother to receive increased monitoring or hospital admittance.
Despite the severity of symptoms, giving birth is the only known cure for preeclampsia. In some cases, a physician may induce labor if they feel the consequences of continuing the pregnancy outweigh premature delivery.
Serious potential consequences of missed diagnosis
Minimizing problems is vital to an infant’s health and development. Therefore, a diligent doctor should remain aware of gestational concerns and respond to potential warning signs accordingly.
Fetal growth is commonly restricted when preeclampsia goes undiagnosed. A provider could be liable for a child’s life-long physical or cognitive disabilities and in some cases, death. Heart failure, stroke or a mother’s excessive bleeding may also lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Women may not be able to control whether preeclampsia affects them. However, licensed medical professionals have a standard of care they must uphold to support a healthy pregnancy.