About Pre-Eclampsia Claims for Compensation
Pre-Eclampsia is a condition that affects some women and mostly occurs during the second half of the pregnancy or shortly after. It is caused by the placenta not developing properly due to problems with the blood vessels and it is associated with high blood pressure. If symptoms are not picked up and the condition is allowed to progress it could cause injury to the child as well as the mother. See Pre-Eclampsia and maternity negligence claims for more details.
According to the NHS, Pre-Eclampsia can run in families, and affects around 3-5% of pregnancies. Problems usually start towards the end of pregnancy, after around week 28, but can occur earlier. It is likely to be more severe if it starts earlier in pregnancy, see NHS on Pre-Eclampsia.
If there is a failure to diagnose on the part of the maternity unit (doctors/mid-wife) and an injury results, then a claim for compensation may be made.
Although Pre-Eclampsia is a common birth complication the symptoms associated with it will develop in some instances without the mother noticing any symptoms at all. Therefore, it is an imperative that the maternity unit monitor a women’s blood pressure throughout the pregnancy.
For medical practitioners, the symptoms and signs to look out for in order to prevent the condition from developing include:
- The shortness of breath
- Swelling in the hands and face
- Nausea, sometimes accompanied with vomiting
- Poor liver function
- Excessive protein in the urine
- Pain induced below the rib cage
- Severe headaches
- Blurry vision – see birth injury guide
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
The first sign of Pre-Eclampsia is commonly a rise in blood pressure. Blood pressure that is 140/90 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) or greater- documented on two occasions, at least four hours apart is abnormally high. High blood pressure may develop slowly, but more commonly it has a sudden onset, please see Pre-Eclampsia and pregnancy diseases website. When this blood pressure is read out it is said as 140 over 85 (based on a 140/90 reading). The first (or top) number is an individual’s systolic blood pressure; this is pressure in the individual’s arteries when the heart contracts. The second (or bottom) number is the individual’s diastolic blood pressure. This is the pressure in the arteries when the individual’s heart rests between each heartbeat.
It is advised that pregnant women should have regular blood checks, although most women will not develop any problems with their blood pressure during a pregnancy, in some cases women can develop high blood pressure (hypertension). It is also important to appreciate that cases of high blood pressure are sometimes mild and not serious, but there is always a risk that high blood pressure can become severe and can be harmful to both the mother and the baby.
The mid-wife holds the responsibility for carrying out blood pressure readings and will use a small monitor to measure and record an individual’s blood pressure at every pre-natal check up – further reading on pre-eclampsia and compensation claims information on blood pressure in pregnancy see babycentre website.
Once the mid-wife has collected the reading, the pregnant women would be told whether her blood pressure is high. During a prenatal appointment, if the midwife discovers high blood pressure, the pregnant women would be asked to have further tests at hospital. The pregnant women may be at the hospital for several hours whilst her blood pressure is monitored hourly over three or four hours. Furthermore, the mid-wife will be watching for the signs of Pre-Eclampsia, particularly later on in the pregnancy stage. If a pregnant woman is at high risk then she may be offered further visits and testing, with referral being made for specialist care.
Pre-Eclampsia Complications and Compensation Claims
In the unfortunate event where the condition of Pre-Eclampsia develops, both the mother and the infant are at risk of suffering serious health complications, including:
- Placental abruption (where the placental lining separates from the uterus of the mother prior to delivery of the child): see also original source: Sheffield and others, ‘Williams obstetric’ (24th edition. ed.)(2014)
- Eclampsia may develop as a consequence. This is essentially Pre-Eclampsia accompanied with seizures. In some cases, seizures or a coma may be the first recognisable sign that a pregnant woman has had Pre-Eclampsia (see also Conrad Stoppler, M and Patrick Davis, C ‘Eclampsia Definition and Overview’ 12/12/2014:)
- Hemolysis elevated liver enzymes (HELLP) syndrome can develop and this is a life threatening pregnancy complication – read more on pre-eclampsia – hellp-syndrome
- Poor blood flow to the placenta, which can result in oxygen deprivation for the infant – see website Mayoclinic.
- Increased risk of developing heart and blood vessel diseases
Risk Factors Associated with Pre-Eclampsia and Claims for Compensation
There exist quite a few risk factors that enhance a pregnant woman’s risk of developing Pre-Eclampsia, including:
- Being of the maternal age of 40 or older
- Previous pregnancies with Pre-Eclampsia
- Maternal obesity
- Carrying more than one infant
- A pregnancy with a different partner than previous pregnancies
- Lupus can be suffered from. This is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when individuals’ own immune system attacks their own tissues and organs
Is there a cure for Pre-Eclampsia?
There is currently exists no known cure for the Pre-Eclampsia condition, aside from delivery. If an individual has Pre-Eclampsia, the best treatment is usually consigned to a lack of strenuous activity or ‘bed rest’. Medications such as antihypertensives, corticosteroids, and anticonvulsants may also be prescribed.
In severe cases of Pre-Eclampsia, the mother will often be scheduled for a caesarean section (C- section). Mothers, who are diagnosed with Pre-Eclampsia towards the end of pregnancy, when the infant is viable, may have an induced labour if a C- section is not necessary. This is so that the child stays healthy as possible and doesn’t go into fetal distress.
Although there isn’t a cure yet for Pre-Eclampsia, there are a few preventative tips that can be utilised to help mothers control the risk of developing it, including:
- Taking a daily low-dose aspirin
- Taking calcium supplements daily
- In addition, it’s always a good idea to limit salt intake during pregnancy and eat as healthy as possible
The Relationship between Pre-Eclampsia and Cerebral Palsy
Although doctors still do not understand too much about Cerebral Palsy, studies indicate that mothers who have Pre-Eclampsia are more likely to have children with Cerebral Palsy if the infant is born prematurely.
Other Problems Affecting the Baby/Child
Along with the likelihood that a child could develop Cerebral Palsy, other potential problems that could befall a child include:
- A child of women with Pre-Eclampsia may grow more slowly in the womb than normal. This is because the condition reduces the amount of nutrients and oxygen passed from the mother to her unborn child. Thus, such babies are often smaller than usual, particularly if the pre-Eclampsia occurs before 37 weeks.
- If the Pre-Eclampsia is severe, a baby may need to be delivered before they have fully developed. This can lead to serious complications, such as breathing difficulties caused by the lungs not being fully developed (neonatal respiratory distress syndrome).
- Fatally, some babies of women with Pre-Eclampsia can even die in the womb and be stillborn. Statistically, it is estimated that around 1,000 babies die each year because of Pre-Eclampsia.
- Most of these babies die because of complications related to early delivery – see NHS Website on pre-eclampsia and complications.
Compensation for Birth Injury and Pre-Eclampsia
Claims can be difficult against the NHS Doctors and compensation for Pre-Eclampsia birth injury, so it is important that solicitors who can help you every step of the way. Please contact us for expert advice and support in this difficult time. We undertake maternity negligence claims under a no win no fee agreement so you do not have any financial worries about taking legal advice.