What is Pre-Eclampsia?
Pre-eclampsia is a complication of pregnancy that affects one in every ten pregnancies and can happen to any expectant mother. Despite the reasonably common diagnosis, there is a lack of awareness of the significance of pre-eclampsia to both mother and baby.
Whilst Pre-eclampsia most often occurs during a first pregnancy, it can occur in any pregnancy and is a rapidly progressive condition. It is characterised by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine and it can damage vital organs. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms; however, some women with the rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.
Pre-eclampsia usually develops from mid-pregnancy, around 20 weeks or right after delivery. There is no cure for pre-eclampsia, but for the health of both mother and baby, it requires very close monitoring and may lead to delivering their baby early if the condition becomes too severe despite treatment. It is estimated that 15-20% of all premature births are due to the identification of pre-eclampsia.
It is imperative that pre-eclampsia is diagnosed promptly, and proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage the condition. During each antenatal visit, the midwife should obtain blood samples, take urine samples, record blood pressure and take an accurate history to detect any relevant symptoms as soon as possible, allowing early referrals to hospital to be made.
If a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia is either missed, or identified and not managed correctly, it can lead to detrimental effects for both the mother and the baby.
Our involvement with Pre-Eclampsia
At Wolferstans, we have recently settled a medical negligence claim on behalf of a mother who, up until 33 weeks pregnant, had a normal an uneventful pregnancy. However, during an antenatal appointment, she had raised blood pressure and protein in her urine. It was identified that she may be suffering from pre-eclampsia by her midwife. For the remainder of her pregnancy tests showed traces of protein and raised blood pressure, and she developed swelling in her hands and feet.
At just over 40 weeks pregnant, her blood pressure increased and she was referred to hospital for monitoring. She was told that the impression was that she had pre-eclampsia and hypertension and that the safest option was induction of labour to ensure the safe delivery of her baby. Ultimately a decision was made to discharge her. She went into labour overnight, telephoned for advice and was told to wait for the labour to develop. By the time of her arrival into the maternity unit, the baby’s heartbeat could not be detected. Sadly, she lost her baby and the post mortem confirmed that she had died due to consequences of pre-eclampsia and hypertension. This is an example of an extremely sad case and raises the importance of appropriate management once a diagnosis has been made. We settled the case at mediation for £120,000.00 alongside a formal apology for the loss of this otherwise perfect little girl.
How the NHS are speeding up the diagnosis process
The NHS have announced that they will be offering pregnant women a new type of blood test to check for the potentially life-threatening condition, with the aim of speeding up diagnosis, ensuring proper monitoring and should save lives.
The impact on families following the loss of a baby is devastating and at Wolferstans we act for a number of families affected by baby loss, working alongside a host of charities to ensure full support is provided following such tragedy.
If you or any members of your family been affected by baby loss or any injury at birth, and you would like to receive free independent legal advice, without any obligation then please enquire today with our team.
Graduate Legal Executive