Pregnancy & Birth Risks: Early Preeclampsia and Fetal Death

Preeclampsia is a serious medical condition that can prove fatal for the mother and child. A study in the March issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology finds a significantly increased risk of fetal death when the mother is diagnosed with preeclampsia prior to 20 weeks of pregnancy. The Mayo Clinic defines preeclampsia as a condition where the expecting mother shows signs of elevated blood pressure and some form of organ damage, commonly in the kidney area. While it is normally diagnosed after 20 weeks of gestation, a woman may exhibit signs earlier.

The Study Details

Study researchers set out to determine whether the timing of preeclampsia onset affects the risk for fetal death. Experts reviewed over half a million birth records of mothers diagnosed with preeclampsia, with no preexisting hypertension issues. They then compared the rate of fetal death to the time of diagnosis. They concluded that the risk for fetal death is higher when preeclampsia appears earlier in pregnancy.

Quaker Harmon, MD is an author on the study. He is quoted in the article as stating, “Although this risk to the fetus is generally recognized, the extent of risk is far higher than previously estimated.”

Prevention and Treatment

These study results exemplify the importance of early and regular monitoring of the mother’s health. It is vital to the adequate diagnosis and treatment of preeclampsia. Women with a history of preeclampsia should be watched even more carefully, as they have a higher risk of developing the condition again during a subsequent pregnancy. Early signs of preeclampsia include:

*Sudden onset of high blood pressure
*Severe Headaches
*Excess protein in the urine, which is a sign of kidney impairment
*Decreased blood level platelets, which is a sign of liver impairment
*Sudden swelling in the hands or face

Many of these symptoms are common to even healthy pregnancies, so it is the responsibility of your physician to test for less familiar indicators of illness.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the only cure for preeclampsia is delivery of the baby. This creates a major challenge if the condition is diagnosed before the fetus is at a viable age. However, left untreated the illness can prove fatal for the mother and child. Some possible complications include:

***Insufficient blood supply to the placenta, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. This can lead to a low birth weight or premature birth.

***HELLP Syndrome destroys red blood cells, leading to increased liver enzymes and a low blood platelet count. The condition affects numerous organs and the maternal mortality rate is reportedly about one percent.

If you are faced with possible consequences of preeclampsia, your physician should explain the seriousness of the situation and assist you in making an informed decision about possible treatment. If your doctor fails to complete these duties, a court may find him liable for any resulting injuries or loss.

If your newborn experienced a birth injury from the use of forceps, contact the experienced birth injury attorneys of Levin & Perconti today at (877) 374-1417 for a free consultation.

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