Thousands of women give birth every day in the United States, including here in the Washington, D.C. area. Labor and delivery is a common and safe experience for mothers and babies, but occasionally there are complications.
If a baby is deprived of oxygen during the labor and delivery process, the child can suffer severe birth injury. One of these types of complications is called placental abruption, which damages the placenta and can result in oxygen deprivation to the fetus. When a physician and/or medical staff fails to detect or treat this condition, placental abruption can lead to health problems like premature birth, extremely low birth weight or, in severe cases, death of the baby.
When a doctor’s negligence leads to your child suffering a birth injury, you may have a case for medical malpractice.
What is placental abruption?
During pregnancy, the placenta provides nutrients and oxygen to the baby. It’s attached to the uterine wall and, during a routine delivery, the placenta detaches once the child is born as it’s no longer necessary. However, in about one of every 100 pregnancies, the placenta detaches from the uterine wall before delivery. This is called placental abruption.
Typically, placental abruptions occur around the third trimester of pregnancy. However, they can happen as early as 20 weeks into the pregnancy.
Symptoms of placental abruption can include:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Rapid contractions
- Abdominal or back pain
- Uterine tenderness
- Abnormal fetal heart rate
Heavy vaginal bleeding is a common symptom of an abruption, but if the bleeding is mild, the abruption may be hard to detect. However, if doctors are properly monitoring the fetus—watching the heart rate, performing ultrasounds, or testing for anemia—they should be able to catch the warning signs of a placental abruption.
Risks of placental abruptions
A placental abruption can be mild or severe, but any degree can put both the mother and child in danger.
Abruptions deprive a fetus of nutrients and oxygen, and these need to be restored as soon as possible or the baby can suffer birth trauma. And, if a mother suffers heavy bleeding from a placental abruption, she can experience significant blood loss, which can lead to further complications.
Treating an abruption
Treatment options for a placental abruption depend upon the severity of the abruption and how far along the mother is in her pregnancy. If the abruption is mild, occurs early in the pregnancy, and neither mother or baby is in dangers, doctors should be vigilant about monitoring the baby through the remainder of the pregnancy to make sure the condition doesn’t become more serious.
However, if the abruption is severe and occurs later in the pregnancy, doctors should perform an emergency C-section to ensure the baby doesn’t lose oxygen.
If doctors and medical staff fail to note the signs of placental abruption or don’t take the correct steps to address an abruption, both the mother and child could suffer serious injury. If those injuries could have been prevented if the doctors acted in a proper manner, the family may be eligible for compensation for their losses and damages.