Pre-eclampsia Attorneys in Washington DC

Washington, D.C. Birth Injury Attorneys Fighting for Mothers with Preeclampsia

Protecting victims of negligent labor and delivery practices

The failure to diagnose preeclampsia in a pregnant or postpartum woman can have devastating effects. At Paulson & Nace, PLLC, we help new families whose lives have been forever changed by this act of medical negligence. For more than four decades, our skilled team of birth injury medical malpractice attorneys has offered comprehensive counsel to clients throughout Washington, D.C. whose lives have been irrevocably changed after a doctor failed to monitor, diagnose, or treat a mother for preeclampsia.

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What is preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a dangerous condition that affects pregnant and postpartum women. Per the Mayo Clinic, it “is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had been normal.”

Because preeclampsia can develop slowly and may not show symptoms, it is incredibly important that your OB/GYN schedule regular examinations to detect changes signifying that you have entered a high-risk pregnancy. Using the right tests and procedures is paramount to ensuring that any changes in vital signs or general health are noted quickly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal some startling statistics: Preeclampsia affects an estimated five to seven percent of all pregnancies, standing out as a prominent contributor to maternal morbidity. Shockingly, this condition leads to over 70,000 maternal deaths and 500,000 fetal deaths globally each year. In the United States, the stakes are even higher for Black women, with a 60 percent higher incidence of preeclampsia compared to their White counterparts. Unfortunately, it's not just about higher odds; Black women facing preeclampsia also tend to grapple with more severe outcomes, including kidney damage and an increased risk of mortality.

Clearly, hypertension is a huge issue worldwide, and while doctors and medical teams work hard to prevent and treat this condition, they are as human as the rest of us, and are liable to make mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes come at the cost of someone’s health.

What causes preeclampsia?

This condition can surface if new blood vessels fail to properly develop so that the placenta efficiently receives the blood it needs. This can occur when:

  • Blood vessels have been damaged
  • Blood flow is insufficient
  • There are autoimmune issues such lupus
  • A mother has a genetic predisposition

How is preeclampsia diagnosed?

When an OB/GYN is giving a patient due attention, there are symptoms that should raise a warning that the patient may be preeclamptic and a plan for her care should be modified accordingly for the remainder of her pregnancy to avoid catastrophic damage.

This condition is typically marked by signs where mothers experience:

  • A sharp spike in blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg, especially with no decrease over several hours
  • Fluid retention and weight gain, typically in the hands and feet
  • Nausea and/or upper abdominal pain that may resemble heartburn
  • Urine with high levels of protein, known as proteinuria
  • Dizziness, vision abnormalities, and serious headaches due to changes in the brain
  • Mental disorientation
  • A low platelet count, which means blood will not clot properly
  • Impaired liver and kidney function
  • Fluid in the lungs, known as pulmonary edema

Tests that doctors are expected to perform to monitor for preeclampsia include:

  • Blood work. This is used to gauge liver and kidney function as well as measuring platelet levels.
  • Urine analysis. This test is crucial to determining whether the protein levels in your urine are within a healthy range.
  • Fetal ultrasound. Monitoring your baby using these images allows the doctor to keep close tabs on growth by estimating the weight of the fetus in addition to how much amniotic fluid is present.
  • Nonstress test or biophysical profile. The purpose of these tests is to see how your baby’s heart rate reacts when he or she moves and to measure his or her breathing, muscle tone, and movement and volume of amniotic fluid your uterus contains.

Women carrying multiple fetuses, those who are overweight or those who have a family medical history of preeclampsia are more likely to develop the condition. It is also associated with women who are over 40 years of age when they get pregnant, and with first time pregnancies. It should also be noted that a woman can suffer from preeclampsia for several weeks post-delivery.

Can doctors misdiagnose preeclampsia?

Like any other doctor who specializes in a field, an OB/GYN can misdiagnose or completely fail to diagnose preeclampsia even when all the signs are there. Doctors may be overly confident in their ability to recognize preeclampsia through years of experience. Having too many patients to keep track of can mean less time reviewing medical files and listening to patients during those critical prenatal exams. Without this information, certain tests may not be performed to confirm the condition.

These acts of medical negligence could cost a mother and/or her child their lives. When an OB/GYN fails to uphold the standard duty of care owed to his or her patients it can cause avoidable complications and medical emergencies that at a minimum can end with unexpected birth injuries that your family should never have had to experience.

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What can happen is preeclampsia goes untreated?

Delaying in the diagnosis and treatment of preeclampsia can produce some very serious complications.

Though there is no “cure” for preeclampsia outside of giving birth, a proper diagnosis can help a doctor prepare for and perhaps even avoid more serious complications later.

When preeclampsia is discovered early in the pregnancy it can give the mother a chance at managing the condition with medication to lower blood pressure so that she can carry her baby long enough to give birth by early induction or C-section. Without this knowledge, preeclampsia can become deadly.

Some of the complications an expectant mother may experience include:

  • HELLP syndrome. HELLP stands for “hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count,” as the Mayo clinic explains it. A mother with HELLP syndrome may not survive, as the syndrome is indicative of damage to multiple organs. If left undiagnosed in an expecting mother, the child may also die as a result.
  • Eclampsia. A serious seizure disorder that can develop during the pregnancy or after it, eclampsia often requires the doctor to deliver the baby, even if the mother has not reached a safe place in her pregnancy to do so. The seizures could lead to brain damage, and some children experience skull fractures or developmental delays. It can be fatal to the baby and the mother.
  • Preterm birth. Despite treatment, early delivery might be necessary to avert serious health issues for both the mother and the baby.
  • Placental abruption. A placental abruption occurs when the “placenta peels away from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery.” It can cause internal bleeding in the mother and cut off oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. The oxygen deprivation alone can cause low birth weight, brain damage and premature birth.
  • Heart disease. Preeclampsia can lead to an increased risk of a mother developing cardiovascular and heart disease later in life.
  • Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR): Characterized by inadequate fetal growth in the womb, IUGR may occur when the mother has high blood pressure narrowing blood vessels in the uterus and placenta. Inadequate oxygen and nutrient supply to the baby through the umbilical cord can result in IUGR.
  • Low birthweight: A potential consequence of the aforementioned complications, low birthweight poses health risks for the newborn.

At Paulson & Nace, we understand just how serious the effects of undiagnosed preeclampsia might be. We help protect your rights and your future when an act of medical malpractice puts your life, or the life of your child, in jeopardy. We treat you with the respect and dignity you deserve and offer practical advice and empathetic support during this difficult time.

Do you have a Washington, D.C. birth injury lawyer near me?

Paulson & Nace has an office at 1025 Thomas Jefferson St NW, in Washington, D.C., close to the Washington Harbour in Georgetown. If you are too injured to travel, we can arrange a phone or video consultation.

Strong legal advocates you need when a doctor fails to diagnose preeclampsia

Paulson & Nace, PLLC, is a premier medical malpractice law firm serving victims throughout Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. If your doctor failed to diagnose preeclampsia, thus endangering your life or the life of your baby, we want to hear your story. Please contact Paulson & Nace, PLLC through this contact form or by calling 202.463.1999.