Who’s liable when a misdiagnosed miscarriage leads to a birth injury?
After you saw the positive pregnancy test or suspected that you were pregnant, one of the first things you probably did was schedule a doctor’s appointment to formally identify the pregnancy and begin prenatal care. At one of these early appointments, doctors typically conduct a physical exam and perform some tests to identify whether or not you truly are pregnant. While these tests are generally reliable, there are some times when a doctor might misdiagnose you as having a miscarriage when your pregnancy is still viable.
When this happens, you might continue on with your lifestyle thinking that you no longer need to take the same precautions as you would have if you were pregnant. Sadly, this form of misdiagnosis can cause serious long-term problems for the baby who is still in the most critical stages of development.
Injuries caused by a misdiagnosed miscarriage fall under the category of birth injuries, and understanding how this can happen—along with the potential damages—gives you a better understanding of when you need to reach out to a lawyer.
What is a blighted ovum?
A miscarriage can happen anytime before the 20th week of pregnancy. After that, a pregnancy loss is called a stillbirth. A vast majority of miscarriages occur 2 to 6 weeks after fertilization of the eggs.
After conception, a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall where it begins to form into an embryo. If anything happens to disrupt this process, the fertilized egg stops development and is reabsorbed by your body. This process is called a blighted ovum, or an anembryonic (lacking an embryo) pregnancy. Most of the time, a blighted ovum happens before a woman even knows she is pregnant.
Usually, your body will stop producing pregnancy hormones over time, which will then cause you to begin to experience the symptoms of an early miscarriage.
How is a blighted ovum misdiagnosed?
There are a number of reasons why a blighted ovum can be misdiagnosed.
During an early pregnancy visit, your doctor will typically use an ultrasound to look for signs of a viable pregnancy. If the doctor sees what they believe is an empty embryonic sac, they may tell you that you have a blighted ovum. This can happen if they perform the ultrasound too early.
Current guidelines state that a doctor cannot diagnose a blighted ovum until they can see that the sac has reached a specific size. This helps to ensure that the embryo has had time to grow large enough to see on the ultrasound.
A woman’s physical anatomy can also make it harder for a doctor to make a clear diagnosis. A retroverted uterus is one that tilts slightly. This slight tilt of the uterus can make it harder for a doctor to get a clear view of the embryonic sac on the ultrasound. If a doctor is unsure of whether or not they can see the embryonic sac clearly, then it is best for them to use other methods to check on your pregnancy.
For example, they may request blood testing for hormone levels. Other physicians choose to take a wait-and-see approach by scheduling another ultrasound a week or 2 later before they make a final diagnosis.
There are also times when the dates for the pregnancy are wrong. Many women’s menstrual cycles are longer than 28 days, which can confuse the dates for conception. Being off by even a few days to a week could impact whether or not the embryo is able to be seen on the ultrasound. This is another reason why it is best for a doctor to allow time before they diagnose a blighted ovum simply by ultrasound alone.
What are common blighted ovum symptoms?
A blighted ovum miscarriage often creates symptoms that are similar to menstruation. You may experience bleeding that is red or pink, along with cramping sensations in your abdomen. If you experience any bleeding when you suspect that you are pregnant, you should consult your physician.
In some cases, women suffering from a blighted ovum may also notice that they have more or larger clots during menstruation than they normally do. This is the body’s way of passing out any remaining tissue that developed from the early pregnancy.
Early pregnancy loss will likely generate some degree of these symptoms. Some women might not notice much more than they would with a normal menstrual cycle other than it starting later than normal. Others might experience severe cramping or heavy bleeding.
It is important to know what is normal for your body and to communicate with your physician. If you do not notice these symptoms after a blighted ovum diagnosis, then it is possible you were misdiagnosed. At this point, it is important to consult with a physician to check to see if the pregnancy is still developing.
How do you file a claim for a misdiagnosis?
Sadly, some women may not realize that they have been misdiagnosed until they are much further along in their pregnancy. This could mean missing vital prenatal appointments and abstaining from behaviors and environments that can harm the baby such as drinking alcohol or being exposed to chemicals at work.
Babies from pregnancies that were misdiagnosed as a miscarriage are at higher risk for developing long-term health problems such as learning disabilities, physical abnormalities and stillbirth. Mothers may also experience harm to their health if they have underlying conditions such as preeclampsia that do not receive proper care.
Dealing with a misdiagnosis prevents you from doing the things that you need to do to have a safe and healthy pregnancy. If you or your baby experiences harm after a blighted ovum misdiagnosis, then it is important to reach out to a birth injury lawyer who can begin working on your claim.
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