Learn when placenta previa complications may be medical malpractice
During pregnancy, the placenta grows in the uterus, helping to provide nutrients and oxygen to your growing baby. Ideally, the placenta will grow at the top or side of the uterus, but there are times when it doesn’t.
Placenta previa is a condition that can complicate your labor and delivery, and understanding what it is and how medical professionals handle the condition can help you make informed decisions about your care.
What is placenta previa?
During your prenatal checkups, your doctor can check for the position of the placenta using imaging scans. If they find that it’s growing on the bottom of the uterus or just over the cervix, they may give you a placenta previa diagnosis.
For many women, the placenta might initially attach lower in the uterus but move up over time. However, about 1 out of every 200 pregnancies will involve the placenta staying too low or over the cervix throughout the entire pregnancy.
What are the symptoms of placenta previa?
Painless vaginal bleeding (sometimes called spotting) is the most common and often the first symptom of placenta previa that women experience. This can happen when the uterus expands to accommodate the growing baby as the pregnancy progresses, causing the placenta to separate slightly, which disrupts the blood vessels along the bottom of the uterus and within the cervix, causing spotting.
Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy can also occur for other reasons, which is why it’s so important for physicians to conduct a thorough exam to determine what is causing the symptom.
What are the causes and risk factors for placenta previa?
There currently isn’t a single defined cause for placenta previa, but there are risk factors that can clue a physician into the possibility that you might develop this condition. Those at an increased risk of developing placenta previa include women who:
- Are over the age of 35
- Smoke cigarettes
- Use certain drugs
- Have had previous surgeries on their reproductive organs, including cesarean sections (C-sections) and dilation and curettage (D&C) procedures
Your doctor will also want to keep a closer eye on the location of your placenta if you’ve had this condition in the past or are pregnant with multiples.
What complications are associated with placenta previa?
The majority of complications that occur with this condition happen during labor and delivery. During a normal labor, the cervix thins and opens up so that the baby can pass through it. The placenta then follows at the final stage of labor and delivery.
- Hemorrhage. When the placenta blocks the opening to the cervix, this process gets disrupted. The movement of the placenta as the cervix thins can cause blood vessels to break, which leads to excessive bleeding and the possibility of hemorrhage.
- Brain injury from lack of oxygen. In some cases, the movement of the placenta prematurely can lead to a lack of oxygen for the baby, and this can impact their brain health.
- Emergency C-section. Women with unaddressed placenta previa are also at risk of requiring an emergency C-section, which heightens the health risks to both the mother and their baby.
- Stillbirth. The most severe placenta previa complications that can arise from this condition is fetal distress that could cause stillbirth, and there is also an increased risk of death for the mother.
How do doctors diagnose placenta previa?
Doctors should take a cautious approach when examining women who have vaginal bleeding or a suspected case of placenta previa during pregnancy. While a digital examination can provide insight into whether a woman has a placental abruption, it can cause serious issues with placenta previa that include detachment of the placenta or excessive bleeding.
For this reason, doctors should opt to use an ultrasound imaging scan first. This can help them locate the placenta in the uterus and check on the positioning of the baby.
If a vaginal examination is needed, the doctor may use a speculum cautiously to ensure that the bleeding isn’t coming from the vagina or lower parts of the cervix.
What types of placenta previa treatment are available?
The treatment options can vary according to the timing of the discovery of placenta previa and the other symptoms the mother is experiencing. Since the placenta is likely to move up as the pregnancy progresses, careful monitoring might be all that a woman needs up until around 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Cases of placenta previa that continue into the 2nd half of pregnancy might be treated with the following:
- Closer monitoring
- Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding any activity that could trigger uterine contractions
Once the pregnancy reaches the point where delivery can be performed, most doctors will recommend a planned C-section delivery. This allows for both the baby and placenta to be delivered with less of a risk of serious bleeding and oxygen deprivation.
When is a doctor responsible for injuries resulting from placenta previa?
Doctors have a duty to provide pregnant women with a standard of care that any other reasonable professional with similar licensure and training would provide under the same circumstances.
A doctor that fails to identify or ignores placenta previa once it’s identified could be held responsible for the complications that occur during or after labor and delivery. Your doctor’s treatment methods may also be questioned if you experience severe blood loss or your baby develops signs of oxygen deprivation after birth.
When to contact a birth injury lawyer
Experiencing delivery complications leaves you physically and emotionally vulnerable during a time when you should be celebrating the birth of your baby.
If you or your baby experienced complications from placenta previa, reach out to a birth injury attorney to help guide you through the steps of getting compensation for your injuries and future medical needs.
At Brown Trial Firm, attorney Laura Brown has years of experience in birth injury law, helping families like yours all across the U.S. get the compensation they deserve. If you need help with your birth injury lawsuit, contact us today for your free consultation.
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