Learn when placenta abruption complications may be medical malpractice
The placenta is an organ that only grows during pregnancy and serves as a lifeline that delivers nutrients and oxygen to your baby as you eat and breathe.
Most of the time, the placenta attaches itself to the wall of the uterus, where it stays until the last stage of labor. Unfortunately, in about 1 percent of pregnancies, this natural process can sometimes be disrupted and lead to placental abruption.
Learning about this pregnancy complication can help you know what to watch out for and how to handle a situation that leads to a potential birth injury.
What is placental abruption?
A placental abruption occurs when the placenta prematurely separates from the uterine wall before delivery. Usually, this happens during the last trimester, but it can also occur anytime after you’ve reached 20 weeks of pregnancy.
In a mild case, only a small portion of the placenta comes off of the uterine wall. In more severe cases, the placenta might detach from the uterine wall completely.
The placenta plays a vital role in the development of a fetus during pregnancy. There are many serious pregnancy complications involving the placenta, like placental abruption and placenta previa, that can occur before and during labor.
What are the symptoms of placental abruption?
Placental abruptions typically happen suddenly, and you might be fine one minute and suddenly deeply concerned about your pregnancy the next.
Placental abruption symptoms include the following:
- Abdominal and/or back pain that begins quickly and without any clear cause
- Vaginal bleeding, although not all women experience visible blood loss at first
Occasionally, the symptoms appear gradually. Some women might experience light, intermittent bleeding and cramping. In these cases, there may also be other signs that the condition is developing, such as having low amniotic fluid or poor fetal growth.
What are the causes and risk factors for placental abruption?
The causes of many cases of placental abruption are unknown. However, the following risk factors increase the chances of placental abruption during pregnancy:
- Trauma. However, trauma to the abdomen is often to blame for the placenta’s attachment becoming disrupted. Women who have recently sustained a serious fall, a major car accident or another form of trauma may need immediate medical care to check on the status and location of their placenta.
- Maternal health issues. Pregnant women may also be at a higher risk of having a placental abruption if they have certain health issues, such as high blood pressure or a uterine infection.
- Smoking or using certain drugs. Smoking and using cocaine also raise your risk of developing this complication.
- Maternal age. If you are over the age of 40, you have an increased risk of developing placental abruption.
- History of placental abruption. If you’ve had a placental abruption in the past, then your doctor might give you high-risk status as well.
Uterine hyperstimulation or hypertonic uterine dysfunction is a serious complication of labor induction. It can occur with excessive use of Pitocin during labor. If your baby suffered serious injuries, talk to an attorney today.
What complications could a mother and baby face from placental abruption?
People often ask: How long can an unborn baby survive after placental abruption?
The answer to this can vary according to the severity and the overall health of the developing fetus. If the abruption is mild, then it’s possible for the baby to develop normally with proper care.
In more severe cases, the infant could experience the following:
- Restricted growth
- A lack of oxygen
- Premature birth
Maternal complications from placental abruption
Mothers are also at risk for health complications that could impact their delivery and recovery.
- Shock. The blood loss from placental abruption can sometimes be severe enough to cause shock in the mother, requiring a blood transfusion. In rare cases, this can result in death.
- Organ damage. If the blood loss is extreme, there could also be damage to the kidneys and other organs.
- Infertility. In severe cases, a woman might need a hysterectomy that prevents her from experiencing future pregnancies along with other long-term health changes.
Is there a treatment for placental abruption?
Currently, there is no way to place the placenta back on the uterine wall once it starts to detach. Instead, treatments are designed to reduce the potential strain on the fetus and mother.
- Mild cases might require you to undergo additional monitoring during your pregnancy that may involve staying in the hospital for a period of time.
- Severe cases might require you to give birth right away. In these cases, doctors can sometimes administer medications that are called corticosteroids to help the baby’s lungs and other organs develop faster.
How do doctors diagnose placental abruption?
Doctors can check for placental abruption on ultrasound. While medical imaging tests can identify most cases, there is still the possibility for milder abruptions to be undetectable with an ultrasound alone.
Doctors might also respond to the symptoms by checking for other signs of an abruption, such as changes in the baby’s heart rate or growth patterns.
Is placental abruption preventable?
You can’t always prevent things (such as a car accident) that lead to placental abruption. But you can take precautions, including wearing a seatbelt and avoiding recreational activities that could lead to abdominal injuries.
Pregnant women can also eliminate risk factors by quitting smoking and following their treatment plan for conditions such as hypertension.
When is a doctor responsible for injuries resulting from placental abruption?
During your pregnancy, you rely on your medical team to take your symptoms seriously and make informed decisions regarding your health.
A doctor might be responsible for injuries that result from a placenta abruption if they failed to make decisions that a reasonable person in an equivalent position would be expected to make.
For instance, a doctor that didn’t respond properly to a baby’s dropping heart rate or a mother’s excessive bleeding might have made decisions that increased the risk of complications during a placental abruption.
When to contact a birth injury lawyer
Things can happen so fast during and after a placental abruption that you might not have time to fully process the series of events that occurred during your baby’s birth. Or you might be facing the consequences of complications and are wondering if your doctor could have prevented them.
Talking to a birth injury attorney can help you find a neutral party that can work on your behalf to investigate if medical negligence impacted your pregnancy’s outcome.
If you or your baby experienced complications from placental abruption, 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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