Preeclampsia is a complication that occurs during pregnancy and that is characterized by high blood pressure and possible damage to the kidneys and liver. Typically, preeclampsia develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It can occur even in women who have maintained healthy blood pressure levels leading up to and during pregnancy. According to Mayo Clinic, if left untreated, preeclampsia can have dangerous and even fatal consequences for both other and baby. Unfortunately, the most effective way to treat preeclampsia is to deliver the baby, regardless of its gestational age.
Undiagnosed preeclampsia can have severe and life-threatening complications. For the baby, preeclampsia can result in fetal growth restriction, which occurs when the placenta, and therefore, the baby, does not receive enough blood and oxygen. Lack of blood and oxygen can result in slow growth, low birth weight and premature birth.
Placental abruption is another common side-effect of undiagnosed preeclampsia. Placental abruption happens when the placenta detaches from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery. This can lead to severe bleeding, which can be life-threatening to both baby and mom.
If left untreated, preeclampsia can develop into HELLP, which stands for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count. This is a more severe form of preeclampsia and is characterized by nausea and vomiting, upper abdominal pain and headache. It can quickly become life-threatening. Preeclampsia may also develop into eclampsia, the symptoms of which include seizures.
Finally, preeclampsia that goes unmanaged may result in damage to the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs or eyes. It may cause stroke or brain injury, and may increase a mother’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.
According to FindLaw, failure to diagnose and properly manage preeclampsia is often considered an act of negligence. If the negligence results in injury to the mother or baby or both, negligence elevates to malpractice. If the mother dies as a failure for medical staff to diagnose, the provider may face wrongful death charges. If a person or family suffers from preeclampsia complications that a provider should have detected and treated, the patient or family may sue for damages.