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Did your doctor ignore the warning signs of preeclampsia?

You could compare the labor and delivery portion of your pregnancy to the landing of an airplane. The whole flight may be smooth, but in the home stretch, any number of issues could arise and cause the plane to crash.

You could say the same about yourself. Somewhere between 5 and 8 percent of women suffer from preeclampsia near the end of their pregnancies. If not treated right away, it could turn into eclampsia or HELLP syndrome, both of which could have dire consequences for you and your baby's health. As it turns out, the best treatment for this condition is the delivery of your baby.

What should your doctor look for?

Your doctor should check for the following signs and symptoms of preeclampsia throughout your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the first few weeks after the birth:

  • Your lower back hurts and you suffer from impaired liver function.
  • Your blood pressure reaches or surpasses 140/90.
  • You suddenly begin gaining four or more pounds a week.
  • You can no longer tolerate bright lights, or you see flashing lights.
  • Your urine contains protein.
  • You experience large amounts of swelling.
  • You experience shortness of breath.
  • Doctor-approved over-the-counter medication doesn't relieve a severe headache.
  • You start vomiting or experiencing nausea.
  • You experience pain in your stomach or the upper right portion of your abdomen.

If you are between appointments and you experience any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor or seek medical attention right away. If it's too soon to deliver your baby, your doctor must perform a delicate balancing act to make sure that the delivery takes place when both of you can safely tolerate it.

What harm could come to you?

If your doctor fails to properly monitor and/or treat your condition, you or your baby could suffer from the following:

  • Your eyes, liver, lungs, kidneys or heart could suffer potentially irreparable damage.
  • Your baby may not have the blood supply to continue to grow, resulting in a low birth weight.
  • Your risk of cardiovascular disease rises.
  • The placenta could separate from the uterine wall. The subsequent blood loss threatens both you and the baby.
  • Your baby may be born prematurely, which could cause complications for him or her that may result in irreparable harm.
  • You could end up with hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count, or HELLP, which harms several organs at once and puts both of your lives in danger. 
  • You could end up with eclampsia, which adds seizures to the above list of symptoms.

Proper monitoring of you and the baby is vital in order to diagnose preeclampsia in enough time to eliminate any harm to you or your baby. Failure of your doctor to do so could constitute medical malpractice.

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