Paul M. D'Amore
Placental Abruption During Labor: Causes, Symptoms, Legal Assistance
Failure to Provide Emergency Treatment Can Cause Life-Long Disability or Death
Placental abruption is relatively uncommon, but when it happens, it can be life-threatening for both mother and child.
Doctors and other pregnancy care providers have a duty to diagnose placental abruption and to take appropriate action as soon as abruption occurs.
What is Placental Abruption?
During a normal pregnancy, the placenta (an organ within the uterus that provides an unborn baby with oxygen and nutrients) remains attached to the uterine wall throughout pregnancy and labor. Once the baby is born, the placenta will separate on its own and pass naturally out of the birth canal.
But in a placental abruption, the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus. Even a partial separation is considered a medical emergency because it threatens the baby’s oxygen supply. The resulting oxygen deprivation (known as birth asphyxia) can result in a number of serious complications or lifelong disabilities, which may include:
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) / neonatal encephalopathy
- Cerebral palsy
- Periventricular leukomalacia
- Learning disabilities and/or developmental delays
Placental abruption can also cause serious, long-term health complications for the mother, including:
- Excessive blood loss
- Kidney failure
- Organ failure
- Blood clotting disorders
- The need for a blood transfusion
- The need for a hysterectomy
Left untreated, placental abruption can result in fatality for the baby and/or the mother.
What Causes Placental Abruption During Labor?
Placental abruption can happen at any time after 20 weeks of gestation, but most cases occur during labor. The cause isn’t always apparent. Known risk factors include:
- Abdominal trauma during pregnancy or labor
- A history of placental abruption not caused by abdominal trauma
- A history of C-section
- Preeclampsia, eclampsia, or maternal hypertension
- Sudden loss of amniotic fluid
- Sudden decompression of the uterus
- Water breaking too soon
- A young mother, or a mother over the age of 40
- Placental puncture
- Problems with the blood vessels in the uterus
- Being pregnant with more than one baby at a time
Placental abruption happens more often with male babies. There is also some evidence to suggest a connection with mothers who smoke or use cocaine.
Doctors should be familiar with the risk factors and monitor closely for complications before and during labor.
Signs & Symptoms of Placental Abruption
Signs and symptoms of placental abruption in the third trimester can include:
- Vaginal bleeding (though not all cases show signs of bleeding)
- Internal bleeding
- Back pain, which may come on suddenly
- Severe abdominal pain, which may come on suddenly
- Firmness or tenderness in the uterine or abdomen
- Contractions that begin happening in quick succession
- Fast heart rate
- Low blood pressure
The above-listed symptoms can also occur during labor. Additional symptoms of placental abruption during labor might include:
- Signs of fetal distress
- Excessive bleeding during labor
- Unusually long-lasting labor contractions
Legal Assistance for Victims of Placental Abruption
Health care providers should monitor their patients carefully and take immediate action upon identifying any signs or symptoms of placental abruption.
Because abruption can occur suddenly, even in patients with no known risk factors, it is critical that doctors and nurses be familiar with the appropriate treatment protocols, which may include emergency C-section.
Doctors should also warn mothers who are at heightened risk of placental abruption and carefully monitor their vital signs throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery, ordering blood work and conducting comprehensive diagnostics as needed.
If you, your child, or your loved one has been severely or permanently injured because of a preventable or improperly treated placental abruption, you may be entitled to substantial financial compensation for your suffering.
To find out whether you have a case for medical malpractice after a placental abruption, please contact D’Amore Law right away. Our experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorneys are ready to fight for your family’s rights.
Call 410-324-2000 or contact us online to get started with a free consultation today.