Birth injuries often arise in the setting of untreated preeclampsia. The Preeclampsia Foundation states that “[p]reeclampsia and related disorders such as HELLP syndrome and eclampsia are most often characterized by a rapid rise in blood pressure that can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure and death of the mother and/or baby.” A recent report of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) contains a significant change in the diagnostic criteria for preeclampsia.
The ACOG Taskforce advised that the diagnosis of preeclampsia no longer requires the presence of proteinuria, or spillage of protein in the urine. According to ACOG, if proteinuria is absent, preeclampsia nonetheless should be diagnosed when hypertension occurs with any of the following: thrombocytopenia, impaired liver function, renal insufficiency, pulmonary edema or cerebral or visual disturbances.
ACOG also recommends that OBs screen patients by taking a thorough medical history to look for the following risk factors:
- Previous history of preeclampsia
- Multiple gestation (i.e., pregnant with more than one baby)
- History of chronic high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease or organ transplant
- First pregnancy
- Obesity, particularly with Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater.
- Over 40 or under 18 years of age
- Family history of preeclampsia
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Lupus or other autoimmune disorders
- In-vitro fertilization
- Sickle cell disease
According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, “early diagnosis through simple screening measures and good prenatal care can predict or delay many adverse maternal outcomes of preeclampsia. Prompt treatment saves lives.” Often, the only viable treatment is prompt delivery of the baby. Under Ohio law, if a physician delays the diagnosis and treatment of preeclampsia or its complications, a claim for medical malpractice may exist when the delay results in birth injuries or wrongful death.