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When preeclampsia goes undiagnosed

Preeclampsia is a condition that develops in pregnant women or women who recently gave birth and is one of the top causes of maternal mortality. Preeclampsia is characterized by the sudden surge in blood pressure and can result in stroke, seizure, multiple organ failure and, if left untreated, death of the mother and/or the baby. If a woman develops signs of preeclampsia, her health care provider should respond quickly and appropriately to prevent any adverse outcomes from befalling on the family. 

According to Penn Medicine, knowing the symptoms of preeclampsia is crucial, especially for women who are at high risk for developing the disorder. High-risk women include those who have chronic hypertension, live with certain medical conditions, such as lupus, or have had preeclampsia in previous pregnancies. Symptoms of preeclampsia include high blood pressure, headache, blurred vision, upper abdominal pain, swelling of the hands, feet and face, shortness of breath and vomiting. The condition affects 5% to 8% of women. 

A trained physician should be able to diagnose preeclampsia after a routine blood pressure reading taken during a routine prenatal checkup. According to FindLaw, a blood pressure reading of 140/90 should serve as cause for alarm and warrant additional monitoring. If a second reading taken four hours later reveals similar findings, the readings may indicate preeclampsia. At that point, the doctor should order urine, blood and ultrasound tests. 

Should a provider fail to recognize the symptoms of preeclampsia and order sufficient testing and treatment, the condition can cause major problems for the mother and baby. If it does, the mother and/or baby may have a cause of action for medical malpractice. If the mother and/or baby dies as a result of the provider’s negligence, the family may wish to sue for medical malpractice. 

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