Pre-eclampsia and the risk of birth injuries
Pre-eclampsia is a condition that can affect women after 20 weeks of pregnancy and, if not treated, can cause serious or even fatal complications for both mother and baby. It involves high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine.
The only way to intervene effectively against pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby. This may require induced labor or a c-section in some cases. But failure to do so when symptoms indicate it may constitute medical malpractice.
Two weeks ago, on the hit television show Downton Abbey, a character died of eclampsia after the lead doctor dithered despite obvious signs that a c-section was desperately needed. To be sure, Downton is set 100 years ago. Yet eclampsia is still a problem today and takes the lives of about 300 women a year.
Accordingly, research into the condition continues. In one recent study, for example, Swedish researchers found an association between higher levels of exposure to ozone during the trimester of pregnancy and increased rates of pre-eclampsia and preterm birth.
This finding adds to already established evidence that has found a connection between air pollution levels and preterm birth. Researchers are trying to identify how air pollution and other factors may contribute to pre-eclampsia and other types of adverse pregnancy outcomes.
No matter what causes pre-eclampsia, however, it is clear that its presence must put doctors on notice on two different levels. For the baby, the possibility of a lack of blood flow to the placenta could lead to oxygen deprivation and associated complications. At the very least, a preterm birth implicates the need for vigilant neonatal care.
Moreover, both baby and mother are at risk if the mother’s pre-clampsia becomes eclampsia. Symptoms of eclampsia in the mother can include seizures and severe abdominal pain. If left untreated, it can be fatal or cause severe brain damage.
Source: “Pre-eclampsia Risk Linked to Ozone Levels,” Medpage Today, Charles Bankhead, 2-6-13