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Failure to Diagnose Placental Abruption

By November 2, 2015 No Comments

About Placental Abruption

Placenta Abruption Birth Injury Los AngelesThe placenta (also known as afterbirth) is an organ that connects the developing fetus to the uterine wall to allow nutrient uptake, waste elimination, and gas exchange via the mother’s blood supply. In addition to nourishing the fetus, the placenta also helps fight against internal infection and produces hormones to support the pregnancy.

In normal pregnancies, the placenta does not separate until immediately after birth.  In pregnancies complicated by abruption, the placenta begins to detach before birth. Sometimes detachment is partial; other times the placenta completely separates and becomes an immediate life-threatening medical emergency.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Placental Abruption

Premature detachment of the placenta often produces symptomatic pain (which may be felt in the back or abdomen) and vaginal bleeding. These symptoms often begin suddenly and pain may also be accompanied by rapid premature uterine contractions.

Any pregnant woman who experiences these symptoms should immediately contact her doctor or go the the emergency room.  Pain and bleeding — even in the absence of premature contractions — are the two class signs of placental abruption and your doctor should always take your concerns seriously because seeking immediate treatment for placental abruption may affect the outcome of the pregnancy.

It is important to note that symptoms and the degree of symptoms varies among pregnant women so you should never hesitate to report any troubling or usual symptom — no matter how small — to your doctor immediately.

Your doctor may wish to perform a pelvic exam to assess your situation and your baby and may also want to do an ultrasound, however, placental abruptions do not always show up on ultrasounds so they should not be relied up to completely rule out this serious medical condition.

Causes and Risk Factors

The etiology of spontaneous placental abruption is still being studied.  However, it is know that trauma can cause separation of the placenta.  Women who have been in a car accident, suffered a fall, or blow to the back or abdomen should seek immediately medical treatment to make sure that she and her baby are fine.

The following are some of the known risks and causes of placental abruption:

  • Having a history of a previous placental abruption
  • Maternal high blood pressure
  • Trauma to the abdomen
  • Substance abuse
  • Premature rupture of the membranes
  • Maternal blood-clotting disorders
  • Multiple pregnancy (carrying more than one fetus)
  • Maternal age (Placental abruption is more common in older women, especially after age 40.)

How is placental abruption treated?

Placental abruption can deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients and cause heavy bleeding in the mother. Treatment varies depending upon how far a woman is in her pregnancy.  Bed rest may be indicated, or, if the woman is near-term she may be given an emergency c-section.

If a baby is less than 34 weeks gestational age, it would be unlikely to survive outside the womb.  If the baby is otherwise doing well, and the abruption is only partial, the mother may be put on bed rest to see if the bleeding stops.  She may also be given drugs to help speed up the process of lung development in her fetus so that her baby will have a better chance of survival if born premature.

If the baby is near-term, a vaginal birth may still be possible, however, if the bleeding cannot be stopped, the mother may require a c-section and a hysterectomy.  Although she should be able to keep her ovaries, a hysterectomy will mean she can no longer bear children.  Women how suffer placental abruption can suffer significant blood loss and may also need a blood transfusion to prevent shock and death.

Associated Health Risks to Mother and Fetus

Placental abruption is a serious complication during pregnancy in which the placenta detaches prematurely from the womb (uterus).  Left untreated, placental abruption has high risks of harming both the mother and her fetus:

  • Maternal Risks: Massive blood loss which can result in shock, disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, renal failure, and, even maternal death.  If bleeding cannot be controlled, the mother might need to have a hysterectomy to save her life.
  • Fetus Risks: Premature birth, internal organ and brain damage, and stillbirth (perinatal mortality as high as 60 percent when placental abruption occurs.)


Based on study findings of 7.5 million singleton births, the following statistics were reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology:

  • Each year there are approximately 200,000 cases of reported placental abruption in pregnant women in the United States.
  • Placental abruption occurring in about 0.6–1.0 percent of pregnancies
  • The mortality rate for a fetus when the mother has suffered placental abruption is 60%.
  • Women in the age group of 19-40 have the highest overall numbers of placental abruption, which is not surprising as this is the age group representing the largest number of pregnancies, however, women over 40 simply based on their age, have an increased risk for many types of pregnancy and birth complications including placental abruption.

Birth Injury Medical Malpractice Attorneys With an Impressive Track Record

In 2004, Thomas E. Donahue’s clients recovered $4,500,000 from a hospital as a result of malpractice by the nursing staff. The case involved a term pregnant mother who was at home when she started experiencing contractions. However, shortly before she arrived at the hospital the pain became severe and unrelenting. She went immediately went to labor and delivery and told the admitting nurse that she had severe pain and that something was wrong.

The nurse failed to call the obstetrician and proceeded as though there was no emergency. After a significant delay, the nurse started monitoring the fetal heart rate and saw the fetus was in distress. The nurse notified the obstetrician.

Prior to the attending obstetrician’s arrival at the hospital, another obstetrician on the unit intervened and delivered the child by c-section and saved the child’s life. Unfortunately, the child suffered severe brain injury from a lack of oxygen and requires round the clock and will be permanently disabled for life. The child and his parents received $4,500,000.

If your doctor failed to diagnose or properly treat placental abruption, and you or your baby suffered harm as a result, call us today to get the legal support you need.  Caring for a child with a disability or brain injury is a life-long commitment and those responsible should be held accountable so that you won’t have to worry about the costs associated with ensuring your child’s needs are met for the rest of his/her life.

Contact our Los Angeles law firm today to schedule a free initial legal consultation and take the first step towards ensuring your child’s financial needs will be met so that you can focus on providing the love and support your child needs.

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