Complications of Pre-eclampsia

August 30, 2017

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that some women experience during the second half of their pregnancy or shortly after the baby is born. It is characterised by high blood pressure (hypertension), protein in your urine (proteinuria) and fluid retention (oedema).

Mild pre-eclampsia affects around 6% of women. Serious cases are a lot rarer, only affecting 1-2% of women. Complications arising out of pre-eclampsia can be very serious. These include:

  • Eclampsia (fits) - This usually occurs after 20 weeks or after the baby has been born. This is quite a rare complication in the UK but also a dangerous one and can be harmful to both mother and baby. Magnesium Sulphate is now used to reduce harm to the mother after eclampsia or to prevent it in women who are at risk;
  • HELLP Syndrome – this most commonly occurs after the baby is born but can occur any time after 20 weeks and in some cases before 20 weeks. It is a condition affecting the liver and causes issues with blood clotting. This can be as high risk as eclampsia and is actually slightly more common. The only treatment is to deliver the baby as early as possible. Once the baby has been born and the mother is receiving treatment in hospital, she can make a full recovery;
  • Stroke – this is where there is not enough blood reaching the brain and is as a result of the high blood pressure associated with pre-eclampsia. When the brain doesn’t get enough blood it is starved of oxygen and other nutrients that the blood contains. This can cause permanent brain damage and even death;
  • Organ Problems – Pulmonary Oedema (liquid building up in the lungs), Kidney Failure (kidneys unable to filter the blood), Liver Failure (causing issues with digesting proteins, fats, producing bile and removing toxins);
  • Blood Clotting Disorder – Either resulting in too much or not enough clotting in the blood.

As the complications can be extremely dangerous and life threatening to both mother and baby, it is essential that pre-eclampsia is diagnosed early. Blood pressure and protein levels in the urine are tested in antenatal appointments and therefore any symptoms should be detected by your midwife.

The only way of curing pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby, which means following a diagnosis, you will have to remain in hospital until your baby is born. Whilst in hospital you and your baby will be monitored very closely. Labour will usually be induced at around 37 or 38 weeks or a caesarean section may be required. If the condition has worsened prior to 37 weeks, the baby may need to be delivered earlier, resulting in a premature birth, which comes with its own risks.

After the birth, both mother and baby may still need to be monitored. Blood pressure will be checked regularly, even after being discharged from hospital. Any medication prescribed may need to be continued. A couple of months after your baby is born your GP will assess whether or not medication and monitoring is still necessary.

At Metcalfes, our team of experienced medical negligence solicitors are here to sensitively help guide you through any potential claims you may have. We deal with all areas of medical negligence including maternal birth injuries. If you think that you or a loved one has suffered as a result of medical negligence, we may be able to help. Please contact us on 0117 239 8012.  Alternatively, you can email us by using our online contact form and we will be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.

Further Reading

Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Posted by

Complications of Pre-eclampsia

Gillian Clark

arrowarrow-leftburgerLarge M Inc BD Logo - transparentchevroncloseUntitled-2iconmonstr-facebook-6 (1)tick