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Yes, bleeding during pregnancy may cause injury to the baby. Bleeding during pregnancy can be caused by a number of factors. One very serious condition that can cause bleeding is placental abruption (though abruption can also occur without visible bleeding).
What is a placental abruption?
The placenta is an organ that connects the baby to the wall of the womb (uterus). Some of the placenta’s important functions include delivering nutrients and oxygen to the baby. Nutrients and oxygen travel from the mother to the placenta, and then through the umbilical cord to the baby. A placental abruption occurs when the placenta separates from the womb. The separation can be partial or complete. If the separation is complete, the baby will be totally cut off from the mother’s circulation and will therefore not be receiving any nutrients or oxygen, nor will the baby be able to get rid of waste products, such as carbon dioxide.
Risk factors for placental abruption
If a woman has risk factors for placental abruption, medical professionals should be monitoring and administering care accordingly. Risk factors for placental abruption can include, but are not limited to (2,3):
- Preeclampsia or high blood pressure. This is the most common cause of placental abruption, occurring in about 44% of cases.
- Trauma or contractions during labor
- Labor induction drugs such as Pitocin and Cytotec increase the risk of placental abruption because they cause uterine tachysystole (a complication in which contractions are stronger, more frequent, or longer-lasting; this can cause the placenta to tear away from the uterus).
- Sudden decompression of the uterus from events such as the delivery of the first child in a multiples birth or premature rupture of membranes (mother’s water breaking too soon)
- Accidental puncture of the placenta from a needle (e.g. amniocentesis)
- Chorioamnionitis (an infection of the two membranes of the placenta – the chorion and the amnion – and the amniotic fluid.)
- Abnormal uterine blood vessels
- Previous placental abruption
- Mother over the age of 35 or younger than 20
- Male baby
Signs of placental abruption
Signs of placental abruption can include:
- Bleeding during the second half of pregnancy or excessive bleeding during labor
- Mild or intense abdominal pain
- Back pain
- Uterine contractions during labor that last longer than normal
- Uterine irritability
- Uterus that becomes hard to the touch during labor
- Disproportionately enlarged uterus
- Identification of bleeding behind the placenta (retroplacental hematoma) on ultrasound
- Debris in the amniotic fluid, thickened placenta, and collection of fluid around the maternal-fetal membranes on ultrasound
- Blood tests, such as a fibrinogen level and DIC, can help reveal the degree of abruption and bleeding.
- Maternal low blood pressure (hypotension) and fetal heart rate abnormalities suggest significant placental separation that could result in severe oxygen deprivation or death.
Small amounts of bleeding can signal a larger problem
Bleeding can be concealed and therefore not escape through the vagina; thus, when abdominal pain and uterine contractions are present, a patient should be carefully evaluated for abruption even if there is minimal or no vaginal bleeding.
When should I contact an attorney?
If your child has a birth injury caused by mismanaged placental abruption, they may be eligible for compensation through a birth injury lawsuit. This compensation can cover their medical treatments, caretaking expenses, assistive technology (e.g. mobility equipment), and other forms of support they may require throughout their lifetime.
It is very important to choose the right lawyer: one who is highly experienced in this specific type of litigation and genuinely cares about helping your family. The attorneys at ABC Law Centers have handled birth injury cases exclusively for over 25 years.
Contact us any time for a FREE consultation.