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What happens when your doctor doesn't treat your preeclampsia?

Pregnancy can be a beautiful, joyful experience, but it can also bring with it significant risks to the mother and her unborn baby. In addition to everything that can go wrong during the delivery of the child itself, the mother can develop a number of dangerous medical conditions during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia is relatively rare, but it is still a noteworthy risk that affects some pregnant women. Your physician should monitor you for preeclampsia during your pregnancy, and the hospital staff should monitor you for late-onset preeclampsia during labor and delivery. Failing to check you for preeclampsia and treat you for its symptoms could have long-term, potentially fatal consequences.

What does preeclampsia do to your body?

The symptoms of preeclampsia include elevated blood pressure, inflammation or swelling of the lower extremities, and high levels of protein in the pregnant woman's urine. Those proteins are a warning sign of potential organ damage. Heightened blood pressure during pregnancy can result in a number of symptoms, including increased risk of stroke or seizures.

Preeclampsia can also cause damage to other major organ systems, including the liver and kidneys which help filter your blood. The condition increases your risk of an early birth, the unexpected separation of the placenta from the uterine wall and even future medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.

In most women, preeclampsia begins in the second half of pregnancy, although it can start at any point in the process. Preeclampsia can result in increased nausea and vomiting, headaches, abdominal pain, fluid in the lungs and a decrease in platelets, which can cause bleeding issues and hemorrhage. Your physician should talk with you about symptoms that could indicate preeclampsia at every appointment and carefully screen you for signs of this dangerous condition.

How should your doctor manage preeclampsia?

Serious preeclampsia endangers the life and health of both mother and unborn baby. When the mother is over 32 weeks, the most common practice among physicians is to order the immediate delivery of the child. In some cases, doctors may induce a mother to deliver many weeks before she reaches that safe point of 32 weeks of fetal development.

Other times, if the preeclampsia diagnosis comes too early in the pregnancy, the doctor may recommend bed rest or even prescribe medication to help counter the immediate impact of the condition. Untreated preeclampsia could lead to severe medical events in the mother during or after labor and delivery.

Strokes and seizures could cause neurological damage or prove fatal. Hemorrhaging during or after delivery could also cost a mother her life. Mothers who had to deal with the medical consequences of untreated preeclampsia or surviving family members who lost a pregnant loved one to the condition may be able to hold the doctor or hospital involved responsible for the tragic outcome.

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