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Why doctors often miss the signs of amniotic fluid embolisms

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2020 | Birth Injury

Pregnancy is a complex physiological process. A woman’s body must grow an entirely new life form. That means diverting nutrition to the developing baby and making room for its ever-increasing size.

Most of the time, the natural processes of pregnancy and labor occur with few complications. However, when things go wrong, the outcome can be devastating for mother or child. The very systems and bodily functions that help create and nurture an unborn child could put the mother at serious risk.

Especially during labor and immediately after birth, doctors need to monitor mothers for the signs of an amniotic fluid embolism.

What is an amniotic fluid embolism?

The amniotic fluid is the liquid that surrounds an unborn child. It plays several important roles for the unborn child. Unfortunately, if amniotic fluid enters the mother’s bloodstream, it could endanger her life.

Trauma, including blunt force trauma from abuse or the trauma of labor, can force amniotic fluid into a mother’s bloodstream. Doctors should watch carefully for warning signs that this may have occurred in order to take immediate action if necessary.

Some warning signs of amniotic fluid embolism include:

  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Issues with blood clotting
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Chills
  • Fast heartbeat or arrhythmia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizure
  • Fetal distress

Without quick treatment, a patient could develop a brain injury. It’s also possible for the mother or child to die. A long hospital stay may be necessary for both mother and baby after an embolism, which can be expensive.

Doctors don’t always watch for signs of worst-case outcomes

The practice of medicine involves applying book knowledge and personal experience to make good decisions about patient care. Given that amniotic fluid embolisms are rare, physicians might begin overlooking the signs of these potential medical emergencies because they have never encountered one before. Still, they are common enough for doctors to carefully screen for them.

When doctors fail to notice severe issues in labor or during postpartum recovery, their patients may suffer as a result. Medical malpractice laws exist in part to give people an option for seeking justice and compensation when a birth injury affects their family.