Maternal Mortality: A Face Behind in the Numbers
Maternal mortality is a significant ongoing issue facing Americans. Although advances in medicine provide doctors with more effective tools for diagnosing and treating illness and disease, some of the simplest measures are falling through the cracks, and expectant mothers are often left to suffer the consequences.
A recent investigation by USA Today found that thousands of women are suffering serious injuries and death during childbirth because of basic, yet vital safety practices that hospitals and medical professionals are simply failing to execute. One of the most common examples of this appalling phenomenon is the failure of doctors and nurses to respond to high blood pressure spikes during and after delivery.
When a woman’s blood pressure becomes elevated during labor and delivery or after giving birth, this is a dangerous situation that must be addressed immediately. Allowing high blood pressure to continue untreated can lead to a build up of pressure in the brain and ultimately, a stroke.
Thousands of women suffer brain hemorrhages resulting in permanent injuries, paralysis, and even death because doctors and nurses did not consistently monitor or respond to increasing blood pressure after childbirth. In fact, USA Today found that approximately 50,000 mothers suffer severe birth-related injuries and 700 die because of labor and delivery errors each and every year. But who are these women? What if one of them was your mother, your sister, your wife?
Fronzuto Law Group is currently representing one such woman, who lost her life due to pure inaction by the doctors and nurses tasked with protecting her health and safety. Here is a glimpse into a real-life story of maternal mortality in New Jersey.
High Blood Pressure Resulting in One Mother’s Death
Marlenes Teixeira arrived at Trinitas Hospital in Union County on February 2, 2017, to deliver her twin boys. She delivered her sons via cesarean section at approximately 6:30 p.m that evening. One hour post-delivery, Marlenes’ blood pressure spiked and she began complaining of nausea, vomiting, and a frontal headache. Each of these symptoms is a feature of preeclampsia, a dangerous condition that increases the risk of stroke in pregnant and postpartum women.
Marlenes’ severely elevated blood pressure began about an hour after delivery and continued untreated for hours. Instead of treating her acute hypertension with blood pressure lowering medication, the doctor and monitoring nurses allowed the condition to progress until she bled into her brain. Just a few short hours after giving birth to her twins, Marlenes lost all feeling on the left side of her body and became verbally unresponsive.
She was sent for a CT scan, which revealed she had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. Marlenes was transferred to another hospital, where she underwent brain surgery. She remained in a coma until she died from complications resulting from the bleeding in her brain.
The message here is unequivocal: had doctors and nurses effectively responded to Marlenes’ preeclampsia after she gave birth, the outcome of this tragic story would have been vastly different. The stroke that this mother suffered was a preventable event, had medical professionals administered the appropriate blood pressure lowering medication.
Preeclampsia & Eclampsia as a Cause of Maternal Mortality
Although it seems entirely unbelievable, scenarios like the one above can – and do – occur frequently among women in the United States. The USA Today investigation discovered that the two leading causes of maternal injuries and deaths are hypertension and severe bleeding, or hemorrhaging.
Consider the following: 60 percent of maternal deaths resulting from high blood pressure during childbirth involved bp results above 160/110, according to the USA Today investigation. At or above 140/90 mm Hg is considered the standard for defining hypertension. In many of these cases, blood pressure advances to intracranial pressure, resulting in severe brain hemorrhaging.
Unsurprisingly, extreme blood loss is the second major cause of serious maternal injuries and deaths during and after labor and delivery. 90 percent of these deaths could have been prevented, had medical professionals taken timely and appropriate action, USA Today found.
Checking for Signs of Preeclampsia
Maternal hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the primary features of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia typically occurs in the third trimester or within the first six weeks after delivery. One of the most deadly complications of preeclampsia is eclampsia, which manifests in seizures and/or unexplained coma during pregnancy or postpartum. Eclampsia occurs in women who exhibit the symptoms of preeclampsia, underscoring the need for doctors to remain acutely aware of these signs while caring for mothers before and after childbirth.
What Can be Done?
It is imperative that hospitals and doctors are extremely conscious of the risks associated with maternal hypertension pre and post-partum. The statistics paint a clear picture of the devastating effects of mismanaged high blood pressure before, during, and after childbirth. With timely medical intervention, thousands of mothers’ lives could be saved every year in the United States.
Unfortunately, preeclampsia related medical negligence does occur in New Jersey and across the country. Women like Marlenes Teixeira serve as painful reminders of what can happen when doctors, nurses, and hospitals fail to uphold the standard of care. When these tragedies do occur, the law serves as a vital tool for holding professionals and institutions accountable. It also provides an avenue for obtaining the compensation families need to pay for medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, and the many tangible and intangible losses resulting from the injuries and deaths of their loved ones.
At Fronzuto Law Group, our law firm is committed to doing what we can for victims of medical malpractice in New Jersey. We fight for justice and just compensation everyday on behalf of Marlenes and the many others who experience such tragic loss as a result of medical errors. For additional information about preeclampsia related injuries and the legal options available for victims in New Jersey, contact our office anytime at 973-435-4551. We provide answers and free case evaluations, so please do not hesitate.