Is Polyhydramnios Dangerous For A Baby?


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Polyhydramnios, or excessive accumulation of amniotic fluid, is a condition that affects about one to two percent of pregnancies. While some of the cases of polyhydramnios are mild and go away naturally, some are serious and may cause severe complications for both mother and baby. If polyhydramnios isn’t identified and treated promptly, it may be due to medical malpractice and the doctor or other medical professional may be held liable.

What Are The Symptoms Of Polyhydramnios?

Many cases of polyhydramnios are considered to be mild, as there is only a small amount of excess amniotic fluid. Mild polyhydramnios often occurs in the later stages of pregnancy and seldom causes any significant consequences. There usually aren’t any clinical symptoms associated with this type of polyhydramnios.

When there is a greater amount of excess amniotic fluid, there is a greater risk of complications. Because the volume of amniotic fluid continues to increase with polyhydramnios, the mother’s uterus continues to grow. This creates more pressure than is normal in pregnancy inside the womb and outside of it on the internal organs that are around it.

With moderate to severe cases of polyhydramnios, numerous physical symptoms are noticeable. Some of these include:

  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet
  • Shortness of breath, pain with breathing, or other respiratory distress
  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Swollen vulva
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Chronic heartburn
  • Large uterine measurements
  • Difficulty feeling the baby
  • Difficulty tracking the baby’s heart rate

Polyhydramnios usually occur later in the pregnancy. However, it can develop as early as about 16 weeks. The earlier that the condition develops, the more potentially concerning and serious it’s likely to be.

What Causes Polyhydramnios?

In many of the cases of polyhydramnios, the cause isn’t known. In mild cases, it probably just develops gradually throughout the pregnancy. In moderate to severe cases of polyhydramnios, the following conditions could be the cause:

  • Diabetes in the mother – High blood glucose levels can cause an accumulation of amniotic fluid. This can happen when a mother had diabetes before becoming pregnant, or in cases of gestational diabetes.
  • Congenital disability or birth defect – Polyhydramnios can be a side effect of birth defects that impact the baby’s ability to swallow. Babies will swallow amniotic fluid while in the womb and then urinate it out, which keeps the amniotic fluid at a steady amount. If a genetic defect affects the baby’s ability to swallow, the amniotic fluid will build up.
  • Mismatched blood types – When an expectant mother has the Rh-negative blood type, and the baby has the Rh-positive, the baby may develop Rh disease, or Rh-factor, which is a kind of anemia. One of the complications of this condition is polyhydramnios.  
  • Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome – When carrying twins, there may be a complication in which one twin is receiving too much blood while the other is receiving too little.
  • Fetal heart rate problems – This can include any heart rate issues, such as arrhythmia, congenital heart defects, or faintness of heartbeat due to too much amniotic fluid.

What Are The Risks Associated With Polyhydramnios?

There are some significant risks associated with moderate to severe polyhydramnios. Those risks include:

  • Premature membrane rupture
  • Preterm labor and delivery
  • Prolapsed umbilical cord
  • Birth defects
  • Placental abruption
  • Malposition of the baby (for example, a breech presentation)
  • Excessive growth of the baby

Some of the above risks may require that the baby be delivered by C-section, which has its own set of risks. Additionally, in the worst cases, polyhydramnios and its complications can result in stillbirth.

Polyhydramnios and Medical Malpractice

Many birth injury cases involve polyhydramnios. However, because measuring amniotic fluid levels isn’t a difficult procedure, there are not many cases that involve a failure to diagnose. Most polyhydramnios birth injury cases involve the condition being diagnosed fairly promptly, but then not managed or treated properly.

Like any other type of medical malpractice case, polyhydramnios claims can be difficult to prove. Understanding this type of medical negligence requires extensive legal and medical knowledge, specifically pertaining to birth injuries. At Ross Feller Casey, we have experienced birth injury attorneys and on-staff doctors to help clients with their serious birth injury claims.

If you or your child is a victim of medical negligence that caused polyhydramnios and subsequent complications, you may be entitled to compensation for the financial and emotional damages you suffered.

Ross Feller Casey has a proven track record in winning these types of cases. Contact our office to schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation. Our birth injury cases are handled on a contingency basis, which means you will have no out of pocket costs – you only pay when we win or settle your case.

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