Risk Factors For Placenta Insufficiency


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Placental insufficiency is a pregnancy complication that affects 1 in every 300 births. It’s also known as placental dysfunction and uteroplacental vascular insufficiency. And when it isn’t detected and treated as early as possible, it can result in life threatening situations for both mother and baby.

The placenta is the link between the mother and her baby. It grows in the womb during pregnancy and supplies the baby with important nutrients and oxygen through the mother’s blood supply. If the placenta doesn’t develop properly, or if it’s damaged during pregnancy, the baby will not get the vital nutrients and oxygen he or she needs to grow and thrive.

According to Healthline, the placenta is also responsible for carrying away carbon dioxide and waste from the baby and protecting the fetus from harmful infections and bacteria. When there is a problem with the placenta, low birth weight, premature birth, and birth defects may result. It can also cause serious complications for the mother. The key in preventing or managing placental insufficiency is early diagnosis and proper treatment.

What causes Placenta Insufficiency?

This condition is linked mostly with blood flow problems and vascular disorders. However, it can also be caused by problems during pregnancy, medications, or lifestyle choices. The most common causes include:

  • High blood pressure during pregnancy – preeclampsia
  • Chronic high blood pressure – hypertension
  • Conditions like diabetes, anemia, and blood clotting
  • Going past the due date
  • Smoking and drug use
  • Certain medications, like blood thinners

Medline Plus adds that, though less common, placenta insufficiency may also be caused if the placenta doesn’t attach properly to the uterine wall, breaks away from the uterine wall, grows abnormally, or doesn’t grow big enough, which is typically only a risk when the mother is carrying twins.

What are the Dangers of Placenta Insufficiency?

Unfortunately, there are no true symptoms of placenta insufficiency. There are, however, some clues to watch out for, including:

  • Smaller uterus than is normal, resulting in a smaller abdomen during pregnancy
  • The fetus not moving much, and subsequently not being felt much by the mother
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Pre-term labor contractions

The baby is most affected by placenta insufficiency, but the mother may also be at serious risk if she has diabetes or chronic high blood pressure/hypertension. If the mother has either of these, she may also experience preeclampsia – elevated blood pressure during pregnancy, the symptoms of which include hand-swelling, headaches, and excess weight gain.

For the baby, the earlier that placenta insufficiency occurs, the greater the risks. Dangers for the baby include oxygen deprivation, which has been associated with cerebral palsy. Other dangers are:

  • Development of learning disabilities
  • Hypothermia – low body temperature
  • Hypoglycemia – low blood sugar levels
  • Hypocalcemia – low blood calcium levels
  • Polycythemia – excessive red blood cell count
  • Increased risk of premature labor
  • Increased risk of still birth and death

There are also numerous birth defects associated with placenta insufficiency. A study by the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that placental insufficiency puts infants at a 40 percent higher risk for the following conditions:

  • Digestive disorders
  • Lung dysfunction
  • Brain damage

How is Placenta Insufficiency Diagnosed?

Early diagnosis is critical for improving the outcomes of mother and baby if placenta insufficiency is suspected. There are several tests that can be done to diagnose the condition.

  1. Ultrasound – to measure the size and placement of the placenta, the size of the mother’s uterus, and the size of the fetus.
  2. Alpha-fetoprotein levels – this is a protein made in the baby’s liver and measuring levels of this in the mother’s blood will give an indication if placenta insufficiency is a concern.
  3. Fetal nonstress test – this test will measure the mother’s contractions along with the baby’s heart rate.

How Can Placenta Insufficiency be Prevented?

Sadly, there is no cure for placenta insufficiency, however, it can be managed with an early diagnosis and proper prenatal care. According to Mount Sinai Hospital, the best outcome requires detection before week 20 of the pregnancy.

If the mother has diabetes or chronic high blood pressure, it’s vitally important that she receive proper treatment for these conditions early in her pregnancy.  Addressing these underlying causes of placenta insufficiency will greatly improve the baby’s chances of growing and developing normally and reduce the risk of complications.

A fetus cannot grow and thrive in a womb when deprived of oxygen and nutrients. Therefore, it’s up to the mother’s physician to assess her medical history and any threat of her developing placenta insufficiency, along with conducting the necessary tests early in her pregnancy to properly manage the condition if it develops.

What Should You do if You Suspect Medical Malpractice Contributed to Your Placenta Insufficiency Problems?

If you suspect that medical malpractice was the cause of your complications associated with placenta insufficiency, it’s important to understand the recourse options available to you. You may be entitled to compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit, but your time to file a claim is limited.

The experienced lawyers at Ross Feller Casey have an unmatched record of winning multi-million-dollar recoveries in all types of birth injury lawsuits, including those involving conditions related to placenta insufficiency. We have a team of Ivy League trained physicians, and doctors who are also lawyers, right on staff. That makes us uniquely qualified to litigate even the most complex birth injury cases.

Contact the leading birth injury lawyers in Philadelphia at Ross Feller Casey now for a free case evaluation.

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