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Amniotic Fluid Embolism

Legal Help for Maternal Blood Clot Injuries During Childbirth - Chicago Medical Negligence Attorney

During pregnancy and birth, both medical personnel and prospective parents take great care to ensure that the child is born healthy. However, it is also important to address any concerns related to maternal health. Certain types of birth injuries can not only affect the child, but they can also cause serious harm to the mother. Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) is one of the most serious conditions that can result in maternal injuries.

What Is Amniotic Fluid Embolism?

AFE occurs when amniotic fluid or cells from the fetus enter the mother's bloodstream. The mother's body may respond to this foreign material in a manner similar to an allergic reaction, and this can result in blood clotting in the lungs and throughout the circulatory system. This may cause respiratory failure and/or cardiac arrest, and the mother may experience severe hemorrhaging of blood.

Cases involving AFE often result in maternal death, but even if the mother survives, she may suffer long-term effects, including:

  • Brain injuries that result in memory loss or cognitive impairment
  • Organ failure, including damage to the heart
  • Complete or partial hysterectomy
  • Mood disorders, including postpartum depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Amniotic fluid embolism typically occurs during delivery, but it can also occur if the mother experiences trauma (such as a car accident or a serious fall) that results in damage to the placenta. In addition to causing life-threatening injuries to the mother, AFE may affect the flow of blood and oxygen to the child, resulting in asphyxia, fetal distress, brain injuries, or fetal death.

Risk Factors for AFE

Amniotic fluid embolism is rare, occurring in around one out of every 40,000 births in North America. It can be difficult to predict and prevent, since in some cases, amniotic fluid may enter a mother's bloodstream without causing an adverse reaction. However, there are certain factors that may increase the risk of AFE, including:

  • Maternal age - Mothers over the age of 35 are eight times more likely to experience AFE.
  • Placenta issues - If there are abnormalities in the placenta, if the placenta separates from the uterus (placental abruption), or if the placenta partially or fully covers the cervix, this may disrupt the placental barrier and allow foreign material into the mother's bloodstream.
  • Other pregnancy-related issues - The risk of AFE increases if the mother experiences high blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia) or has excessive levels of amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios).
  • Labor induction - When labor is medically induced using drugs such as Pitocin, this can result in strong contractions that damage membranes and blood vessels in the uterus and placenta, causing amniotic fluid to enter the mother's bloodstream.
  • Complications during delivery - Amniotic fluid embolism may occur during a Cesarean delivery or if forceps or vacuum extractors are used during birth.

Addressing the Effects of AFE

During pregnancy, labor, and delivery, medical personnel be aware of any risk factors for amniotic fluid embolism and take steps to prevent this condition from occurring. If there are any signs that AFE has occurred, immediate steps should be taken to protect the health of the mother and child, including providing oxygen, administering medications to control blood pressure, providing blood transfusions, and ensuring that the child is delivered safely.

If amniotic fluid embolism occurs, this can have a significant, long-term impact on a family. If the mother suffers a brain injury, this may result in long-term disability that affects the family's income, and both the mother and child may require ongoing medical care for the rest of their lives. The costs related to these conditions can be huge, and families should be sure to understand their options for receiving financial assistance. At the Birth Injury Law Alliance, we can evaluate your case, determine whether medical negligence was a factor in your injury, and ensure that you receive the financial help you need. To schedule a free consultation, contact our office at 312-945-1300.

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