By the 35th week of pregnancy, you might feel that you have already entered the home stretch of a grueling marathon. Nevertheless, continuing prenatal care is critical to avoid potential pregnancy complications. The last few weeks of pregnancy carry a heightened risk of several serious conditions, some of which are life-threatening to both mother and baby.
During the last stage of pregnancy, you should expect discomfort. There is nothing abnormal about discomfort at this stage. Certain kinds of discomfort, however, can be warning signs. The most important warning signs include:
- Vaginal bleeding;
- Decreased urine output;
- Leaking of amniotic fluid;
- Pain in your lower abdomen;
- Greater than normal back pain;
- Heavy vaginal discharge;
- Severe swelling in your fingers, face, or hands;
- A severe or sustained headache;
- Pain during urination, especially a burning sensation;
- Continuous nausea or vomiting;
- Blurred vision; and
- A decrease in your baby’s movement inside your womb.
These are not the only warning signs to watch for. Bring any discomfort to the attention of your doctor.
Most Common Serious Complications of Weeks 35+
Let’s look at brief descriptions of some pregnancy complications that are more common after 35 weeks of pregnancy:
Placental abruption (“abruptio placenta”) occurs when your placenta separates from the wall of your uterus. If your placenta detaches completely, it could starve your baby of nutrients and oxygen. Although not all placental abruptions are life-threatening, some are. Placental abruption can also place both you and your baby at risk for hemorrhage.
Some of the main symptoms of placental abruption include:
- Bleeding from the vagina;
- Pain in your abdomen;
- Back pain;
- Uterine contractions that do not relax; and
Symptoms such as these do not necessarily mean that you have suffered a placental abruption, but they do mean you should tell your doctor about what you are experiencing.
Premature Rupture of the Membranes of the Amniotic Sac
Premature rupture of membranes (PROM) occurs when the amniotic sac (the bag of fluid that your baby floats in) breaks before labor begins. Medical risks to you include intra-amniotic infection, postpartum infection, endometritis, and death. Risks to your baby include respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, intraventricular hemorrhage, and death.
PROM is not particularly uncommon. In fact, it occurs in nearly 10 percent of all pregnancies. Rupture of the membranes before 37 weeks causes a significant portion of all premature births. Some of the primary causes of PROM include:
- Inadequate prenatal care;
- Sexually transmitted infections;
- One or more previous preterm births;
- Bleeding from the vagina; and
- Smoking during pregnancy.
Other factors can cause PROM as well.
Chorioamnionitis is an infection of the placenta and of the amniotic fluid in which your baby floats. This can lead to infections for both you and your baby. Symptoms include fever, elevated heart rate, and a sore or painful uterus. Chorioamnionitis typically requires the immediate delivery of your baby.
A kidney infection (pyelonephritis) is a type of urinary tract infection that typically spreads to your kidneys from your urethra or bladder. The typical cause is rupture of the amniotic sac long before birth.
A kidney infection is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. It can permanently damage your kidneys, and the bacteria can spread to your bloodstream and cause a sepsis link, which can be life-threatening.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that results in high blood pressure and damage to other organ systems, such as your liver and kidneys. Symptoms include high blood pressure, fluid retention, and protein contamination of the urine.
Without prompt and appropriate treatment, preeclampsia can cause serious and even fatal complications for both you and your baby. The most effective treatment for preeclampsia is the immediate delivery of your baby. You will likely suffer symptoms for a while after delivery.
HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets) syndrome is a serious pregnancy complication. It typically occurs during the later stages of pregnancy or soon after birth. Symptoms include:
- Chest pains;
- Blurry vision;
- Pain in the upper right or center part of the belly;
- Swelling; and
HELLP is an easy condition to misdiagnose because doctors often mistake it for gastritis, flu, hepatitis, fatty liver disease, gallbladder disease, or other conditions. About 25 percent of all cases result in serious illness or death.
Induced Labor and Early Delivery: Think Twice
A full-term pregnancy lasts 40 weeks from conception to delivery. Doctors often perform elective deliveries two or three weeks earlier, sometimes at the mother’s request. Although medical science treats 37 weeks as full-term, babies born even two or three weeks early are at greater risk for health problems than other babies.
At 35 weeks, you may be thinking about scheduling your delivery. Consult with your doctor, and make sure to take your baby’s health considerations into account when you make this decision. If you can wait until you spontaneously go into labor, give serious thought about taking this option.
Medical Malpractice Liability
Your doctor is not necessarily liable for you or your baby’s injury simply because you suffered an undesirable medical outcome. If you or your baby were injured due to medical negligence, however, you probably have a case. To win a medical malpractice claim in Tennessee, you need to prove that:
- There was a doctor/patient relationship;
- Your doctor failed to meet the applicable professional standard of care when treating you;
- You or your baby suffered injury or illness; and
- Your doctor’s failure to meet the standard of care caused you or your baby’s injury or illness.
In medical malpractice cases, Tennessee limits non-economic damages (pain and suffering and other intangible losses) to $750,000, except that the limit for “catastrophic injuries” is raised to $1 million. There is no limit on your possible recovery for economic damages (medical expenses, lost earnings, etc.).
Take Decisive Action today
Batson Nolan PLC was founded more than 150 years ago, and we have been fighting for the rights of our clients ever since. If you or your baby have suffered a pregnancy-related injury that you believe may have resulted from medical negligence, it’s time to act. Call us at (931) 647-1501 (Clarksville) or (615) 382-4420 (Springfield), or contact us online.