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Risks and Precautions for Mothers with Cholestasis of Pregnancy

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Birth Injury Attorneys Assisting Victims with Cholestasis of Pregnancy Claims in New Jersey

During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through miraculous changes as the fetus grows. Every stage must occur at the right time and under the right conditions for a healthy baby to be born. Unfortunately, pregnancy complications arise that affect the health of the mother, the fetus, or both. Common conditions include anemia, diabetes, hypertension, infections, and placenta problems, to name a few. Each may harm the developing fetus without early detection, treatment, and monitoring.  One pregnancy condition with distinct symptoms is cholestasis of pregnancy, a late-term liver condition characterized by extreme itchiness.

A conscientious doctor carefully monitors the potential pitfalls of pregnancy and considers each woman’s risks, symptoms, and other important factors. Otherwise, their negligence may result in a deadly or dangerous oversight, one that has the potential to cause serious harm for the mother or her baby. If your doctor failed to identify and diagnose cholestasis, or was delayed in diagnosing the liver disease, which led to complications for your baby or yourself, it is important to explore and understand your rights and legal options. Our skilled birth injury lawyers can investigate the circumstances of your case, reviewing all of the relevant information, such as your medical records and family history, the doctor’s actions or failures to act, and determine if you have cause for a claim. Contact us anytime for a free consultation 866-708-8617 with an attorney on our team and get a head start on your possible lawsuit for just compensation. Our birth injury law team assists clients with claims throughout New Jersey and we consult on these cases nationwide.

Fundamentals of Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP)

A patient with cholestasis of pregnancy or intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) has a weakened liver that causes bile to pool in the bloodstream. The gallbladder acts as a storage for bile the liver produces so the human body can process fats. Pregnancy hormones, such as progesterone and estrogen, interrupt the gallbladder’s functioning and cause the liver to accumulate bile acid. When high levels of bile acids in the amount of 10 micromol/L or higher travel into the bloodstream, ICP develops. The condition typically disappears a few days after delivery.

Possible Indications of Cholestasis of Pregnancy

Pregnant patients with ICP may experience itchiness, primarily on the palms and soles of the feet, but it can affect the entire body. The symptoms may interfere with sleep in the third trimester when sleep is typically difficult. Other symptoms include appetite loss, depression, fatigue, nausea, jaundice, stomach pain, dark urine, and light-colored stools.

Frequency and Risk Factors for ICP

Though it is the leading liver disease during pregnancy, only 0.32% to 5.6%, or 1 out of 1,000 pregnant women in the United States, experience ICP. Most often, the condition is inherited, but other causes, like multiple fetuses, advanced maternal age, cholelithiasis, and Hepatitis C, raise the risk of developing the condition. A pregnant woman with the ICP runs the risk of pregnancy complications affecting both the mother and baby.

Cholestasis of Pregnancy Can Put You and Your Baby in Harm’s Way

High levels of bile acids threaten the fetus when they build up in the blood and permeate the placenta. Bile acid buildup in the mother’s liver causes sensitivity to oxytocin, which causes uterine contractions. The result is typically premature delivery with the newborn’s resulting low APGAR scores, respiratory distress syndrome, meconium aspiration, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, and death as possible consequences of ICP. A pregnant woman’s complications from the disease may include preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Both conditions can be life-threatening if not monitored and treated. Thus, a quick diagnosis of ICP allows a physician time to prepare for, and even prevent, complications.

Detecting and Confirming Cholestasis in Pregnant Patients

High bile acids in the bloodstream confirm the diagnosis of the condition. Elevated levels of cholic and chenodeoxycholic acid indicate the patient has ICP. After a thorough patient history and physical exam, a physician confirms a diagnosis with blood tests that detect bile acids and bilirubin levels. A physician reading lab results with these high bile acids should be sure the condition is ICP and not another health problem with similar symptoms, like preeclampsia and skin allergies.

Methods for Treating Cholestasis and Avoiding Complications

Treating the patient to prevent stillbirth and monitoring the bile acid levels up to delivery is critical. Treatments include medications to stop the itching, lower the bile acids (ursodeoxycholic acid), cold baths to slow the blood flow, steroids to help the fetus’s lung development, Vitamin K supplements to prevent hemorrhaging, and continual fetal monitoring and blood tests. When the bile acid levels likely endanger the baby’s life, preterm delivery may be the best choice as early as 36 weeks.

The right decision for each pregnancy depends on the bile acid levels, the health of the child and mother, and the fetal gestational age, among other factors. A pregnant woman’s physician must diagnose and treat the condition promptly to avoid poor outcomes for both herself and her newborn. For instance, preparing the fetus’s lungs and the mother’s potential vitamin K deficiency may lead to a better outcome. In addition, a physician who knows a baby is to be induced prematurely can prepare the preemie for potential health problems that they must address immediately after birth. Some premature babies need oxygen and medications immediately to save their lives.

On the other hand, undiagnosed ICP gives neither the physician, nor the pregnant patient, treatment options to discuss to ensure all goes as well as possible for the labor, delivery, and aftercare. A surprise premature labor can lead to tragic results.

Identifying Negligence in Cholestasis of Pregnancy Cases

Negligence occurs when a physician misdiagnoses, fails to diagnose, or delays the diagnosis of ICP, leading to fetal distress, preterm delivery, and other unforeseen complications. Without a correct diagnosis, ICP can likewise cause vitamin K deficiency and resulting bleeding if not treated before delivery. As such, medical professionals cannot afford to make oversights that potentially cause catastrophic suffering. A physician who does not consider and confirm an ICP diagnosis when a pregnant patient reports itchiness, especially in hands and feet, may be found negligent. Physicians must check each expectant mother’s chart for risk factors for a suspected condition and run appropriate tests. Conversely, a mother whose baby dies or suffers complications from negligent diagnosis or treatment of cholestasis of pregnancy may have a medical malpractice claim against their doctor.

When you suspect medical malpractice with cholestasis of pregnancy, it is highly advisable to speak with a qualified birth injury attorney for further guidance. Despite your physician’s reassurance that they did all they could, grave medical errors may have contributed to your or your baby’s ICP-related complications. In reviewing your medical records and discussing your case with medical experts, our accomplished NJ birth injury lawyers may discover that your doctor did not choose the right course of treatment under the circumstances.

Contact Our Dedicated NJ Birth Injury Lawyers to Review Your Case and Options to Recover Compensation for Cholestasis of Pregnancy Malpractice

If your cholestasis of pregnancy was undiagnosed or delayed in being diagnosed, or your healthcare provider failed to take appropriate action to prevent ICP complications, you or your child may be eligible for compensation through legal action. Our New Jersey birth injury attorneys can review your case and we may be able to help you seek compensation for expenses that a negligent physician caused you and your family, as well as non-financial damages, such as pain and suffering. Contact us by filling out our convenient form or dialing 866-708-8617 today. A member of our team can provide further answers in a free consultation. And if we take on your ICP malpractice claim, we use all of our knowledge and skills to provide optimal investigation, representation, and results.

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