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Risks & Complications from Delayed Prenatal Testing

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Experienced Lawyers for Mothers and Children Injured by Late Prenatal Screening in New Jersey

A pregnancy is like a long-term prenatal engagement with your doctor’s office. The number of office visits for routine prenatal checks simply increases as the pregnancy progresses, averaging one per month up to 26 weeks, every three weeks up to 32 weeks, every two weeks up to 36 weeks, and every week until delivery. In addition to the increasing frequency of check-ups with your obstetrician, each trimester brings new tests to add to the routine. When it comes to prenatal tests, some are usual, some are triggered by the specific pregnancy, some are responsive to risk factors due to mother’s history, and others are optional. However, one thing is certain: if you have had no prenatal testing or delayed prenatal screening, you are more likely to suffer unexpected complications and injuries to yourself and your baby. When such negligence with testing for the broad range of conditions that may require advanced monitoring or treatment amidst pregnancy occurs, doctors may be held accountable for medical malpractice. In fact, any medical professional who is expected to, and fails to conduct and respond to prenatal testing appropriate for their patient, may be liable for the serious consequences of their actions.

Common Prenatal Tests during Pregnancy

Doctors may recommend or offer certain testing prior to childbirth, especially in the first two trimesters, to assess the likelihood of genetic abnormalities or to further explore positive test results. Other routine tests assess the health of mother and baby more comprehensively. Aside from specialized tests, routine tests at each doctor visit include blood pressure to monitor for signs of preeclampsia (most readily observed by high blood pressure); blood tests to discover maternal infection, Rh factor, and anemia; and urine samples for conditions like preeclampsia and infection as well. For instance, doctors may become alert to possible preeclampsia through high levels of protein in the mother’s urine. However, if a patient’s history shows pregnancy health risks, a doctor may offer other screening tests, such as the tuberculin (TB) test for those living where TB is common. Some prenatal tests check for birth defects detectable in body parts, while others test for chromosomal abnormalities and genetic defects at the cellular level. Different tests are appropriate at different stages of the pregnancy, but the goal of many prenatal tests is to screen for abnormalities and then if present, to diagnose the condition and determine the appropriate course of action.

Testing for Pregnant Women in the First Stage

In the first trimester, ultrasound tests are used to decipher the baby’s position, size, and anatomy, ensuring that bones and organs are developing properly. A nuchal translucency ultrasound checks for fluid at behind the baby’s neck, with a higher amount suggesting but not confirming Down syndrome. Two other tests are the sequential integrated screening test and serum integrated screening test, which are blood tests assessing the mother’s blood proteins and HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, to detect chromosomal defects. Further, early pregnancy carrier screening tests of blood or saliva verify whether the mother carries genetic conditions that potentially affect the baby, such as spinal muscular atrophy, and blood and breathing disorders.

Another scan in the early months tests the mother’s blood for diseases and conditions like syphilis, hepatitis, anemia, and HIV. Doctors should likewise test for rubella immunity. Rh (blood protein) compatibility with the fetus is also important to determine through blood test, so that an Rh-negative mother can receive Rh-immune globulin preventatively during and potentially after pregnancy if the baby is Rh-positive. Additionally, chorionic villus sampling, which occurs between weeks 10 and 12 of pregnancy, involves removing tissue from the placenta to detect a possible genetic defect. This is often done as a follow up to tests showing potential abnormalities, but this test is discretionary and does have slight risks of miscarriage and cramping.

Mid-Pregnancy Testing

Barring any early trouble signs from noninvasive tests, typically around ten weeks, testing begins with ultrasound and blood tests to examine the baby’s development and to check for TB. Other testing goals include discovering heart problems, cystic fibrosis, Tay Sachs disease, sickle cell anemia and other defects in the developing fetus. If the patient wants to know, the tests may also reveal the baby’s sex by a non-invasive prenatal test as well. Second semester blood draws, from 14 to 18 weeks, test the fetus for Down syndrome and neural tube defects. Also in the second trimester, a fetal anatomy survey ultrasound takes a closer look at the whole baby. Additional tests include a quad marker screening blood test measuring four fetal proteins. If the patient did not screen in the first trimester, this test is performed, but the earlier sequential and serum integrated screening tests are generally more relied upon for detecting Down syndrome.

The glucose test for gestational diabetes is given in the second trimester as well, as doctors should be aware of and adequately prepare for the possibility of a C-section. Cesarean delivery is more likely for large babies of mothers with gestational diabetes and physicians should also be vigilant about the baby’s potential for low blood sugar at birth. Finally, amniocentesis is the removal of amniotic fluid from the uterus to test for genetic problems. This testing is conducted at 15 weeks if earlier screening tests were outside of the normal range, the mother’s history contains past chromosomal abnormalities during pregnancy, a family history for genetic disorders exists, the parents are carriers of genetic abnormalities, and the mother is 35 or over.

Prenatal Screening in the Third Stage of Pregnancy

Shortly thereafter, towards the third trimester, an ultrasound allows healthcare professionals to view the baby’s body parts and assess development milestones. Also in the third trimester, obstetricians test for Group B Streptococcus, which is responsible for many infections in mothers and their babies. This bacterium exists in the intestines, vagina, throat, and mouth, and is particularly dangerous to the newborn with a fragile immune system. The test is given at 36 to 37 weeks and if positive, antibiotics during labor are administered to combat the bacteria. Lastly, if the mother is worried about the baby’s movement, a physician may instruct her to take kick counts to track the baby’s level of activity in the womb.

Risks of Delayed or Insufficient Prenatal Testing

If your physician knows that certain health conditions run in your family, they should refer you to a genetic counselor trained to educate patients about genetic structure and birth defects and how your baby may be affected. Otherwise, they should be educating you and consulting with you on your prenatal testing options from the start of your pregnancy until the very end and beyond. Many conditions require early diagnosis and treatment to prevent lifelong injury to the mother, the baby, or both, like placenta problems and infection. For example, your baby can suffer lifelong infection if Hepatitis is not detected before birth. They may also suffer anemia or brain damage due to Rh factor incompatibility. Ultimately, proper prenatal screening is the cornerstone of a knowledgeable, informed approach to pregnancy. This is true for the doctors and other medical professionals responsible for the mother and child’s care, and equally so for the expectant parents who deserve to make the best decisions for themselves and their child’s health.

Help Fighting for the Compensation You Deserve after Inadequate Prenatal Screening

Beyond affecting your child’s growth and development, having a child with a serious medical condition undoubtedly affects your emotional and financial health. With frequent doctor or hospital visits, medical and personal challenges, necessary treatments and accommodations for daily living, and possibly lifelong therapeutic needs, the burden of late prenatal tests for any number of critical conditions looms large for you and your family.

If you or your baby were injured as a result of delayed prenatal testing, contact our team of birth injury, wrongful birth, and pregnancy malpractice lawyers to discuss your case and your potential legal claim. We pursue accountability and financial compensation from those responsible for your injuries, providing vital resources to accommodate the mounting medical, economic, and mental costs of the harm caused. Please feel free to request assistance by sending us a message or calling 866-708-8617 now for a free consultation.

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