The Relationship Between Maternal Hypertension and Birth Injuries

Preeclampsia is a medical condition that causes high blood pressure to develop in some women during pregnancy and can lead to other medical problems. Although preeclampsia is a fairly common complication, occurring in 1 out of 20 pregnant women, it can range in severity from minor to extremely serious. 

Most cases of preeclampsia can be managed to avoid major issues. However, preeclampsia does have the potential to be a dangerous condition for both the baby and the mother. If it is not promptly diagnosed and properly treated, it could lead to severe or even deadly complications for mother and child.

What is Preeclampsia? 

The Relationship Between Maternal Hypertension and Birth Injuries

Preeclampsia is a form of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, that sometimes occurs during pregnancy. This condition is characterized by the onset of high blood pressure in a pregnant woman whose blood pressure was normal prior to the pregnancy, as well as excess protein in the urine, known as proteinuria, after 20 or more weeks of gestation. Toxemia of pregnancy and pregnancy-induced hypertension are somewhat outdated terms for preeclampsia that are still in use by some physicians. 

When a mother develops preeclampsia, her high blood pressure results in a decrease in the blood supply that travels across the placenta to the infant. This causes the baby to receive fewer nutrients and less oxygen. This oxygen deprivation can lead to hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy; a brain injury resulting from a lack of oxygen, and eventually cerebral palsy.

Preeclampsia is thought to be the result of a malfunction of the mother’s vascular system or the placenta. Preeclampsia often resolves itself once the baby is delivered. Although the majority of pregnant mothers with preeclampsia deliver at or near term with positive results for both them and their child, these pregnancies could potentially come with serious complications, including bleeding, ischemia, hypoxia, placental abruption, bleeding, and seizures. Due to the seriousness of this condition, it is vitally important for healthcare providers to be able to identify and diagnose preeclampsia, provide proper treatment to the mother, and be prepared for any complications that may arise, such as placental abruption, which can lead to severe injury or the death of the mother and infant. Physicians and nurses need to closely monitor the mother and baby so they can be ready to provide immediate treatment and deliver the baby.  

Risks of Preeclampsia to the Infant 

  • Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy: The mother’s high blood pressure could potentially reduce the flow of oxygen to the infant. This lack of oxygen can lead to a form of brain damage known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.
  • Intrauterine growth restriction: The reduced blood flow might also reduce the amount of nutrients delivered to the baby, which will impact his or her growth, resulting in intrauterine growth restriction.
  • Stillbirth or Preterm birth: Preeclampsia can also lead to preterm birth, which leaves the baby vulnerable to the complications that come with being born early and can even cause stillbirth (death in utero). Stillbirth is the more common result in cases where the mother has a severe form of preeclampsia of HELLP syndrome.  

Preeclampsia Risk Factors

Multiple risk factors can raise a mother’s odds of developing preeclampsia, such as:

  • Preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
  • Hypertension (long-term or chronic high blood pressure) 
  • Advanced age (over 40)
  • Obesity
  • Multiple fetuses 
  • Lupus
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes

The Relationship Between Cerebral Palsy, Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy and Preeclampsia  

Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury caused by a lack of oxygen to a newborn’s brain. This lack of oxygen can either be hypoxic (lack of oxygen in the blood from the mother) or ischemic (lack of blood supply from the mother). Insufficient oxygen destroys and damages brain cells in crucial parts of a baby’s brain, resulting in hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, which causes cerebral palsy.

In women with preeclampsia, the raised blood pressure leads to reduced flow of blood through the placenta to the infant. This causes the baby not to receive an ample amount of oxygen and blood flow, causing hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy and cerebral palsy.

Placental Abruption and Preeclampsia 

Preeclampsia could also cause the placenta to separate from the uterus too early. This is an extremely dangerous condition known as placental abruption. When the placenta separates from the uterine wall or “abrupts,” it can stop or slow the flow of oxygen and blood to the newborn. Placental abruptions can lead to heavy bleeding and endanger the lives of the child and the mother. If the baby’s flow of oxygen and blood is disrupted by placental abruption, he or she could experience hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy and cerebral palsy.

HELLP Syndrome and Preeclampsia

The acronym HELLP stands for:

  • Hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells)
  • ELevated liver enzymes
  • Low Platelet count

HELLP syndrome is a pregnancy complication that is similar to preeclampsia and can be life-threatening. HELLP syndrome can damage the mother’s liver, and destroy her red blood cells. 

Birth Injuries and Preeclampsia

If left untreated or treated improperly, preeclampsia can lead to serious birth injuries, such as cerebral palsy and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. It is of the utmost importance for physicians, nurses, medics, and medical facilities to be able to recognize the symptoms and signs of preeclampsia, meticulously monitor the pregnancy, and be ready to intervene in order to protect the baby and the mother. If a healthcare provider fails to identify the signs or fails to act in a timely manner to protect the baby and the mother, severe injuries and even death can occur. 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding whether or not your baby’s injuries were caused by a failure to recognize preeclampsia, we are available to help. Seeking legal assistance after a birth injury is one of the most important things you can do to provide your child with the best life possible. Collecting compensation through a birth injury lawsuit means you will be able to pay for the medical care your child needs. 

The Dallas birth injury lawyers at Rasansky Law Firm specialize in birth injury cases. We are happy to review your case in a free consultation and advise you on the best way to move forward with your birth injury case. Call us at (214) 617-1886 or fill out the contact form on our website. 



2525 McKinnon Street #550 Dallas, Texas 75201

Note: The information that was utilized in this post was gathered from the use of secondary sources. This information used has not been confirmed or independently verified. If you locate any information that is not correct, please contact our firm as soon as possible so that we can make the appropriate corrections. If you find any information that is false, we will remove or correct the post immediately after it is brought to our attention.

Disclaimer: As a valued member of the Dallas community, Rasansky Law Firm’s goal is to improve the safety of all residents in the great state of Texas. These posts should not be viewed as a solicitation for business and the information included herein should not be taken as medical or legal advice. The photos used in this post are not representative of the actual crash scene.

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