Maternal Shock

Nationwide Cerebral Palsy Resource Network

Maternal shock is something that happens to expectant mothers during pregnancy, labor and delivery or up to six weeks after a child is born due to complications. It can be fatal, but is thought to be highly preventable as signs and symptoms often foreshadow serious risks, allowing for proper treatment.

There are many different things that can go wrong during pregnancy or delivery. Fortunately, these events are the exception, and not the rule. If, however, someone you love was the exception to that rule and suffered maternal shock, please call Stern Law, PLLC for free at (800)462-5772 to find out how our firm can help you with your birth injury claim.

Causes of maternal shock

Maternal shock is the result of an inadequate supply of oxygenated blood to tissues; it can be the result of a number of different medical conditions. During pregnancy and delivery, maternal shock often is caused by hemorrhaging or septic infection.

While the health of the mother is seriously jeopardized by maternal shock, the health and life of the baby is also at risk. The baby may become harmed as a result of inadequate uterine perfusion and delivery of oxygen. There is no auto-regulation of the uterine blood flow; this means the uterus does not have the physiological structure to control blood pressure, which dictates that the flow is completely related to the mother’s blood pressure. In severe cases, the mother may approach hypovolemic shock, which is marked by a loss of twenty-percent of the body’s blood or fluid volume. In this circumstance, a mother would face multiple organ failure, and the life of the unborn baby would be in grave jeopardy.

Obstetric conditions that can lead to hemorrhage and hypovolemic shock include:

  • Placental abruption – caused by premature separation of the placenta from the uterus
  • Uterine rupture – caused by a breach of the myometrial wall
  • Placental previa – this is a condition where the placenta is abnormally implanted on top of or near the cervix
  • Lacerations, leading to blood loss
  • Infection
  • Retained placenta

In addition to hypovolemic shock, septic shock is a common cause of severe birth injuries. Septic shock is also often the cause of death of a child, in addition to being a leading cause of maternal death. There are several common causes of sepsis:

  • Post-operative endometriosis
  • Both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, including Escherichia coli
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Emergency cesarean section
  • Retained tools, medical products, or surgical equipment

Other forms of shock include:

  • Cardiogenic shock – caused by pulmonary embolus or cardiac disease
  • Anaphylactic shock – an amniotic fluid embolism
  • Neurogenic shock - caused by uterine inversion

If the oxygenation or perfusion of your unborn baby is seriously compromised, your baby can experience bradycardia or tachycardia, which means that there are variations in the heart rate through acceleration, deceleration, or irregular heart rate. This is one of the first signs of fetal distress.

Maternal shock also can lead to trauma to the uterus, whether direct or indirect. This can trigger premature labor.

If a doctor fails to diagnose maternal shock before it leads to hypovolemia or other serious trauma, then the chances of your baby being born with a severe birth injury increase significantly. Severe trauma will lead to the release of catecholamine in you, the mother, causing vasoconstriction in the uterus and placenta and compromised circulation in the fetus. Early diagnosis would prevent much of the harm suffered by both you and your child. However, if your doctor fails to diagnose the problem or does not treat it correctly, the consequences can be tragic.

If you suspect that doctors and other medical professionals were responsible for your child's birth injury, please contact Stern Law, PLLC by calling (800)462-5772.