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Preventable Maternal Deaths from Eclampsia in South Africa

Preventable Maternal Deaths from Eclampsia in South Africa
Aug 17, 2022 gnuworld
maternal deaths from eclampsia

The latest data from the most recent Saving Mothers annual report shows a very welcome decrease in maternal deaths in South Africa.

Unfortunately, there is an area where statistics have not seen an improvement. This is preventable maternal deaths due to hypertrophic disorders of pregnancy (HDP), including eclampsia and pre-eclampsia.

Shockingly, the majority of these deaths may have been preventable through more competent medical care. The report estimated that during the three-year period it covered, 70% of the deaths associated with HDP had an “avoidable factor”.

Examples of avoidable factors were delays in stabilisation of severe hypertension, delayed referrals and referrals to inappropriate levels of healthcare.

South African deaths due to hypertensive disorders in pregnancy

Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are the most common, direct cause of maternal mortality. They account for 14.8% of all maternal deaths in South Africa.

HDP is now almost the biggest contributor to potentially preventable deaths. It’s estimated that 70% of maternal deaths from HDP between 2014 and 2016 could have been prevented.

In many cases, immediately lowering acute severe hypertension could have prevented complications such as cerebral haemorrhage and pulmonary oedema.

Eclampsia deaths in South African teens

According to a 2020 study that analysed results from the Saving Mothers report, teenage pregnancy is a risk factor for eclampsia-related death in South Africa.

Over the reviewed three-year period, 47 pregnant teens died due to eclampsia. Ten of the girls who died were 16 years old or younger.

According to the study,

The great majority of teenagers who died suffered avoidable factors mainly at administrative and healthcare provider levels in respect of clinical management at wrong level of care (as district hospitals in our setting should not be managing high-risk patients such as pre-eclampsia with severe features or eclampsia), failure to obtain advice and delay in providing emergency resuscitative management.”

Possible complications due to pre-eclampsia/eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are known to cause significant complications, including high risk of seizures, liver and kidney failure, blood clots and central nervous system issues.

These put mothers at risk. They also put unborn babies at significant risk of pregnancy complications and birth injuries.

What constitutes medical malpractice (or negligence)?

Medical malpractice or negligence occurs if a medical practitioner fails to meet expected standards of medical care (through action or omission), resulting in injury or harm to a patient.

According to the Saving Mothers report, these are some of the avoidable factors for managing hypertensive diseases of pregnancy:

  • problems/delays in assessment
  • problems/delays in diagnosis
  • delayed referrals
  • no referrals
  • incorrect diagnosis
  • not following protocol
  • poor monitoring
  • lack of action.

According to the report, hypertension is now more often detected. However, this has not translated into a reduction in perinatal mortality because of the condition not being managed properly.

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What to do if you have a medical malpractice claim

If you may have a medical malpractice claim, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in personal injury claims and our medico-legal team has extensive experience in handling medical negligence claims.

We can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. We work on a no win, no fee basis. Contact us for the very best legal support and representation.

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