Medical Negligence : Pregnancy And Birth Injury : Ectopic Pregnancy Claims

Ectopic Pregnancies

Ectopic Pregnancy Compensation Claims

Losing your baby because of an ectopic pregnancy is emotionally devastating. In addition to all the pain and physical injuries, an ectopic pregnancy can lead to depression and other long-term psychological injuries.

Ectopic pregnancies are the most dangerous complication for mothers-to-be. These tragic events always result in the loss of the baby. You may never be able to have children. An ectopic pregnancy can threaten the life of the mother too. 

Early detection is absolutely vital. Did your doctors fail to diagnose your ectopic pregnancy in time? Did they put your life at risk? Did their delays make your injuries worse?

No amount of money will ever make up for the loss of your baby. But you can claim compensation for the extra care and treatment you will need for the physical and mental injuries you have suffered.

No one wants to sue the NHS. But by doing so you will help to ensure that the hospital reviews its practices to stop the same mistakes from happening to other families. Taking legal action will help you to secure an apology, an explanation of what went wrong and how future errors can be prevented.
 

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Causes Of Ectopic Pregnancies

Ectopic (or tubal) pregnancies occur when a fertilised egg fails to implant in the uterus and instead begins to grow elsewhere, usually in one of the fallopian tubes that connect the ovaries to the womb.

The fallopian tube will rupture if the condition is not detected in time. This results in severe bleeding which can be fatal. Immediate surgery is needed to save the mother’s life.

Why does the fertilised egg not reach the uterus? There can be a number of medical reasons:

  • infection or inflammation of the fallopian tube – resulting in a partial or full blockage
  • scar tissue from a previous operation can prevent the egg from moving along the tube
  • previous surgery in the pelvic area can cause adhesions
  • growths or a birth defect can cause abnormalities in the shape of the tube.

Sadly, you are not alone in your suffering. Every year more than 11,000 UK mothers-to-be have ectopic pregnancies. One in every 90 pregnancies is ectopic.

Women undergoing IVF are more likely to experience an ectopic pregnancy. IVF can also result in a heterotopic pregnancy when two embryos implant (one is ectopic, the other is not).

Heterotopic pregnancies are rare. They are more likely occur in IVF when two embryos are implanted at the same time to increase the chances of pregnancy.


Early Signs And Symptoms Of Ectopic Pregnancy

Spots of blood are the first warning sign but vaginal bleeding can occur for other reasons. Spotting is common in pregnancy so your GP, midwife or obstetrician may fail to diagnose your condition in time.

Ectopic pregnancy bleeding is different in colour to your regular period. The bleeding often starts and stops. It can be watery and dark brown in colour. 

It is important to diagnose an extra-uterine pregnancy at the bleeding stage, before it becomes painful. Waiting until you’re at the pain stage can be dangerous.

Did you warn your doctors at the bleeding stage? Or did they fail to take your concerns seriously? Did you see more than one doctor and was there a breakdown in communications?

Other symptoms of a tubal pregnancy include:

  • abdominal pain low down on one side – this pain may be intermittent or it may persist
  • shoulder tip pain – a sign that a pregnancy outside the womb is causing internal bleeding; it is very distinctive and usually happens when you are lying down
  • discomfort when urinating or producing faeces (you may also have diarrhoea)
  • sharp pain in the vagina.

Signs of a rupture include:

  • sudden, intense pain in the abdomen
  • feeling very dizzy or faint
  • feeling nauseous
  • looking very pale.

At this stage an ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening medical emergency. Immediate surgery in needed to repair the ruptured fallopian tube.

Damage to one fallopian tube can often result in damage to the other tube.


Detecting An Ectopic Pregnancy

You can be treated safely and without surgery if the doctors diagnose your ectopic pregnancy sufficiently early.

Your clinicians should run a vaginal ultrasound scan (sonogram) to see whether there is a gestational sac in your uterus. The presence of this sac shows that a pregnancy is not ectopic – prompting them to look for other causes.

Absence of a gestational sac suggests a possible ectopic pregnancy. Your doctor should then check your Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) level; hCG is a hormone produced by the placenta.

If your hCG levels are lower than normal then the pregnancy is ectopic or you will have a miscarriage.
Your doctors should have run blood and urine tests to detect your hCG level. Were they late in doing this?


Ectopic Pregnancy Risk Factors

Certain factors can make you more likely to suffer an ectopic pregnancy. Did your doctors fail to take these into account?

Existing damage to the fallopian tubes by infection, previous surgery or a previous ectopic pregnancy can increase your chances of a tubal pregnancy.

Other ‘increased risk’ factors include:

  • abdominal surgery including an appendectomy or previous Caesarean sections
  • endometriosis – the lining of the uterus attaches itself to other organs
  • previous choice of contraception (including use of an IUD coil or the mini-pill)
  • the type of infertility treatment undertaken
  • being aged over 35
  • smoking
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) – caused by gonorrhoea, chlamydia or (rarely) bacterial vaginosis.


Ectopic Pregnancy Treatment Without Surgery

Your doctor may initially have tried ‘expectant management’ – careful monitoring to see if the fertilised egg dissolves by itself. But what if there were a failure in the monitoring of your condition?

Another option is a methotrexate injection (or series of injections). This powerful drug stops the fertilised egg from growing further before it can rupture the fallopian tube.

Methotrexate is recommended only if the ectopic pregnancy:

  • is not causing much pain yet
  • your hCG level is less than 1,500 IU (International Units)/litre
  • your tubal pregnancy has no viable heartbeat
  • there is no other pregnancy in your uterus. 

If methotrexate is not an option, the other alternative is a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) under a general anaesthetic.


Errors During Treatment Of An Ectopic Pregnancy

Late diagnosis is one of the key reasons why a tubal pregnancy can injure you and endanger your life. The clinicians could also misinterpret your scans and misdiagnose your condition.

Delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis can mean that your surgery was not carried out as promptly as it could and should have been. Delays mean that your pain and injuries could be more severe before your operation.


Claim Compensation For An Ectopic Pregnancy

You may need continuing treatment and care to put right the errors made by the healthcare professionals that treated you. If you were treated by NHS doctors you may want a private hospital to put right their errors. This can cost a significant amount of money.

You may also have suffered loss of earnings from needing to take time off work. After keyhole surgery you will need to one to two weeks to recover before you return to work. More invasive surgery may inevitably mean an even longer recovery period – four to six weeks off work. Depression and other psychological injuries can take even longer to recover from.

You can claim compensation for injury or loss suffered (including psychological injuries), the cost of medical treatment and loss of earnings.

Coles Miller’s experienced medical negligence solicitors will run your claim on a No Win No Fee basis. In the unlikely event of your claim not succeeding, we would cover your legal costs. The defendant’s legal costs would be covered by insurance. So there is no financial risk to you.

Our solicitors will handle your case for you so you do not have to worry. They will keep you updated on the progress of your claim to ensure your complete peace of mind. In our experience, 99% of medical negligence claims are settled before they go to court.


What Do I Do Next? Book A Free Chat

Please contact medical negligence solicitor David Simpson today for a free, informal and confidential chat about claiming compensation for an ectopic pregnancy.

David is the Partner in charge of Coles Miller’s Medical Negligence team.

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