Case studies

Late diagnosis of polyhydramnios results in traumatic birth


We are currently investigating the circumstances in which a first time mother had an extremely difficult pregnancy, becoming very large and quite unwell in her last trimester. She experienced difficulty breathing, reduced mobility as a result of swelling in her legs and feet, and a huge amount of stress. She had shared care from her GP, her midwife and her consultant and all three simply reassured her that she was having a large baby and she should try not to worry.

Ultimately, her sonographer picked up the problem and diagnosed that she was suffering from polyhydramnios; an excess of amniotic fluid. Her baby was in a breech position, as can often be the case with the condition, and was delivered by caesarean section. Her baby had an oesophageal abnormality, stopped breathing after birth and required emergency resuscitation.

If the polyhydramnios had been picked up earlier in the pregnancy, it may have been possible to treat the condition with medication and by draining the fluid. Further, if the team caring for her had considered the cause of the polyhydramnios, they may have looked for a fetal abnormality in her baby before she was born. The parents could then have been advised of their baby’s condition and properly prepared for her birth. They may also have decided to have her at a larger hospital with appropriate SCBU facilities as this would have avoided transferring the baby to the specialist unit as was ultimately the case.

It is sad that the lead up to the birth of their first child was a very stressful time for our clients and that the failure to diagnose her symptoms until very late into her pregnancy has resulted in the family seeking legal advice.


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Penningtons Manches LLP

Penningtons Manches LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. San Francisco is an associated office.

Penningtons Manches LLP