The early stages of pregnancy should be magical and exciting. Seeing that positive result on a pregnancy test is one of the most memorable and life changing moments of a woman’s life. This is the beginning of a very special journey for the expectant mother and her family. However, sadly not every pregnancy has a happy ending. Miscarriage is the most common kind of pregnancy loss, affecting around one in four pregnancies*.
Miscarriage is when a baby (or fetus or embryo) dies in the uterus during pregnancy. In the UK, that definition applies to pregnancies up to 23 weeks and 6 days, and any loss from 24 weeks is called a stillbirth. If the baby is born alive, even before 24 weeks, and lives even for a matter of minutes, that is considered a live birth and a neonatal death.
The symptoms of miscarriage may include pain, spotting and bleeding, with or without abdominal pain or cramping. Medical professionals would usually use a transvaginal or ultrasound scan to confirm whether the baby (or fetus or embryo) has died or not developed. They may also take blood tests with a gap of least one week to check the levels of hCG in the blood.
Blighted ovum and anembryonic pregnancy both describe a particular kind of early miscarriage. Although there are the beginnings of a baby, the cells that will become the baby stop developing early on, and the tiny embryo is reabsorbed. However, the pregnancy sac, where the baby should develop, continues to grow.
During the first few weeks of pregnancy, the misdiagnosis of a blighted ovum is possible if the date of conception is uncertain. Although the developing embryo typically becomes visible earlier on a transvaginal ultrasound scan, it is not visible on an abdominal ultrasound scan until 1 - 2 weeks later.
Following a positive pregnancy test or a missed period, an expectant mother with a blighted ovum can still feel pregnant because her levels of the ‘pregnancy hormone’, hCG, may remain high for some time after the embryo has stopped developing and is no longer present.
Pelvic ultrasound scans
If you are uncertain about your date of conception, your GP should arrange for pelvic ultrasound scans to be carried out after a recommended number of weeks to avoid the possibility of misdiagnosis.
There are set guidelines for correctly diagnosing a blighted ovum, based on the recorded measurements of the embryo within the gestational sac when each type of ultrasound scan is carried out.
Seeking answers for a misdiagnosis requires specialist knowledge of both legal and medical issues. Clinical negligence cases involving pregnancy and child birth naturally demand the highest degree of sensitivity and understanding of how everyone involved is affected.
If you have suffered a miscarriage but it was not diagnosed and you were left poorly or injured you should speak to a medical negligence solicitor.
The time limit on making a miscarriage claim
It’s beneficial if you’re quick to pursue a claim as the paperwork will be readily available and the detail of the event will still be ‘fresh’ in your mind, which will help when putting your case together. There is also a three year time limit from the ‘date of knowledge’ where you learned that a mistake on your doctor’s part led to the pain or suffering you’re now experiencing. Usually if you attempt to bring a claim after this date, it will be considered ‘statute barred’ or ‘out of time’ as per the Limitation act of 1980, section 11. If you are within the time limit, or are unsure as to whether you fall within the time period allowed, you can speak to us and we’ll be able to advise you as best we can based upon the information you’re able to share with us.
If you do not claim within the set time period, your claim will be considered ‘statute barred’ or ‘out of time’ and will unfortunately not be taken further. There are two exceptions to this rule, in the case of children and if the negligence directly led to a fatality. In these cases suing the NHS for negligence is still possible as the date on which time begins to run is the date of the child’s 18th birthday, and in the case of fatalities, from the date of death.
After a free initial phone consultation, a clinical negligence solicitor can get a feel for your circumstances, the problems you face and consequences you’re having to live with. If they feel that something wasn’t done, that should have been, they may go on to request copies of your medical records, with your permission, to assess whether something was missed or to see if a mistake was made. If it looks like a mistake was made, they will then speak to you to discuss whether you wish to pursue a medical negligence claim for compensation. We can talk you through our no win no fee legal service which means there are no upfront costs for you to cover.