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Non-obstetric surgeries carry risk during pregnancy

If you are pregnant, chances are that you don’t expect to need any surgeries that are not a possible Cesarean-section delivery of your little bundle of joy. But sadly, there are conditions that develop during a woman’s pregnancy that are not related to the condition, but do require surgery during the gestation period.

Here in America, over 75,000 pregnant women have non-obstetric surgeries performed during their pregnancies each year, which is approximately 1.5 to 2 percent of all pregnancies in the United States. These surgeries, while medically necessary, do pose dangers to both mother and fetus and are complicated by the changes in the mother’s anatomy and physiology during pregnancy.

There are some conditions that must be treated surgically, like appendicitis and other abdominal disorders. Gallstones and acute pancreatitis require surgery, as do intestinal obstructions and the rupture of organs like the spleen or liver. These are just a few examples of conditions that demand immediate surgical intervention or they will quickly become life-threatening.

Surgeons performing these delicate procedures on pregnant patients must carefully weigh the pros and cons of surgery. Timing is crucial as well, as most surgeries during the first three months of gestation are best avoided unless delaying the procedure increases the risk to either the mother or fetus.

Pre-term labor can result from surgeries done in the last trimester. Surgeons can have problems accessing areas in heavily pregnant women, and their airways might even be compromised. When there is an option, it is usually best to perform surgeries early in the second trimester through the midpoint for optimal results.

If you or your baby suffered adverse effects from a non-obstetric surgery due to negligence, it may be possible to pursue claims for damages by filing a malpractice suit.

Source: University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, “Non-Obstetric Surgery During Pregnancy,” Imelda Odibo, MD, accessed March 18, 2016