Retained Placenta Negligence Claims Guide

By Danielle Parsons. Last Updated 5th July 2023. You may be searching for advice and guidance on how to make a medical negligence claim for retained placenta . There may be some burning questions on your mind, such as ‘Is a retained placenta the doctor’s fault?’, ‘Is retained placenta medical negligence?’ or ‘Can retained placenta pass naturally?’ In such cases, we hope the information provided can provide you with answers.

Retained placenta negligence

Retained placenta negligence

Throughout this guide, we will discuss various factors associated with retained placenta. This will include, but is not limited to, the three types of retained placenta, retained placenta symptoms, what medical implications this may have, and how you can make a claim for retained placenta negligence.

There can be multiple life-threatening complications for the mother if a retained placenta is left untreated, such as infection and excessive blood loss. In severe cases, this may lead to death.

It is important to find the right legal representative who could help you receive the highest possible settlement for your damages, or on behalf of the deceased if you are of close family. If your condition was caused by the breach in duty of care by a healthcare professional, you may be entitled to make a case for birth injury negligence or retained placenta compensation claim.

We have a panel of specialist personal injury lawyers who could provide you with impartial advice and guidance on how to make a successful settlement claim. If you would like a free confidential consultation from our panel of personal injury solicitors then call us on 0800 652 3087.

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What Is The Placenta?

The placenta is an organ attached to the lining of your womb, which plays an important role during your pregnancy. This is connected to your baby by the umbilical cord and it keeps the blood supply of your unborn baby separate from your own.

There are numerous important functions that the placenta has in order to keep yourself and your baby healthy at various points of the pregnancy. To begin with, the placenta will pass oxygen and nutrients from your blood supply, including hormones that help with growth and development. Further from this, the placenta will then pass back any waste products produced by the baby, such as carbon dioxide, will be passed back along the umbilical cord to the placenta and into your blood stream. Your body will then dispose of them.

After your baby is born, you may be offered a medicine by your midwife to help push the placenta out by stimulating your contractions. To encourage the placenta to come away from the wall of your womb, the medicine will be injected into your thigh just as the baby is born. This will also help prevent the potential bleeding that some women may experience.

What Is A Retained Placenta?

Usually during the third stage of child birth, your body expels the entire placenta through your vagina once the baby is born. A retained placenta is a part (or all) of your placenta that remains inside your womb, with the membranes attached to it, for longer than normal after child birth.

There are three stages which occur during labour:

  • Stage 1: Initial contractions begin that causes your cervix to change in order to prepare for delivery.
  • Stage 2: Delivery of baby
  • Stage 3: The placenta is then delivered, the organ responsible for your baby’s nourishment during pregnancy.

Generally speaking, if a placenta has not undergone expulsion within 30 minutes of the baby’s birth, it is considered a retained placenta. If a missed retained placenta is left untreated, it could cause life-threatening complications for the mother. A retained placenta after birth could cause excessive blood loss or even infection.

This condition affects around 0.1% of deliveries in less developed countries, but retains a 10% case fatality rate. However, in more developed countries this is more common, as about 3% of vaginal deliveries result in a retained placenta.

The three forms of a retained placenta are a placenta accreta, trapped placenta and a placenta adherens.

More information about these different types of retained placentas will be discussed in further detail below.

What Are The Causes Of A Retained Placenta?

As briefly discussed above, a placenta can become trapped when it detaches from the uterus (the womb) but fails to leave the body entirely. After the third stage of labour, you can choose from a physiological (natural) third stage or a managed third stage.

A physiological (natural) third stage involves the natural contractions of your womb after the birth. This helps your body naturally detach the placenta from the wall and eliminate it naturally. Usually this should take around 10 minutes, although it has been known for the process to take up to an hour for some women.

With a retained placenta management procedure, you will receive a hormone injection in your thigh. A midwife will either inject this drug just as your baby is born or immediately after to help your womb contract down and to assist the placenta and membranes in coming away.

However, in certain cases some women may experience a retained placenta. There are three main reasons for a retained placenta commonly known among healthcare professionals. These include:

  • Either the womb doesn’t contract enough or the womb stops contracting entirely which stops the placenta from separating from the wall of the womb. As a result this leads to the placenta staying in the uterus after delivery.
  • When the placenta becomes trapped behind your semi-closed cervix as it comes away from the womb.
  • A retained placenta after a c section is a common result of circumstances where part of the placenta has deeply embedded itself over a previous caesarean section scar.

If you give birth to a premature baby you are more likely to experience such instances. In addition to this, cases of a retained placenta after abortion and a retained placenta after miscarriage are also known to occur.

Do I Need Evidence To Claim Retained Placenta Compensation?

If you are seeking retained placenta compensation, you will need to collect evidence that proves you experienced avoidable harm when a duty of care owed to you was breached.

Here are a few examples of evidence that could support a claim for birth injury negligence:

  • A copy of your maternity notes. These record details of your pregnancy and are updated at every appointment.
  • Copies of your ultrasound scans. You can submit pregnancy ultrasound scans as well as any taken after the birth.
  • A copy of your medical records. For example, if you developed an infection due to a retained placenta, these should contain details of the treatment you received.
  • Witness contact details if anyone was with you. Witnesses can provide a statement later into the claiming process.

If you have any questions about what evidence could support retained placenta claims, please get in touch with one of our advisors.

Women More At Risk Of A Retained Placenta

There are certain groups of women who may be at more risk of retained placentas than others. Those at higher risk of this may include:

  • Women aged over thirty
  • Stillbirth cases
  • First or second stages of labour that last longer.
  • The delivery of a child before the 34th week of pregnancy or other premature births.

Not all retained placentas will develop from medical negligence some may happen which could not have been prevented. If you feel that your case could have been avoided had the right procedures been in place why not call our advisors for more information.

How Is A Retained Placenta Diagnosed?

There are certain time-frames in which you could be diagnosed with having a retained placenta. A doctor/midwife is able to carefully examine the expelled placenta to assess whether it is completely intact; even if a small portion is missing this could be a cause for concern. So it’s important for a doctor/midwife to take care when performing this examination.

Unfortunately, there are cases in which a doctor may not notice that a small part is missing from the placenta. Often a woman will experience symptoms shortly after delivery if this is the case.

These time frames could be:

  • 1 hour: For a natural (or physiological) management of your third stage labour.
  • 3 minutes: For active management of your third stage labour.

If you are wondering ‘Can I make a claim for retained placenta?’ the answer is possibly depending if the cause was due to negligence. For more details about what makes an eligible case for suing a healthcare provider for retained placenta, speak to one of our expert advisors.

Are There Different Types Of A Retained Placenta?

There are three main types of retained placenta in which women may suffer. All three types could lead to a mother suffering unnecessarily if untreated. More information about the specific types can be found below:

Placenta Accreta

One of the more common types of retained placenta after a C section, ‘placenta accreta’ embeds itself over a previous caesarean section scar. The placenta may also attach itself to the muscles of the uterus wall. In some cases, it is known for the placenta to grow through the wall of the womb entirely; this becomes a condition called ‘placenta percreta’.

Trapped Placenta

If a placenta fails to deliver or pass out effectively, it may become trapped behind your semi-closed cervix. This begins to close before the passing of the placenta and leads to such cases. In these circumstances, the condition is referred to as ‘trapped placenta’. More information can be found about the manual removal of a retained placenta in this NHS PDF guide.

Placenta Adherens

Cases of placenta adherens occurs when the womb ceases to contract or cannot contract enough for the placenta to fully separate from the womb wall. This could also include circumstances where the placenta only partially separates from the uterus. In such cases, a midwife should be able to spot when the womb is too weak to contract and detached the placenta.

They may recommend how to remove a retained placenta, such as using manual methods to deliver the placenta, or in serious circumstances, recommend retained placenta surgery.

If during the retained placenta operation there was a breach in the duty of care delivered to you causing you an avoidable injury, there may be grounds for surgery negligence. Contact our panel of medical negligence lawyers today to discuss your circumstances.

How Are Retained Placentas Treated?

What treatment you may need depends on the type of third stage you have experienced during labour. You could be wondering ‘Can retained placenta pass naturally?’ or ‘Is a retained placenta life threatening?’. Although a retained placenta can pass naturally, it has a short time period of 30 minutes to pass before medical professionals must intervene.

There are a range of treatment options which are open to you. During a managed third stage, you will receive an injection from your midwife in your thigh. This is just a precaution to ensure to avoid the risk of heavy bleeding if the placenta doesn’t remove itself sufficiently. After the midwife has examined you, he/she may suggest for you to wait a while longer in case it passes away on its own.

While you wait, your midwife may suggest:

  • Helping your womb to contract down by emptying your bladder.
  • Rubbing your nipples or breastfeeding to stimulate contractions. Although, this method may not be the most efficient to pass the whole placenta out.
  • Using the forces of gravity by getting into an upright position.

If these suggestions do not work, you may require emergency surgery to ensure all the tissues have been successfully removed. However, a doctor may remove the placenta using delivery tools, but this can be at higher risk for infection.

What Could Happen If Some Placenta Tissue Is Not Removed?

It may be the case that the remaining tissue could pass away naturally as a large blood clot. But you could be asked to remain in hospital for doctors to conduct further procedures to remove the fragments left in your womb.

This process is known as ‘evacuation of retained products of conception’ or ERPC for short. You will receive anaesthetic before your doctor inserts a small instrument through your cervix into your womb to remove the remaining placental tissue. The anaesthetic will be administered through a regional (spinal) anaesthetic or a general anaesthetic to guarantee you’re kept pain free during an ERPC.

If placenta tissue remains in the uterus after surgery or a doctor or midwife fails to recommend the correct course of treatment and your suffering was worsened as a result, you could hold a valid case for compensation. To make a no win no fee personal injury claim with our panel of medical negligence solicitors please call our advisors the contact number will be located at the end of the guide.

What Is The Prognosis For A Patient Who Suffered A Retained Placenta?

If the condition is treated quickly and efficiently, the higher the overall success rate is likely to be. However, when such rarities happen and the condition is not treated properly, the likelihood of infection becomes more prominent. You can discuss your potential options with your doctor or midwife. If your circumstances are the result of medical negligence, you could make a retained placenta compensation claim.

What Other Potential Complications Could A Patient Suffer?

One of the main complications that could potentially arise from a retained placenta is haemorrhaging in the more serious cases. The blood vessels will continue to bleed where the organ is still attached, resulting in a haemorrhage, excessive bleeding which could lead to the mother requiring a blood transfusion or emergency treatment to stop the bleeding from leading to severe complications. As your uterus will be unable to close properly to prevent the blood loss, there is a risk of significant blood loss when the placenta isn’t delivered within 30 minutes.

How Could A Retained Placenta Be Prevented?

Sadly, there is a lack of options to prevent a retained placenta in future pregnancies. Unfortunately, in instances where you have suffered from a this before there is a higher risk to suffering during future pregnancies. Miscarriages may also come with a high risk of retained placenta. Caesarean sections also increase the chances of this condition happening again as the scar allows for embedding.

Although the cause of a retained placenta in your previous birth(s) could highlight the risk of it happening again so it is vital that medical staff always err on the side of caution. If your placenta was retained in your first labour as it was induced or sped up over a long period, this may not happen with your next baby as subsequent labours tend to become naturally quicker and easier.

Some evidence suggests uterine massage, oxytocin medicine or a natural third stage could reduce the chances of a placenta becoming retained. But a history of this condition could affect your birth choices altogether.

Women who have experienced a snapped cord before the placenta could be fully delivered, or a closed cervix too quickly after receiving a hormone injection, may prefer a physiological third stage of birth in future circumstances.

In your next labour, a doctor or midwife may suggest that you give birth in a hospital environment to ensure you will receive all the medical help you need. These options can all be discussed with you by a consultant during your pregnancy.

Eligibility To Make A Retained Placenta Negligence Labor And Delivery Claim

‘In cases of a retained placenta who is at fault?’ This question is not always straight forward but the simplest way it could be answered is to look at whether the retrained placenta could have been avoided and was it caused because medical staff were negligent.

In order to have substantial grounds for a retained placenta negligence claim you must be able to show that the failure to diagnosis  retained placenta or the failure to refer you to correct treatment methods caused you to suffer unnecessarily. A personal injury solicitor or medical negligence solicitor could advise you on the most suitable route to take in order to claim compensation for a retained placenta at NHS hospitals or private hospitals.

In circumstances where a patient has been suffered in relation to a negligent retained placenta, the personal injury claims time limit begins from the date the negligence occurred or the date of the diagnosis. This could be up to three years, however some circumstances exceed this limit. Additional details on the personal injury claims time limit can be found here.

In cases of NHS negligence for conditions such as placenta accreta, symptoms can be spotted through ultrasound scans earlier into the second or third trimesters of a pregnancy. By failing to diagnose these signs, your health could suffer during the delivery of your baby. To make a retained placenta compensation claim, contact our expert team of advisors for advice and support.

List Of Compensation Payouts – Medical Negligence Claims

This section includes a list of compensation payouts for injuries and illnesses that could have developed because of a retained placenta.

The information in our table comes from the Judicial College Guidelines (JCG) which looks at claims for injuries that have gone to court and creates compensation brackets using the final settlements. Our table uses information from the 2022 edition of the publication. However, you should not take the figures shown as guarantees for your claim as all claims need to be individually assessed.

ParaplegiaFor injuries that cause paralysis of the lower half of a body£219,070 to
KidneyFor cases of serious or permanent damage£169,400 to
Female Reproductive System For injuries causing infertility and psychological harm£114,900 to
Non-traumatic Digestive System InjuryToxicosis resulting in pain and vomitting£38,430 to
Complete Loss Of Taste And SmellAs a result of an infectionIn the region of
Complete Loss Of Smell And Affected Sense Of TasteAs a result of an infection£32,900 to £39,170
Loss Of SmellAs a result of an infection£24,990 to £32,900
Loss Of TasteAs a result of an infection£19,200 to £24,990

This amount known as general damages is for the pain and distress the injury may have caused – this is evidenced in the table above. A medical injury claim could include both general damages and special damages. Special damages is the amount of compensation to compensate you for your financial losses. You will need to able to prove that any amount or cost you are claiming for is directly tied to your injury.

You could be able to claim for:

  • Care costs
  • Treatment costs
  • Lost earnings

There are other examples of financial losses you could claim for, and you would need evidence such as receipts, invoices and payslips. If you are looking more information about UK medical negligence claims and their payouts, please reach out to one of our advisers.

No Win No Fee Retained Placenta Negligence Claims

You could always make sure you are fully aware of what is associated with certain financial agreements before signing into a legally binding contract. With so many different ways to claim compensation for damages, we feel that one of the most affordable ways to conduct a claim is through a no win no fee agreement.

By making a no win no fee claim, you won’t have any financial obligation to settle the fees of your solicitor if your case is unsuccessful. In addition to this, you won’t have to make any ongoing payments for the day-to-day costs incurred by a medical negligence solicitor during the pursuit of your claim. At the successful completion of this case, you will only have to pay a pre-agreed percentage from your compensation towards their fees.

Usually the normal percentage of compensation used to settle solicitor fees is capped at a maximum of 25%. To find out how much you could be entitled to, you may want to use an online personal injury calculator however always remember that through is only a rough estimate. We feel that these are too general as every claim for medical negligence is unique. With this in mind, our specialist advisors possess the capabilities to provide you with a more centralised estimation of the damages you could receive.

Additional Information And Recommended Guides

We hope this guide has helped you understand retained placenta negligence and what is associated with cases of labour/delivery claims. For more information, we have provided you with additional resources below which may assist you in your search.

What Is The Placenta?
An NHS guide to understanding the function of a placenta.

Complications With The Placenta
What complications can affect the placenta during pregnancy or child birth, according to the NHS.

Below, you can find links to all of our medical negligence claims guides:

Written by Hollie Edited by LisM.