While exposure to carbon monoxide poses a serious health concern for everyone, pregnant women face a particularly high risk, and special treatments may be required to protect the developing baby in the event of carbon monoxide poisoning during pregnancy

In an article published last month in the medical journal Contemporary OB/GYN, Drs. Perry Friedman and Robert J. Stiller, from the Bridgeport Hospital Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, highlight the serious nature of carbon monoxide risks for pregnant women.

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Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that has no odor, color, smell or other irritating factors to allow someone to detect it is present. It is a leading cause of poisoning deaths in the U.S., and send thousands of people to the hospital each year.

Even short-term exposure to can result in a variety of symptoms, potentially resulting in serious and long term brain damage from carbon monoxide. However, pregnant women also risk serious developmental injury for their unborn children if they are exposed to the gas.

The doctors note that during pregnancy women should be particularly vigilant about the risk of exposure, which is especially high during the winter months and surrounding major weather events, such as the blizzard snow fall expected this weekend throughout much of the mid-Atlantic.

Carbon monoxide exposure during pregnancy may cause the development of major congenital malformations and birth defects, including a risk of fetal death or loss of the baby in severe cases.

According to the article:

“The effects of CO poisoning on the developing fetus depend greatly on the gestational age of exposure and the dose. As a general rule, fetal injury is more likely when acute maternal CO poisoning is associated with more severe symptoms such as loss of consciousness. An anoxic event during the early gestational ages of embryogenesis or shortly after may be associated with anatomical malformations such as limb abnormalities or microcephaly, specifically in fetuses that survive to viability.”

Exposure to carbon monoxide later in pregnancy can cause hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, hyptonia, cerebral palsy and other problems, the doctors warned. At this stage, if the mother suffers severe carbon monoxide poisoning, the risk of a miscarriage can be as high as 67%, they indicate.

The article urges women and doctors to maintain a high level of suspicion during the winter months, where the risk of exposure may be increased due to fireplaces, stoves, running vehicles, heating appliances and portable generators.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may not be immediately apparent, so it is important for expecting mothers to be aware that headaches, nausea, vomiting, and altered mental status could all be signs of exposure.

Treatment of pregnant women suffering carbon monoxide poisoning typically requires 100% oxygen through a non-rebreather, external fetal monitoring, and possibly oxygen therapy in a hyperbaric chamber.

If a hyberbaric chamber during pregnancy is needed, the doctors warn that the treatment should last five times longer than usual for pregnant women, in order to remove the carbon monoxide from fetal circulation.

Carbon monoxide is often referred to as the “silent killer,” since it is difficult to detect. One of the easiest steps to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide exposure during pregnancy is to ensure that a properly functioning and placed carbon monoxide detector or alarm is present in the house, near all bedrooms or other areas where people spend a lot of time.

The carbon monoxide lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. investigate cases for individuals throughout the United States who have experienced problems from exposure to this toxic gas due to the negligence of another person or corporation. The long-term side effects of carbon monoxide poisoning can be devastating, even if an immediate injury is not apparent. This is particularly true for pregnant women.

To review whether you or a loved one may be entitled to financial compensation as a result of a carbon monoxide injury, request a free consultation and claim evaluation.