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Retained Placenta Medical Negligence Compensation Guide – Placenta left in after birth negligence claims

A retained placenta can be a serious and potentially even life-threatening condition, due to associated hemorrhaging (serious blood loss). In most births the placenta and the associated membranes will be delivered just after the baby. The placenta will usually be delivered or removed between five and thirty minutes after the birth of the baby. If it is not, there is a potential risk of the mother suffering hemorrhaging. However there are instances where the full placenta or all of the membranes are not delivered and some tissue is retained in the uterus.

Retained placenta medical negligence

Retained placenta medical negligence

Whilst the condition could arise even if medical staff are carrying out their duties correctly, there is the potential for a retained placenta and hemorrhaging taking place because a doctor, nurse or midwife has made an error. They may have failed to spot retained placenta symptoms or not acted with due care and attention.

Failing to diagnose a retained placenta could be life threatening and medical staff could be held accountable for negligence. In such cases, you could be able to make a birth negligence compensation claim against the responsible party.

You can find out more about both retained placenta and how a personal injury solicitor may be able to help you in the guide below.

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A Guide To Retained Placenta Medical Negligence Claims

Compensation claims for medical negligence which leads to a retained placenta are a type of birth injury negligence claim. Such personal injury claims could be brought against either the NHS or against private medical providers.

After the birth of a baby, the placenta also must be fully delivered. This happens during the ‘third stage of labour’ where the afterbirth comes out. After delivering the child you may not notice the placenta and afterbirth being delivered, though one in fifty women will require an assisted placenta delivery. Crucially, medical staff present should notice whether this stage of labour has or has not happened. They should also note any retained placenta symptoms.

If the placenta is not delivered soon after the birth of the child there may be the need for surgical intervention. The midwife is responsible for ensuring the complete delivery of the afterbirth. They must identify whether the placenta and membranes have been fully delivered or are ragged. They may recommend retained placenta surgery if necessary.

The responsibilities of midwives are set by the Nursing and Midwives Council. You can download their standards guide here.

If either a midwife fails to identify the retention of placental tissue or surgery negligence occurs there may be grounds to make a retained placenta compensation claim.

What Is A Retained Placenta?

A retained placenta after birth happens when part or all of the placental tissue or the attached membranes are not passed, remaining in the uterus for longer than usual. The whole placenta is usually passed out of the body shortly after delivery of the baby in the third stage of labour.

If there have not been any complications with your pregnancy or the delivery of your child, your midwife will usually give the choice of either a managed or natural third stage of labour. If you opt for a natural third stage, the womb should naturally contract after delivery of the baby. The placenta should then detach. Some women may need to push a little. The third stage of labour should last about ten minutes, but could last for up to an hour. If you choose a ‘managed’ third stage you will be given an injection or hormones to induce the process.

If some tissue from the from the placenta is in the uterus after delivery, this is a retained placenta.

What Does The Placenta Do?

The placenta is an organ which is attached to the womb lining and babies umbilical cord during pregnancy. It separates the babies and mother’s blood supply whilst also linking the baby and mother. The placenta will also carry out functions which the baby can not you do itself.

The placenta passes nutrients and oxygen from the mothers to the babies blood supply through the umbilical cord. It then also transports waste products from the baby to the mother to be disposed of. The placenta also produces different hormones allowing the baby to develop and grow. It also protects the baby from infection and bacteria, though not from viruses, by passing on antibodies from the mother. This provides immunity from the babies first three month. The placenta does not protect the fetus / baby from drugs, nicotine and alcohol.

What Causes A Retained Placenta?

There are three main causes or reasons for a retained placenta happening. These are;

  • The womb either does not contract enough to separate the placenta from the womb wall or stops contracting leaving the placenta in the uterus after delivery.
  • The placenta does detach from the womb, but is trapped by the cervix
  • The placenta imbeds itself into the womb. This is more likely to happen in cases of a retained placenta after c-section from a previous pregnancy. In such cases the placenta could grow through the womb wall.

Such instances are more likely to occur in cases where a baby is born prematurely. They can also happen in instances of a retained placenta after abortion and a retained placenta after miscarriage.

Can retained placenta pass naturally? It is possible that a retained placenta could be passed naturally. However your midwife will determine the most appropriate course of action.

Which Groups Are More At Risk Of Retained Placentas?

Along with there being various reasons for a retained placenta occuring, there are certain groups which may have a higher risk of suffering from a retained placenta.

Groups identified at being a (potentially) higher risk include;

  • Women over thirty years old.
  • Those giving birth before the 34th week of their pregnancy and other premature births.
  • Those whose labour lasted longer in the first or second stage.
  • Cases of stillbirths.

If you are a mother who has has been harmed during the birth of your child because of negligent medical care, you could claim compensation. Find out more about birth injury negligence claims in our guide here.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Retained Placenta?

The first and most obvious retained placenta symptom is that the placenta itself has not been passed after the birth of the baby. Symptoms are not always this easy to spot, especially if it is part of the placenta which has not been delivered, with some membranes or placental tissue remaining in the womb. In some cases this may not be spotted. If this is the case the mother could suffer either from heavy bleeding or an infection from the retained placenta.

After giving birth it is quite common for the mother to feel cramping, experience bleeding or be in some level of discomfort. If you experience any of these symptoms following your pregnancy you should contact a doctor or midwife.

  • Constant pain.
  • Fever / high temperature.
  • Passing large pieces of placental tissue.
  • Heavier than expected bleeding. Whilst some bleeding is expected, if you are concerned about the rate or volume please consult your doctor or midwife.
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge.

If you are experiencing these symptoms you may need to be checked by a medical professional to see if you have a missed retained placenta. If you are experiencing any unexpected symptoms following the delivery of your baby we do recommend that you consult an appropriate medical professional.

Find out what you can expect straight after giving birth in this NHS guide.

Diagnosing A Retained Placenta

If the placenta is not delivered within certain timeframes, you could be diagnosed with having a retained placenta.

  • If having natural (physiological) management of your third stage of labour – 1 hour.
  • If you are having active management of your third stage of labour – 3 minutes.

If you initially were unsuccessful in trying natural management, your midwife may move you on to active management to pass the placenta. At this point if active management also does not work, you may need to have a manual removal.

When delivered, your doctor or midwife can examine the placenta to check if it is intact. Your doctor should be able to determine if even a small portion of the placenta is missing from what has been delivered. Though this can sometimes be difficult to spot and could cause the person to experience negative symptoms.

If your doctor or midwife think that there may be tissues left in your womb they may carry out an investigation, such as performing an ultrasound. They will then recommend the appropriate course of action.

Examples Of The Main Types Of Retained Placentas

There are three main types of retained placenta after births, all of which could lead to a mother being harmed if they are not treated appropriately and swiftly.

Placenta Accreta

Placenta accreta is a more common type of retained placenta after a C-section. In this case the placenta will attach itself to either the muscles which like the wall of the uterus or to scar tissue. A medical professional can detect whether this is the case in the second or third stage (trimester) of your pregnancy. Treatment is available in such cases and you may be recommended to delivery by caesarean section.

Placenta Adherens

In this case the uterus does not sufficiently contract in order to fully separate the uterus and placenta. This may mean that the placenta only partially separates from the uterus. The midwife who is carrying for your during your delivery should be able to spot whether contractions are too weak to detach the placenta. They may then recommend either medication to be used to help you deliver the placenta or in serious instances recommend retained placenta surgery.

Trapped Placenta

This could occur where a placenta which is detached from the uterus is not delivered or passed out. The placenta becomes trapped behind a cervix which begins to close before the passing of the placenta.

Find further information about the manual removal of a retained placenta in this NHS PDF guide.

Treatment Options For Retained Placentas

If you have experienced a retained placenta or membranes left inside you, you wonder what treatment options are available and how to remove a retained placenta. Treatment will mean the entirety of the tissue left must be removed.

There are different treatment options which are open to your doctor or midwife. The medical team treating you should choose the most appropriate treatment for you. In the event that they have not done so and you are harmed as a result, the retained placenta could be the doctors fault.


  • The removal of the placenta by hand. In such cases there is an increased risk of infection from the retained placenta treatment.
  • Medication may be used to contract or relax the uterus and help the retained placenta to pass as naturally as possible.
  • Medical staff may recommend the mother tries breast-feeding. This could help the body to release hormones which affect the uterus.

You may also find that passing the placenta is as simple to urinating. This can relieve pressure on the bladder which could have prevented the placenta passing.

If these treatment options do not work, you may require emergency surgery to remove all tissues as necessary. If there is still placental tissues left in the uterus and you experience harm because of this, the surgeon could be at fault and you could make a claim for surgery negligence.

If the doctor or midwife in charge of your treatment has failed to recommend the correct course of treatment and you were harmed as a result, you could be able to make a medical negligence claim.

Complications And Prognosis

It is important that the placenta is delivered after the birth of a baby. It allows the uterus to properly contract and stops further bleeding. When a placenta is retained, there could continue to be bleeding from blood vessels attached to the organ. The uterus also can not properly contract and prevent the loss of blood. This is why in some cases a retained placenta could be life-threatening.

What If Some Placenta Tissue Is Left?

It is possible for midwives or doctors to have properly carried out their job to required standards and for placenta tissue to be left. This may be termed a missed retained placenta. In such cases the tissue may pass naturally as a large blood clot. If you experience this it is a good idea to consult with your midwife. If some tissue is still found to be retained you may need to undergo another medical procedure called an ERPC (evacuation of retained products conception).

Further Complications

The main complication which could result from this is hemorrhaging and excessive bleeding. In the most serious of cases the mother may require a blood transfusion or emergency treatment to stop the bleeding.

Future Prognosis

It is quite rare for such conditions to take place and for instances of retained placenta medical negligence to occur. In general the condition can be treated fully and properly. The quicker that treatment could be started, the better the potential outcome and future prognosis.

If you are in an at risk group or have previously suffered a retained placenta, you could discuss your potential options with your doctor or midwife. This will allow you and them to take any necessary steps towards retained placenta management.

Preventing Retained Placentas

If you have experienced this condition once, there is an increased risk of suffering it again in your next pregnancy after a retained placenta. If you have had surgery on your womb, such as a caesarian section, there is also an increased risk of suffering it in future pregnancies. Having had an induced labour could also increase chances of this happening in the future.

Having a natural third stage of delivery could reduce the chances of the placenta being retained in a future labour. Other steps which have been shown to help reduce chances include uterine massage and oxytocin medication.

Could I Make A Retained Placenta Compensation Claim?

A personal injury solicitor or personal injury lawyer may be able to help you claim compensation for a retained placenta after a birth if your placenta was not removed fully or in the right time frame and if you were hurt because of this. If does not matter whether you experienced harm at a private hospital or were victim to NHS negligence.

Conditions such as placenta accreta could be diagnosed during ultrasound scans earlier in the pregnancy during the second or third trimester. Failures in the diagnosis at these earlier stages or the failure to put a proper treatment plan in place could cause your health to suffer during the delivery of your baby. In such instances you could be able to make a retained placenta compensation claim.

See other ways in which a medical negligence solicitor could help you if affected by pregnancy or birth negligence in our birth injury claims guide.

Retained Placenta Medical Negligence Compensation Calculator

If you have been harmed by medical negligence in the treatment of a retained placenta or whilst giving birth, you can use this illustrative personal injury claims calculator to start to see how much you may be able to claim in compensation.

Reason for compensationSeveritySettlement amounts with uplift.Comments on injury
Psychiatric injuriesSevere£48,080 to £101,470Themother may experience serious problems coping with things such as work or education. They may be left more vulnerable in the future.
Psychiatric injuriesModerately severe£16,720 to £48,080Most claimants may fall towards the middle of this bracket. Symptoms and effects are lesser than above.
Psychiatric injuriesModerate£5,130 to £16,720Whilst they may experience similar problems, such issues will be less severe and the patient will face a much better prognosis.
Psychiatric injuriesLess severe£1,350 to £5,130How much is awarded will be affected by how much of an effect the injuries have had on the patient.
PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress DisorderSevere£52,490 to £88,270The claimant may experience a permanent problem with being able to work or carry out other daily tasks.
PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress DisorderModerately Severe£20,290 to £52,490Where symptoms are still more severe than below categories, but with a better prognosis than above.
PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress DisorderModerate£7,170 to £20,290The claimant will either have recovered largely, or is expected to do so. If there are any continuing symptoms these should not be great.
PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress DisorderLess severe£3,460 to £7,170An almost complete recovery should be made in less than two years. Though there may be some small symptoms lasting beyond this.

Please note that when suing a doctor for a retained placenta or any other medical practitioner you will need to bring your claim within the personal injury claims time limit. In most instances this is three years, but can vary. You can learn more about medical negligence claims in our guide.

No Win No Fee Compensation Claims For Retained Placenta Medical Negligence

Whilst there are different ways in which you could fund a claim made with a medical negligence lawyer or other solicitor, one of the most popular ways of doing so is through a no win no fee agreement.

If you make a no win no fee claim you will not have to pay your solicitor upfront fees. You will also not be asked to make any ongoing payments for their day-to-day costs incurred in the pursuit of your claim. Instead you will pay your solicitor their fee at the successful completion of the case. This is often deducted as an agreed upon percentage of your settlement.

We have a guide to how a no win no fee solicitor could help you.

Contact A Legal Expert

Legal Expert have an experienced team of medical negligence solicitors who are experienced in helping people to make different forms of birth negligence compensation claims. Our personal injury claims team could help you to claim compensation from a doctor, hospital or a midwife who is at fault for your retained placenta injuries.

If you feel that you were harmed due to the way in which you were treated by medical professionals during your pregnancy, childbirth or third stage labour you could be able to make a medical negligence claim. Contact us on 0800 073 8804 and discuss your claim with our specialist team. You could also send an email to our team at If you able to make a claim will be referred to one of our medical negligence solicitors. They will be able to provide you with further confidential help and advice and may be able to use a personal injury claims calculator to assess how much compensation you are owed.

Medical Resources And Claims Guides

In order to produce this article we have used some of the reference materials below, as well as those which we have linked to in the article above. You can find out more about retained placenta from the NHS, and retained placenta management in these resources.

Standards For Midwives
I had a retained placenta who is at fault? According to guidelines from the NMC, a midwife may be at fault if you are harmed in such circumstances.

NHS HRA Retained Placenta Case Study
NHS Health Research Authority studies into retained placentas.

Complications Affecting The Placenta
Further information from the NHS about different complications which could affect the placenta, such as retained placenta and hemorrhaging.

NCT – Third Stage Of Labour
A more complete guide to the third stage of labour produced by the National Childbirth Trust

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