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Is the Doctor Responsible for Childbirth Complications?

When a mother finds out she is pregnant, the number one priority is making sure she is doing everything she can to make sure her baby will be born healthy. There are a lot of things a newly pregnant mother can do to help her child, including eating right, going for regular doctor visits, and taking care of her own health. Unfortunately, some things are out of the pregnant mother’s control. 

Some children develop genetic conditions or health conditions even when the mother is doing everything right. Those complications may be unavoidable. However, other complications can be caused by the doctors, nurses, or medical staff failing to provide proper care during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. 

When a doctor is responsible for childbirth complications, they may not come out and admit to doing anything wrong. More often, a negligent doctor will do the opposite, and try to blame the problems on someone else. If you or your child suffer in childbirth complications and you suspect the doctor was to blame, talk to a medical malpractice team to understand your legal options. Contact Gilman and Bedigian today online or by phone at 800-529-6162.  

When Do Birth Complications Happen?

Childbirth is a long process and no one knows that better than a woman who has gone through pregnancy. Pregnancy is usually about 9 months but can be longer or shorter. However, even after the child is born, there is a period of time when the child is very sensitive to the outside world and can still be exposed to dangers in the hospital or shortly after returning home. 

Complications can happen at any time along the childbirth timeline, from the initial pregnancy to after the child is born. Unfortunately, parents may not be aware of some complications when they arise and will only be able to fully evaluate the child’s health and development after birth, and sometimes years later. 

For example, if a child suffered oxygen deprivation during delivery and the parents were unaware, the child may not show signs of brain damage until they begin to miss developmental milestones, months or years down the road. 

How is a parent supposed to know when the complications occurred, what caused the complications, and who was responsible for the child’s injuries? Even if parents are not sure what caused the child’s injuries, when they occurred, or who was responsible, an experienced medical expert may have a better idea. This is one of the first steps when parents contact an experienced birth injury malpractice law firm for help. 

Medical malpractice attorneys have experience in these types of birth injury cases and may be familiar with the type of birth complication your family is dealing with. They also work with medical experts, including experienced surgeons, medical geneticists, pediatricians, and OB/GYNs. These medical experts can review your medical records and identify problems with the care you received. 

What Is Medical Malpractice in a Birth Injury Case?

The term medical malpractice can be confusing because it is unclear for most people when a doctor did something wrong and how their actions were responsible for a baby’s injuries. However, there is a more simple way of looking at medical malpractice cases that make it easier to understand. 

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the injury victim has to prove the elements of the case, which include: 

  • The doctor had a duty of care to the patient
  • The doctor deviated from medical standards in treating the patient
  • The doctor’s actions caused the patient’s injuries
  • The patient suffered harm as a result 

Deviating from medical standards is based on what a reasonable doctor would do. For example, 100 doctors are asked about what to do in a given medical situation and they all agree on the answer. However, if your doctor did something different, they may be considered a deviation from the medical standards of care. When a doctor does something other doctors wouldn’t do and it causes an injury, the doctor could be professionally negligent, and financially responsible for any damages.  

What Are Common Childbirth Complications?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), common childbirth complications included: 

  • Preterm labor
  • Premature water break
  • Placental complications
  • Stalled labor
  • Abnormal fetal heart rate
  • Umbilical cord problems
  • Abnormal presentation
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Perinatal asphyxia 
  • Perineal tears
  • Bleeding
  • Post-term pregnancy

Placental Complications 

Placental abruption and placenta previa are some of the most common placental complications. Placental abruption occurs when the placenta becomes detached from the uterine wall early, resulting in bleeding and impaired oxygen delivery to the fetus. When this occurs, patients often have to be hospitalized and may require early delivery. 

Placenta previa occurs when the placenta is attached near the cervix, complicating the delivery. This is not uncommon and happens more often with people who have had several pregnancies. This will generally require a cesarean delivery because of the placenta blocking the delivery path. 

Bleeding Problems

Bleeding is not uncommon during pregnancy. However, it can indicate possible complications. If you have concerns about bleeding, talk to your doctor. Make sure you understand what it can indicate and when you should be concerned. Bleeding can indicate infection, preterm labor, or placental complications. Later in the pregnancy, bleeding can be a concern for other birth complications and should be reported immediately. 

Pregnancy Complications 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, other examples of common pregnancy complications include: 

  • Amniotic fluid complications
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Miscarriage or fetal loss
  • Preeclampsia and eclampsia

Amniotic Fluid Complications

Amniotic fluid is the liquid in the protective amniotic sac around the fetus. This can be a complicated balance, where too much fluid or not enough can lead to pregnancy complications. Too much fluid can influence preterm labor and problems for the mother. This can be caused by diabetes, multiple pregnancies, infection, or birth defects. Alternatively too little fluid could indicate slowed fetal growth or even fetal death.

Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo has implanted somewhere in the fallopian tubes, or somewhere other than in the uterus. These types of complications can be life-threatening for the mother. There may be an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy when using fertility treatments, or with pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine infection, tubal surgery, or a previous ectopic pregnancy. 

Signs of a possible ectopic pregnancy can include abdominal pain or bleeding. An ultrasound should indicate an ectopic pregnancy and should be treated immediately. 

Miscarriage or Fetal Loss

A miscarriage can be tragic for a couple expecting their child. Most miscarriages happen within the first 12 weeks, usually related to genetic abnormalities or chromosomal abnormalities. Miscarriages may begin with cramping and bleeding. An ultrasound and blood tests can indicate fetal loss, and the uterus will often naturally be expelled. 

Preeclampsia or Eclampsia

Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that occurs when a mother has high blood pressure and there is damage to her liver and kidneys or another organ system. Eclampsia involves seizures or convulsions in a pregnant woman with preeclampsia. These can be caused by irregular development in the blood vessels of the placenta. They can limit oxygen and blood supply to the fetus, resulting in organ damage and brain injury. 

Multiple Pregnancy Complications

With twins, triplets, quadruplets, and so on, each additional baby in the womb can increase risks and complications. These days, multiple pregnancies often involve fertility treatments. With fertility treatment, the woman can release more than one egg at a time, increasing the chances of multiple fertilized embryos. Complications involving multiple births include: 

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Preeclampsia 
  • Diabetes
  • Placental abruption
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Low birth weight 

Delivery Complications 

Even if the child develops normally, there may be complications that come up at the time of delivery. When there are delivery complications, treating these conditions is often in the hands of the doctors providing delivery care. When a delivery complication cannot be resolved, it can be caused by the doctor’s failure to provide proper medical care. 

Examples of delivery complications include stalled delivery, umbilical cord problems, abnormal presentation, and difficulty delivering the child. In many cases, when an emergency or complication comes up, time is of the essence. For example, if the child cannot be delivered through the birth canal or the umbilical cord is cutting off oxygen and blood to the baby, the doctors need to act immediately. They may require changing from natural delivery to a C-section. 

Unfortunately, some doctors delay delivery, even when they know medical standards recommend a C-section. This can include using delivery devices to deliver the child, including forceps and vacuum-assisted delivery devices. When these are not indicated for use, they can cause traumatic birth injuries to the child, including neck injuries, head injuries, and spinal cord damage. 

Delayed delivery can also result in prolonged hypoxia or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). It does not take long for oxygen deprivation in an infant to cause damage. Cells can begin to die within minutes. This can be shortly followed by organ damage and brain damage, which can be permanent. 

Perinatal Complications 

Perinatal complications occur just at or after the time of delivery. This is a critical time when the child is transitioning from being within the protective environment of the womb to the outside world. This requires close monitoring of the child’s oxygen, breathing, heartbeat, and other life signs. A newborn baby is sensitive to temperature and infection. Birth complications caused by medical negligence can involve: 

  • Failure to monitor the patient
  • Failure to monitor the baby
  • Improper diagnosis
  • Delayed delivery 
  • Medication errors
  • Infection injuries  

Are There Long-Term Risks of Pregnancy Complications?

According to a study released by Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pregnancy complications are tied to a higher risk of death as long as 50 years later. When compared to typical pregnancies and childbirths, patients who had high blood pressure during pregnancy, preterm delivery, or gestational diabetes had a greater risk of death. 

The maternal death rate in the United States is much higher than in other developed countries, even though the U.S. spends much more on health care. The maternal death rate in the U.S. is about 23 out of every 100,000 births. The country with the next highest rate is France, which has 1/3rd of the maternal mortality rate. That means that every year, about 800 mothers die in childbirth. 

According to researchers, there was a 23% increase in the risk of death for pregnant women whose water broke pre-term, a 31% increase for preterm induced labor, and more than double the death rate for patients who had a preterm cesarean delivery.  

When are Birth Complications the Doctor’s Fault?

A doctor may be liable for certain birth complications before the child is born through failure to monitor the pregnant mother and fetus, failure to diagnose serious health conditions, improper treatment, or negligent prenatal care. 

Negligence during delivery can be attributed to the doctor when the doctor uses improper delivery techniques, delays delivery, misdiagnoses the pregnant mother or fails to properly treat the pregnant mother or the baby. 

How is the family supposed to know when the injuries were caused by the doctor’s negligence? It can take a medical expert’s close review of the medical records to identify things that indicate something was not quite right. If you have questions about whether a birth complication was caused by the doctor’s actions (or inactions), talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to understand your legal options. 

There are time limitations to filing a medical malpractice claim. If you suffered an injury as a pregnant mother, you may only have a couple of years to file a claim. However, your injured child may have more time because the statute of limitations provides additional time for minors who were injured because of medical negligence. 

To find out if you have a birth injury malpractice case, contact an experienced medical malpractice law firm for legal advice about your rights. A medical malpractice attorney can review your case and help you understand what went wrong during the delivery and who was responsible. With an experienced attorney on your side, you can recover the maximum damages for your injuries. Contact a law firm that handles birth injury cases like yours. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.

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