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Common Birth Injuries: The Mother

Today, having medical assistance during childbirth is seen as another normal part of the process. Childbirth-related surgical procedures are conducted by highly trained experts. However, it’s important to remember that mistakes and malpractice happen in every action conducted by humans, and childbirth is no exception.

Medical professionals are liable for childbirth injuries when their actions directly caused an injury, or when an injury was the result of their neglect. Here are some ways in which medical malpractice can cause damage to a new mother.

Untreated Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is an illness that is directly related to pregnancy. Its most obvious symptom is high blood pressure. It can develop slowly over time, all at once, or even after delivery. It is not the only high blood pressure illness related to pregnancy, but it does have symptoms that make it uniquely dangerous.

Preeclampsia is believed to be related to blood vessels in the placenta. As the baby and the placenta develop, the mother’s body creates new blood vessels to feed this area. In some women, the vessels develop poorly, and complications begin.

The mother can develop kidney problems, including ejecting protein in her urine. Kidney issues start affecting other areas of the body. Less urine leaves the body. Nausea and vomiting ensue, along with pain in the abdomen. Platelets in the blood decrease. Headaches and blurred vision occur.

While there is nothing a doctor can do to cause or prevent preeclampsia, they are responsible for diagnosing and treating it. When the illness starts to develop, doctors need to make a plan with their patients.

The best way to solve the problem is to get the baby out of the womb. However, this solution comes with difficult choices, including possible termination of the pregnancy. A mother experiencing preeclampsia can be in serious danger if she tries to go through normal labor.

Doctors have an obligation to be aware of and upfront about the mother’s situation. They should not pressure the mother to make a decision, but they should offer their educated opinion on the best course of action. If the doctor does a poor job of diagnosing the issue or delays the delivery when there is a better option, they can be held liable for harm that befalls the mother.

Episiotomy Injury

To create a larger opening for the baby, the doctor may perform an episiotomy. This is an incision designed to open the vagina further, giving the baby more room to exit.

There are two ways an episiotomy incision is made:

  • Midline Episiotomy – In this procedure, the incision is made from the bottom of the vagina, across the perineum, stopping at the rectum.
  • Mediolateral Episiotomy – Here, the incision is made off to the side of the lower part of the vagina.

When there are childbirth complications, episiotomies are called for.

Of course, after a procedure like this, there is a reasonable expectation of recovery time. The mother has a responsibility to take care of herself and the wound. However, when the medical team does a poor job with the incision, or if they pressured the mother into the procedure, they may be held liable for the ensuing injuries. A midline incision taken too far back can lead to damage in the rectal area. Other areas like the urethra, bladder, or perineum are also susceptible to injury from a bad incision.

Caesarean Section Complications

It may be necessary for a mother to have a caesarean section performed to extract the baby. When this is the case, an incision will be made to the mother’s lower abdomen. Then another into the uterus. The baby will then be pulled out through this opening.

Anyone who has a C-section can expect recovery time. Rest, limited movement, and regular cleaning of the incision are necessary. C-sections can, however, cause other issues, especially when they are performed incorrectly.

All anesthetic patients have a risk of reaction to being put to sleep. Also, with any surgical incision, there is a risk of infection. In a C-section, the infection could spread to the uterus. Blood clots, which are very dangerous, can develop. The mother could suffer surgical injuries to the bowels or bladder.

Infections After C-Section

It is possible that, even when all necessary precautions are taken, someone can develop an infection after a surgery. Incisions tend to have a harder time healing than natural scrapes and cuts.

A doctor or hospital becomes responsible for the infection when they were negligent during surgery. Environments that are not properly sanitized may introduce bacteria to the surgical site and cause infection. An unskilled surgeon could make skin contact or touch an area they shouldn’t, infecting that area.

Retained Surgical Instruments

Retained Surgical Instruments, or RSIs, refers to anything that was left inside the surgical wound, like needle or a piece of a broken instrument. They tend to remain undetected until the patient starts to experience pain or damage from the foreign object. During a C-section, it’s possible for doctors to leave behind some RSIs, causing problems for the new mother.

Anesthetic Reactions

While it’s possible for people to naturally have adverse reactions to anesthesia, malpractice on the part of the anesthesiologist is also possible. They could give an incorrect dose, improperly monitor the patient, or ignore developing complications. Failure to properly oxygenate the patient can cause damage. Poorly administered anesthetic is a form of negligence, and the medical professionals involved are responsible.

Uterine Rupture

A tear in the uterus is dangerous to both baby and mother. It can lead to lifelong complications for the baby, and it can even be fatal to either the mother, the baby, or both.

There are many natural reasons why a uterus would burst. The baby could be in breech or very late in arriving. The mother could be carrying multiple babies, and there isn’t enough room for them all. Mothers who already have a scarred uterus, either from carrying other children or from surgeries, can develop tears along those scars.

However, there is another possibility, one that involves mistreatment of a patient. A doctor may want to induce labor instead of allowing it to happen naturally. Usually, they want to do this when the baby is late or when continuing the pregnancy is risky to mother or child. To induce labor, doctors may use uterotonics. These are drugs designed to open up or “ripen” the cervix to get the baby out.

Used improperly, uterotonics are dangerous. One possible side effect of their use is rupturing the uterus. It is estimated that over 12% of all ruptured uterus cases are the direct result of using uterotonics. If the drugs were administered incorrectly, or if a doctor pressured a mother into using them, the doctors may be liable for damages.

Uncontrolled Bleeding

Bleeding is a natural, expected part of the birth process. With the body doing so much pushing, stretching, and flushing, there’s bound to be some tearing and bleeding. This is especially true with interventions like episiotomies, C-sections, and the use of forceps.

It is the medical professionals’ jobs to monitor and control this bleeding. If there are complications, and the mother is bleeding excessively, doctors need to act and manage this problem. Loss of too much blood is dangerous. In the short term, the mother could go into shock. Lifelong problems such as inability to have another child or even brain damage could occur. The hospital and its staff are liable if they neglected to keep track of bleeding and keep it under control.

Establishing Malpractice

When someone believes they have been the victim of malpractice, they need to hire a lawyer a take the necessary steps to build a case.

First off, courts will look at the specific actions and required skill sets of a person in their particular field. For example, a nurse’s actions would be compared to the actions of other nurses. The law isn’t going to compare a nurse to a surgeon. Similarly, a brain surgeon isn’t going to be compared to a heart surgeon. The law is going to ask, “are the actions of this nurse reflective of what we expect from other nurses in the same field?”

Next, the system will look at what happened as a direct result of the malpractice. Because the medical professional did this, that happened. Unrelated injuries or situations cannot be included, and trying to include them makes the prosecution look bad. The mother fell off the hospital bed and broke her leg. Was it because she was just being clumsy, or was it directly because an incompetent orderly moved her the wrong way?

Another angle to consider is how a situation would have naturally resolved. Perhaps the medical professional’s intervention contributed to the injury, but would the injury have happened anyway? Meaning, did the doctor cause the injury; did the doctor make it worse; or would the injury have occurred no matter what?

When these questions have been answered, it’s time to assess the damage. In a malpractice suit, there are a few areas of compensation. One is recovery of the immediate medical bills. Next, the plaintiff should get an estimate for continued care. If the injury requires rehabilitation or lifelong assistance, that total needs to be included in the suit. Finally, damages for pain and suffering can be addressed.

If you have been injured in childbirth due to malpractice, we want to help. We have free consultations, and there is never any risk involved. Call today at (850) 764-0383 or contact us online.

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