Every mother hopes for a smooth pregnancy, but complications are an unfortunate reality for many. The best way to prevent pregnancy complications from turning into severe birth injuries is to receive quality healthcare before, during, and after pregnancy.
Despite steady advances in obstetric medicine, birth injury is still a widespread issue in the United States.
- Birth defects/injuries affect one in every 33 babies annually and are responsible for 20 percent of all infant mortality
- A child with a birth injury is born every 20 minutes
- 20 percent of pregnancies/deliveries experience complications
As many as half of pregnancy complications are preventable. If a healthcare provider neglects their duty of care and it results in birth injury, a qualified Washington DC birth injury lawyer can help.
What Pregnancy Complications Could Cause Birth Injuries?
Successful labor and delivery involve several factors working together with minimal problems. Common complications that can result in a birth injury include:
Preterm birth, occurring before 37 weeks, often leaves babies with lifelong health problems. Complications associated with preterm birth include underdeveloped organs, digestive conditions such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), learning and behavioral disabilities, and cerebral palsy.
Perinatal asphyxia occurs when a baby can’t access enough oxygen to breathe independently, risking severe organ damage.
Uterine rupture is especially common in mothers with a previous C-section scar. If the belly opens during childbirth, it can induce extensive bleeding and cut off the baby’s oxygen. Other risk factors include infant size, labor, and delivery complications such as improper instrumentation use.
Non-reassuring fetal status is often found in pregnancies lasting beyond 42 weeks or mothers with hypertension or dehydration and can result in irregular heartbeat, motor issues, and inadequate amniotic fluid.
Incorrect birthing position means the infant is facing the wrong way. In this emergency situation, the physician must quickly intervene with their hands or via surgery like an emergency C-section. This can quickly end in tragedy if the doctor is careless or unfocused.
Anemia is an iron deficiency resulting in a lack of healthy red blood cells. Mild anemia is normal during pregnancy. However, untreated anemia can stunt fetal growth.
Other symptoms that may indicate a pregnancy complication include:
- Unusually heavy vaginal bleeding
- Flu symptoms
- Severe, persistent headache, abdominal pain or blurred vision
- Swollen hands and face or rapid weight gain
- Decreased fetal movement
Call your OB-GYN’s office immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
Pregnancy Complications That Could Be Caused By Negligence
While some birth injuries are unavoidable, a healthcare team’s inexperience, negligence, or even medical malpractice is often at fault in this life-changing tragedy.
Birth injuries often caused by physician error include:
Improper Forceps Use. These salad tong-like tools that help manually extract babies from the birth canal should only be used as a last resort. Using them too forcefully or too soon can cause bruising, brain damage, and other serious injuries.
Prolonged Labor. When a physician waits too long to intervene in a difficult birth, the mother is susceptible to hemorrhaging, infection, or uterine rupture; the infant might experience fetal distress or brachial plexus injury.
Oxygen Deprivation. Many symptoms that are missed or ignored can result in oxygen deprivation, especially problems with umbilical cord detachment and placental separation.
Inadequate Monitoring. Carefully observed monitors are essential to ensure that physicians don’t miss any signs of a problem, such as irregular heart rate or sudden changes in blood pressure.
Reducing the Risk of Birth Injuries
Unfortunately, mothers must often be their own best advocates when it comes to a safe, healthy pregnancy and delivery. You know your body best, so listen to its signals and insist your provider take them seriously. If your providers dismiss your concerns or rush through exams, speak up or get a second opinion, and be pushy if necessary. Quality healthcare providers will never be offended by a mother advocating for herself.
You should also feel comfortable asking as many questions as you want, no matter how silly they seem. Push for further explanation if you don’t understand the answers; if something seems off, do your own research at home before your next appointment.
Bring a trusted family member, friend, or certified birth doula to appointments. They can provide emotional support and additional advocacy if you’re having trouble speaking up.
Finally, take careful notes at prenatal visits and while at home. Tracking your babies’ movements and your general day-to-day wellness makes it easier for your provider to narrow down the cause of any concerns.
While these strategies certainly reduce your risk of pregnancy complications, the reality is that you can do everything right and still experience a birth injury, whether through unavoidable circumstances or a provider’s negligence. If this happens to you, finding an experienced birth injury lawyer can help secure the financial means to care for your injured child, who may require expensive care for the rest of their life.
Birth injuries are devastating, but the team at Paulson & Nace has a strong track record of successful birth injury malpractice lawsuits. Our compassionate attorneys are highly skilled at getting the highest compensation possible for your case, and you never pay unless you win. If you are in the Washington, D.C. area or West Virginia, please schedule your free, no-obligation case review here or by calling 202-463-1999.
Samantha L. Peters focuses her practice in the areas of medical malpractice, personal injury, wrongful death, and other negligence claims.