Mothers often describe giving birth as the best day of their lives. For some women, the opposite is true. Instead of feeling joyful and empowered, they suffer from injuries that cause permanent physical and psychological damage during labor and delivery.
A recent study from The MASIC Foundation, a charity dedicated to birth injuries, found that one in four women who experience a severe birth injury regret having children. Eighty-five percent say the birth injury negatively impacted the relationship with their child. These women often have postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a rare condition caused by negative birth experiences. Postpartum PTSD can cause nightmares, depression, anxiety, and a desire to avoid certain situations (for example, not visiting the hospital after a traumatic birth experience). In some cases, women are left unhurt but emotionally traumatized after watching their children suffer from preventable birth injuries. About 28,000 babies are diagnosed with birth injuries annually.
Common Birth Injuries
Umbilical cord prolapse: This happens when the umbilical cord comes out before the baby, cutting off oxygen flow. The medical team must perform an emergency Caesarean section for the baby’s health and only have minutes to do so.
Emergency C-section: An emergency C-section is most often recommended when the mother or fetus requires immediate medical care. While it’s a lifesaving procedure, the recovery process can cause complications.
Postpartum hemorrhage: It’s normal to bleed after childbirth, but in instances of postpartum hemorrhage, a mother loses a dangerous amount of blood and needs emergency treatment. If it’s left untreated, it can be deadly.
Perineal injuries: About 90% of first-time mothers will experience perineal tears during childbirth, but they’re usually mild, and women quickly recover. In severe cases, sufferers are left with bowel and urine incontinence and can’t return to normal life.
Unexpected hysterectomy: If a woman has a dangerous infection or massive bleeding during childbirth, doctors might perform an emergency hysterectomy and remove her uterus. An emergency hysterectomy leaves a woman unable to get pregnant or give birth ever again.
Forceps and vacuums: When a baby gets stuck in the birth canal, a doctor or midwife may use forceps, which look like oversized salad tongs, or vacuum extraction to guide the baby out. These tools can cause scalp wounds, skull fractures, and shoulder dystocia.
Are Birth Injuries Preventable?
If a mother and her baby are at risk of dying or suffering long-term damage without immediate medical intervention, doctors will do whatever it takes to save their lives. However, a lot of birth injuries are tragically preventable.
Medical negligence, or doctors not providing the expected standard of care, causes countless unnecessary injuries every year. In some instances, birth injuries are caused by medical professionals failing to properly monitor a woman during her pregnancy, for example, not screening for conditions like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. Other injuries result from a doctor not monitoring fetal heart rates or failing to realize that a woman needs a C-section and shouldn’t be laboring vaginally. And in other cases, a woman may be at higher risk of birth injury simply because of her race — black mothers are three times more likely to die during childbirth.
Even if a medical professional has a patient’s best interest in mind, birth injuries can leave irreversible psychological damage. They can make it difficult for women to return to work and cause financial hardship, and the permanent mental effects can strain marriages and familial relationships. If you think you may be experiencing postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder, you can reach out to Postpartum Support International for help. You can also contact Paulson & Nace for assistance. We have a team of experienced birth injury lawyers who can help you discuss your legal options. Contact us online or call (202) 463-1999 for a free case review.
Both an Emory School of Law graduate and MBA graduate of Goizueta Business School at Emory, Chris Nace focuses his practice on areas of medical malpractice, drug and product liability, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination and other negligence and personal injury matters.