Childbirth causes severe health complications for thousands of women every year. Many mothers have positive experiences giving birth, but the ramifications can last a lifetime for those who don’t. While some birth injuries are unavoidable, most are preventable and occur because medical providers failed to meet their duty of care. Some injuries are minor enough that a mother may not even realize she’s suffering until long after giving birth. In other cases, maternal birth complications are fatal. The maternal mortality rate in Washington, D.C., is twice the national rate. If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one, a DC birth injury lawyer can help.
Types of Childbirth Injuries
More than half of OB/GYNs report symptoms of physician burnout, which is linked to most medical errors. Birth injury medical malpractice is usually unintentional, but the effects can be devastating. An overworked provider who isn’t attentive can miss warning signs, leading to injury or death. Sometimes, patients speak up to voice concerns but feel brushed off by their medical team. A lot can go wrong during pregnancy and childbirth, making it difficult to catalog every possible childbirth injury. The below conditions are closely associated with medical negligence because they are often less severe if identified and treated early. In some cases, they are caused by improper medical care.
Vaginal tears are among the most common birth injuries. Up to 90% of women will experience tearing after a vaginal delivery. In many cases, these injuries are minor and will heal quickly. In the most severe cases, they can cause long-term health complications. Tearing can be caused by labor progressing too fast or using a vacuum or forceps.
An episiotomy is a cut made in the perineum to widen the vaginal opening during childbirth. It was a standard procedure at one point, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now recommends against episiotomies because they can increase the risk of severe tears. Sometimes, doctors will perform episiotomies without getting a patient’s consent.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
One in three women will experience pelvic organ prolapse after giving birth. The condition occurs when the uterus, bowel, or bladder bulges into the vaginal canal because of weakened pelvic muscles. Doctors regularly treated pelvic organ prolapse with transvaginal mesh surgery before 2019, when the FDA halted sales because the risks outweighed the benefits.
Some level of urinary incontinence happens frequently after childbirth. Women may notice a loss of bladder control in the weeks following labor and delivery. But sometimes, incontinence is severe enough to impact someone’s ability to live a normal life. Anal incontinence is less common than urinary incontinence, which can cause embarrassment and a fear of leaving the house. Both complications are more likely after a forceps delivery or episiotomy.
Preeclampsia is a high blood pressure disorder that develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. Left untreated, it can be dangerous for the mother and her baby. Up to 15% of maternal deaths are caused by preeclampsia. Doctors and midwives should perform regular blood pressure checks and monitor pregnant women for warning signs, but that doesn’t always happen.
Cardiomyopathy is a rare disease diagnosed in the last month of pregnancy or months after delivery. It is a type of heart failure that occurs when a pregnant woman’s heart becomes weakened and enlarged. When treated quickly, the prognosis is encouraging. But if a medical professional misses the symptoms of cardiomyopathy, a patient may experience heart failure.
A ruptured uterus is among the most severe birth complications. A uterine rupture during labor causes the fetus to lose oxygen, which can cause brain damage. While the condition isn’t always preventable, close monitoring can help a doctor catch it early. Quick intervention can drastically decrease the chance of severe complications.
Epidurals are the most common types of anesthesia offered during labor, administered through a needle in the back around the spine. In rare situations, a woman may need general anesthesia and be unconscious during delivery. While anesthesia relieves pain, it can also cause problems when not administered properly. Nerve damage, neurological injuries, and aspiration are all possible side effects that may result when an anesthesiologist is negligent.
About 32% of women need a Cesarean section during labor and delivery. Doctors may recommend the procedure ahead of time because of a fetus’s large size or a mother’s preexisting health conditions. Other times, a C-section may be unplanned because of fetal distress or labor not progressing as expected. The surgery carries significant risks, including infection, internal bleeding, and blood clots.
DC Birth Injury Legal Options
The statute of limitations for Washington DC medical malpractice claims is three years. You may not realize the extent of a birth injury until much later. It’s imperative to find a DC birth injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss the details of your claim. Birth injury lawsuits are often complex, and you’ll need a qualified attorney familiar with these claims to help you bring a case.
Obstetrics is widely considered one of the most complex medical specialties. Doctors owe patients a standard of care, the level of care a competent provider in the same specialty would provide in the same treatment situation. When medical providers act negligently — whether due to failure to diagnose a medical condition, injuring a patient during a procedure, or not treating a patient’s illness in time — they can be held accountable. Paulson & Nace has won millions of dollars for parents and children who experienced medical negligence. Our top DC birth injury lawyers are here to help you. Call us at 202-463-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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.