Injuries that take place shortly after the child’s birth are still considered birth injuries. A birth injury after delivery is often the result of undiagnosed or improperly treated conditions, suggesting the possibility of malpractice.
A mother’s hopes and dreams are fairly simple – to give birth to a healthy child. If something terrible altered your life and that of your newborn child, you are undoubtedly would be asking why and seeking answers. Please call Stern Law, PLLC today at (800) 462-5772 to find out how our experienced birth injury law firm can help.
Medical mistakes and postpartum birth injuries
Things can go wrong at any stage of the pregnancy, labor and delivery. You have entrusted your care and the health of your baby to a variety of obstetric specialists, which may include a doula, midwife, nurse, physician, surgeon, and hospital staff. Specifically, the heightened emotions, rapid actions, and even chaos of the delivery room can lead to devastating medical mistakes that occur much more often than one might think.
Some of the actions or omissions during or following the birth of your child that may be labeled as improper treatment include:
- Failure to diagnose or properly treat medical conditions or medical complications – This is a failure to recognize, appropriately treat, or treat in a timely manner health conditions such as premature or prolonged labor, infection, bleeding, fetal distress, misapplication or misuse of forceps or a vacuum extraction device, jaundice, seizures, or meconium aspiration syndrome, are some common causes of birth injuries in babies.
- Failure to properly execute a surgical, medical, or therapeutic procedure – This is what often comes to mind when people think of malpractice – the overt error in an affirmative action, such as the improper use of forceps or a vacuum extraction device during delivery. It may lead to long-term and life-changing injuries.
- Failure to monitor, or appropriately treat fetal injury or fetal distress – It’s critical for doctors and nurses to be alert and attentive at all times in order to appropriately respond to any situation, including emergency situations. Doctors use fetal monitoring devices to monitor your baby’s health during labor by, in part, observing his or her heart rate in response to contraction activity. Fetal monitoring errors account for a significant amount of birth injuries. A sustained, slowed or elevated heart rate can be a precursor to fetal distress. During the delivery, doctors are relied upon to avoid vaginal delivery when, for instance, cephalopelvic disproportion arises. This is a condition where your baby’s head or body is too large to fit through your pelvis. If this is apparent, it may necessitate the timely performance of a cesarean section. When a doctor fails to recognize or properly treat situations such as these, your child can experience long-term and irreversible brain injury, or even death.
- Improper cesarean section – Cesarean sections (or c-sections) are commonly performed during delivery in the United States, and sometimes necessary to preserve you or your baby’s health. Birth injuries as a result of cesarean section can occur in three ways: when the operation was improperly performed, when the operation was performed too late, or when the operation was not performed when medically necessary.
- Failure to diagnose or treat demanding circumstances, including improperly treated infection – Infections can be transmitted to your baby during childbirth and should be screened for by your doctor. A pregnant mother should be tested for vaginal strep B during the 35th to 37th weeks of pregnancy in an attempt to determine whether the mother should be treated with IV antibiotics prior to delivery. Chorioamnionitis – when amniotic fluid and placenta become infected with bacteria from the vaginal flora and uterine cavity – is usually considered a medical emergency to both the mother and the baby during labor and delivery. Improper treatment of sexually transmitted infections in the mother – such as human immunodeficiency virus, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, hepatitis B and cytomegalovirus – can all pose significant health risks to unborn babies or newborn infants. The failure to diagnose an infection, monitor an infection, or treat an infection can lead to miscarriage, preterm labor and delivery, birth defects, low birth weight, stillbirth, newborn illness or newborn death.
- Delayed treatment or response, including prolonged labor – Complications arise when labor is prolonged, which may indicate, for instance, that cephalopelvic disproportion is present if the baby’s head or body is too large to fit through the mother’s birth canal. Studies have found a correlation between prolonged second stage labor and lower Apgar scores at one minute, and a higher incidence of asphyxia. With prolonged labor you are at higher risk of needing an emergency cesarean section and having postpartum hemorrhage, while your unborn baby is at risk for birth asphyxia. A delay in responding to prolonged labor can mean the difference between a healthy child and one struggling with activities of daily living.
- Intentional refusal of care or treatment – Under the theory of abandonment, healthcare practitioners such as the doctors or hospital emergency room staff can be held liable for intentional refusal of care or treatment. Doctors must act reasonably in their decisions to treat. A doctor or facility cannot deny reasonable treatment when available or discontinue treatment that’s needed. For example, a mother whose water broke that has signs of excessive blood loss can’t be denied emergency treatment because the staff suspects she has a drug addiction. Refusal to properly respond to an emergency can lead to severe birth injuries, or death.
- Failure to provide appropriate respiratory treatment to a baby deprived of oxygen at birth and failure to monitor oxygen levels following birth – Newborns are often provided breathing support and closely monitored after experiencing even mild asphyxia during birth. Likewise, mechanical ventilation, respiratory therapy, blood pressure medication and measures to prevent seizures may be required if your baby demonstrates signs of asphyxia. Failure to recognize or treat birth asphyxia or oxygen deprivation can lead to brain injury, impairment, cerebral palsy, and chronic conditions.
- Failure to properly treat a child suffering trauma during the labor process – Trauma to the child happens even without any recklessness or negligence on the part of the medical team, through for instance, a misapplied forceps or vacuum extraction device. However, failing to treat an injury properly can lead to long-term harm where appropriate treatment would have resulted in no or minimal ongoing injury.
Is there cause for concern?
Additional post-birth considerations in the review of whether a mistake by a medical professional led to a child’s birth injury may involve the following inquiries:
- After birth, did the medical condition of your child require immediate admission to the neonatal intensive care unit?
- After your child was born, did he or she exhibit signs of jaundice, which could indicate the breakdown of red blood cells?
- Following the birth of your child, did he or she cry without intervention by the medical team?
- After birth, did the medical team administer assistance with breathing to your newborn or pursue resuscitation efforts?
- Did your child have an abnormal Apgar score, seizures, discolored or blue skin, abnormal heart or respiration rate?
- Did you experience a pregnancy lasting more than 42 weeks?
Many parents find themselves coping with the day-to-day challenges of managing their child’s condition and struggling to find a way to provide the best quality of life. If this sounds familiar, you should consider your legal options.
If you are questioning the actions of your medical caregivers, you deserve answers. Stern Law, PLLC will work tirelessly to represent your best interests and help you seek those answers. For a free review of your birth injury claim, please call (800) 462-5772 today.