Generally speaking, the longer that a pregnancy continues after 40 weeks, the more likely for certain complications to arise. Your medical professional must address the situation in a proactive manner in order to avoid harm to you and your child.
A post-term or postpartum pregnancy can pose a significant risk to you and your baby. If medical providers failed to take necessary precautions for handling a post-term pregnancy, call (800) 462-5772 to speak with an attorney at Stern Law, PLLC about your legal rights. Contacting our firm is free and comes with no obligation.
What are the causes and risk factors associated with a post-term pregnancy?
In the United States, about 7 percent of pregnancies extend beyond 42 weeks of gestation. Overall, it isn’t well understood what exactly causes a pregnancy to last longer than others. However, many times it is a result of a miscalculated due date.
There are also a number of risk factors that make a post-term pregnancy more likely, such as:
- A family history of post-term pregnancies
- A previous post-term pregnancy
- A cervix that does not properly dilate
- Maternal impaired glucose tolerance
- Being of Hispanic descent
- Having a male child
- Maternal obesity
- Advanced maternal age
What are the signs and symptoms of a post-term pregnancy and how is it diagnosed?
Obviously, the most common symptom of a post-term pregnancy is when it extends beyond 42 weeks with no signs of labor. It is important to correct the erroneous due date to accurately and effectively diagnose and manage a post-term pregnancy. Doulas, midwives and doctors do this by analyzing the size of the uterus at various stages during your pregnancy, the dates when the first fetal heartbeat was heard, and the timeframe in which you felt your child’s movements for the first time.
Why is post-term pregnancy a major concern?
In a case of a post-term pregnancy, there are of maternal risks associated with the condition, such as:
- Labor progression problems – When a post-term pregnancy is at issue, it may cause your child to become lodged in the birth canal. A post-term baby is more likely to suffer from macrosomia and cephalopelvic disproportion and potentially require the use of forceps and other invasive devices and methods to free your child. This can lead to injuries to the birth canal such as lacerations, vaginal tearing, perineal tearing, and excessive bleeding during delivery and a fractured tailbone.
- Cervical rupture – Oftentimes, a child born post-term is likely to be larger, which increases the risk of cervical rupture.
- Perineal injury – Again, since a post-term child tends to be of a larger size than a full term baby, a mother is a greater risk of sustaining injuries to her perineum (such as tearing) when delivering vaginally.
- Bleeding post-delivery – A post-term pregnancy involving the birth of an overly large baby increases the risk that a woman’s uterine muscles will not properly contract after giving birth, referred to as uterine atony. This condition involves the loss of tone in the uterine musculature and can cause excessive bleeding post-delivery. Overly large children often require more aggressive measures such as the use of obstetric instruments and other devices in order to facilitate a vaginal delivery. These can also lead to post-partum bleeding.
- Labor dystocia – When you deliver a child post-term, you are at greater risk of having complications such as labor dystocia, which refers to a delayed or difficult birth.
There are also a number of complications that can affect a post-term baby. While most are minor and may resolve on their own, the following are the more serious and sometimes irreversible disabilities associated with a post-term pregnancy:
- Caput succedaneum
- Cerebral palsy
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
- Periventricular leukomalacia
- Developmental delay
- Seizure disorders
- Shoulder dystocia
- Mental retardation
- Umbilical cord compression
- Meconium aspiration
A condition called post-maturity syndrome occurs in about roughly 20% of post-term pregnancies. A post-term baby is more likely to suffer from chronic stress and hypoxia (a lack of oxygen) due to uteroplacental insufficiencies that arise in a post-term pregnancy.
After 37 weeks of pregnancy, a woman’s uterus starts to gradually deteriorate, making it less capable of supplying oxygen and blood to her unborn child. Oftentimes, a baby suffering from this condition will be born with overgrown fingernails and hair and wrinkled and dry skin. It may also suffer from the effects of a lack of oxygen and other serious complications mentioned below.
How is a post-partum pregnancy safely and effectively treated and managed?
The most important goal in managing a post-term pregnancy is to prevent the complications associated with the condition. How a post-term pregnancy is treated and managed depends upon the following set of factors:
- The nature of your pregnancy, health status and medical history
- The extent of your post-term pregnancy (i.e. how far along it is)
- Your ability to tolerate certain medications, therapies and medical procedures
- Your expectations, opinions or preferences regarding your treatment
In consideration of the above, it is crucial to monitor a mother and her child during a post-term pregnancy, which may detect signs of complications. Some of the ways that doctors monitor the wellbeing of a post-term child are as follows:
- Counting the number of times you feel fetal movement – It is important for a mother to keep track of how many times per hour she feels her baby move or kick. A change in frequency may mean that a child is in distress.
- Non-stress testing – A healthcare professional may conduct non-stress testing to monitor the wellbeing of an unborn, post-term child. This test measures the child’s heart rate in response to his or her movements and may be repeated regularly should your doctor believe that your child has a condition that may cause fetal distress during delivery.
- Biophysical profile – This is a test that combines a non-stress test with an ultrasound to examine whether a child is suffering from distress.
- Doppler flow studies – This involves the use of a special type of ultrasound that uses sound waves to measure fetal blood flow.
- Ultrasound – This type of test uses high frequency sound waves and a computer that creates images of fetal blood vessels, organs and body tissues. These are helpful in the sense that they allow a medical professional to see exactly how an unborn child’s vital organs are functioning as well as to assess blood flow and fetal growth.
Should any of the above tests indicate that it is no longer safe for a post-term child to remain in the womb, labor may be medically induced. However, this decision depends upon how well the child is faring. If it is experiencing any type of distress, a doctor may order a cesarean section in order to prevent harm to a mother and her child. Should a vaginal delivery be pursued, the use of obstetric instruments such as forceps and vacuum extractors may be necessary to facilitate the birth. If a child suffers from too little amniotic fluid, a doctor may also, before delivery, perform an amnioinfusion which involves the injection of a sterile fluid into the broken amniotic sac in order to cushion the child and replace the lost fluid.
If medical professionals mishandled your postpartum pregnancy and you or your baby suffered injury, please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800) 462-5772 to discuss your legal options. Depending on the details of your case, your family might be entitled to significant compensation.