What are your rights if things go wrong?
Pregnancy is normally a time of excitement and anticipation, culminating in the joy of welcoming a new family member. Birth is also a natural process, and most new parents have no reason to expect complications or a less-than-positive outcome. Whatever apprehension they may have felt usually evaporates the first time they hold their newborn.
Although childbirth today is much safer for mothers and babies than even a century ago, it is important to recognize that things can – and occasionally do – go wrong during delivery. A “birth injury” refers in most cases to an injury to the to mother or child during delivery, but can also involve events during pregnancy, such as the use of certain drugs by the mother.
Birth injuries are not common, occurring only in about six to eight of every thousand births. Even after a normal birth, the parents may be physically and emotionally drained, as they deal with a life-changing transition and new responsibilities. The disappointment and anxiety of a traumatic birth and uncertainty about the baby’s future are not what they expected. They suddenly face the unpredictability of a lifetime devoted to meeting their child’s special needs.
Identifying risk factors
Many birth injuries can be prevented by careful monitoring during pregnancy. A birth injury can occur because of a premature birth, the size of the baby (small or large babies), and position of the baby. It is also more likely in first-time mothers, and women with gestational diabetes or pelvic abnormalities. Women generally rely on their obstetrician and other medical professionals to be aware of these conditions and to tailor their treatment accordingly. Since most birth injuries are preventable, you should be able to rely on your doctor to make sure you or your baby are not harmed during delivery.
Early diagnosis and treatment
Some birth injuries may be apparent immediately, and the new parents may be informed right after birth. It is also possible for a birth injury to go unnoticed at first. This is just one reason for parents to monitor their child’s physical and mental development. What should you be looking for? There are many indicators of a possible birth injury. If your baby’s muscle tone is “floppy” or she has any kind of breathing or feeding problems, you need to seek medical help. You should also be alert to developmental delays in such milestones as grasping, rolling over, crawling, standing and walking. While babies develop at different rates, parents are advised to get professional medical attention for any concerns they may have. Trust your instincts. If your child’s injury requires surgery or other therapies, early intervention can be crucial in preventing the situation from getting worse.
It is also important for the parents to get a sense of the child’s present and future needs. How will they arrange –and pay– for specialized care, medical equipment, accessibility remodeling, special schooling, and all of the other extra burdens caused by the child’s condition? And how did it happen? Could it have been prevented? Is someone responsible?
Common causes of birth injuries
- Using too much force in assisting the birth of a poorly positioned baby: If the doctor or midwife pulls or twists, the newborn’s limbs or collarbone may be broken . Pulling too hard on the baby’s neck can cause spinal cord injuries and even paralysis.
- Misuse of instruments: Medical equipment such as forceps and vacuum extractors are often used to help ease the baby out of the birth canal. Used incorrectly, these instruments can put too much pressure on the baby, usually on its skull, which is not yet fully developed
- Respiratory distress and oxygen deprivation: Any lack of oxygen to the baby can have serious, lifetime repercussions, If the umbilical becomes compressed during delivery, or the baby’s lungs fail to work when it is born, immediate and proper intervention is needed to prevent conditions such as cerebral palsy or even death
- Lack of a sterile environment: Failure to ensure the proper level of sanitation in the delivery room can expose both mother and child to harmful and even deadly infection.
- Prescribing harmful medications: Many drugs are not safe to take during pregnancy and can cause the infant serious and irremediable damage. Drugs given during delivery, usually for pain relief, such as epidural anesthesia, can be mismanaged, adversely affecting the baby and, in some cases, the mother, A botched epidural or spinal can cause permanent paralysis. .
- Failure to order or perform a Cesarean section when called for: If the baby is in distress during delivery, performing an immediate C-section can often save its life or prevent serious and often lifetime damage. A doctor who fails to perform a Cesarean or does so too late has not provided the appropriate level of care.
Maternal birth injuries
Birth injuries tend to be more serious for the vulnerable newborn, and the mother may be ignored, or afraid to speak up, even if she has suffered an injury with serious physical and emotional consequences. She may feel guilty doing so because she should just be grateful the baby is healthy.
There are a number of birth-related issues and events that can have a serious impact on the mother, including:
- Pre-eclampsia: This serious condition occurs in between two to eight percent of all pregnancies in the world. Although infrequent, hypertensive (blood-pressure related) disorders of pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia are a common cause of maternal death due to pregnancy, especially among women who do not receive pre-natal care. This is one reason your doctor or midwife monitors your blood pressure, as high blood pressure and protein in the urine can be an indication of the condition. Many symptoms of pre-eclampsia, such as edema, also occur in normal pregnancies. Your doctor’s competence and expertise are therefore crucial in diagnosing and treating pre-eclampsia. Failure to diagnose this – and related conditions – can be catastrophic for both mother and baby.
- Placental abruption: If the placenta becomes detached from the uterine wall, it will interrupt the supply of food and oxygen to the baby, and may cause the mother serious blood loss and require a hysterectomy. Medical personnel must be alert and prepared to intervene immediately as soon as symptoms arise.
- Incorrect forceps use: Not only do forceps and other obstetric instruments pose a potential threat to the newborn; a mishandled forceps delivery can cause damage to a woman’s uro-genital system, resulting among other things in long-term incontinence or sexual dysfunction.
- Failure to preform or botched episiotomy: Doctors often choose to facilitate birth by making an incision in the perianal area. This can be easier to repair than any tearing that might occur from the baby’s passage. These tears can be serious and cause ongoing complications. In some cases, doctors may actually cause further injury by improperly suturing the tears or episiotomy incision.
- Surgical complications: The United States has one of the highest rates of Caesarean births. While a C-section may be necessary to protect the child, it subjects the mother to major abdominal surgery, with all related risks of surgical injury, adverse reaction to anesthesia, infection, and bleeding, as well as repercussions for future pregnancies.
Getting help for birth injuries
Should you or your child suffer a birth injury as the result of a medical practitioner’s negligence, you deserve access to the best medical specialists and whatever other care and support you will need, for as long as you need it, without having to worry about the cost. You need an attorney who won’t back down until you get the compensation you deserve, yet who also has the compassion to guide you through this difficult and often painful process.
Birth injury claims are often vigorously defended by legal and medical experts, so you need expert legal support, Our birth injury lawyers work with you to evaluate the present and future repercussions of your or your child’s injury, and to make sure you get compensation that will meet your needs at all stages.
Take advantage of our free initial consultation with a Baltimore birth injury lawyer and find out about your legal options to get the compensation you need for a birth injury.
You can afford to bring a lawsuit. We work under a contingency fee arrangement, which means we are paid form the proceeds of the recovery, and you owe us nothing up front or out of pocket.
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Mallon & McCool, LLC have helped clients recover many millions of dollars in compensation for birth injuries. Call our Baltimore office at (410)-727-7887, contact us toll free at (800) 918-8872 or contact us online. We are proud to serve Baltimore, Baltimore County, Howard County, Harford County, Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Prince George’s County and all surrounding areas.