The birth of a child is truly a joyous occasion. Every expectant parent eagerly anticipates the day their child is born and they can hold their new baby in their arms.
Unfortunately, this otherwise wonderful event may be overshadowed by the devastating effects of an injury to your child during the labor and delivery process. Injuries during this process can happen to the mother, the child, or both, and are usually the result of some type of trauma or complication during the labor and delivery process.
What are the statistics?
While studies vary, it is estimated that approximately 1 in every 9,714 people in the United States are born with a birth injury. Also known as “obstetrical trauma,” this translates to 28,000 people each year who are born with a birthelated injury.
According to the National Healthcare Quality Report (AHRQ), male infants have a higher statistical rate of injury, and significantly more birth injuries happen each year at private, non-profit hospitals versus for-profit private hospitals. Further, according to this same study, public hospitals had a much higher incident of birth injuries than smaller hospitals, and injuries in rural hospitals are 33% more prevalent than in urban hospitals. Not surprising, the highest rates of birth injuries are associated with vaginal births in which an instrument is used to assist in the delivery process. Sadly, it is estimated that nearly 50% of all birthelated injuries are potentially avoidable.
Injury to the mother
When we hear the terms “birth injury” or “birth trauma,” we most often associate this with injuries to a baby during the labor and delivery process. However, serious and sometimes fatal injuries can happen to the mother during this process. According to the AHRQ, the rate of injuries to mothers is highest in mothers ages 25-34, and lowest in mothers whose ages range from 40-54. While not all injuries to mothers during this process are the result of medical errors, such errors do occur. Some of the more common injuries to mothers during the labor and delivery process that may result from medical errors include:
- Perineal and vaginal tears
- Improper use of delivery instruments, such as forceps and vacuum devices
- Incorrect suturing (stitching) after a Caesarean section or episiotomy
- Improper monitoring and evaluating of pre-eclampsia
- Failure to monitor and prevent infections, such as chorioamnionitis
- Failure to monitor or stem excessive material blood loss post-delivery
- Failure to identify placental abnormalities, such as placenta previa or acretia
Injury to the child
In addition to injuries to the mother, the labor and delivery process may also result in injuries to the child. Some of the more common injuries to children during this process include:
- Brachial Plexus Injuries
- Injuries From Forceps and Other Delivery Aid Devices
- Premature Delivery
- Forceps Delivery Injuries
- Kiwi and Suction Device Injuries
- Uterine Rupture Injuries
Medical Malpractice: Who is responsible for birth and delivery injuries
If an error occurs during the labor and delivery process, and the mother, the child, or both are injured by the error, there are potentially numerous persons at fault. Determining fault is sometimes a difficult task, and determining if a medical error gives rise to a medical malpractice claim should only be done by an experienced medical malpractice attorney. However, while there may be numerous healthcare providers involved in the labor and delivery process, the main providers who can influence whether a birthelated injury is prevented are:
Obstetricians – an obstetrician, or an OB/GYN, is a medical doctor who specializes in the management of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum health care. Obstetricians have completed specialized training in the management of pregnancy, labor, and post-partum health issues. He or she is, in essence, the physician in charge of the labor and delivery process.
Labor and delivery nurses – labor and delivery nurses, or “L&D” nurses, are typically registered nurses working as staff nurses in a hospital setting who are trained in labor and delivery healthcare. L&D nurses guide mothers through the labor and delivery process and care for the newborn infants after birth. L&D nurses are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of distress, adverse events, and possible health concerns of the mother and infant. In addition, L&D nurses are advocates for the patient, meaning that they have an obligation to notify the obstetrician of significant changes in the patient’s condition.
Midwives – the use of Certified Nurse Midwives during the prenatal and birthing process is becoming much more frequent. While each state differs, a Certified Nurse Midwife is usually an advance practice registered nurse who has received specialized training in midwifery – the practice of caring for mothers and infants. Midwives are trained to care for mothers in the pregnancy period, as well as providing healthcare during the labor and delivery process. Midwives also provide infant care after birth, and postpartum care to mothers. As with L&D nurses, however, Certified Nurse Midwives are not physicians, and they is a limited scope of what medical care they can, and should, provide to the mother or infant.
Hospitals and labor and delivery facilities – hospitals, and labor and delivery units and facilities within hospitals, have the obligation to institute appropriate policies and procedures governing patient case, including ensuring that sufficient medical staff are present to assist with the labor and delivery process, that all staff are appropriately trained and screened, and that the facility has adequate equipment and medical supplies to ensure a safe birthing process.
Let us fight for you.
If you or someone you loved has been injured in a birth injury, contact Powers Taylor today. Our attorneys have experience with all types of medical malpractice cases and will fight to get you the justice you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation. All calls are confidential.