Birth is usually a wonderful experience. However, sometimes mothers suffer serious injuries during childbirth that could have been prevented with proper medical attention. Such injuries can be severe enough to prevent the mother from having more children.
A woman who sustains significant injuries during childbirth may wonder, “Why did this happen to me?” or “Could this have been avoided?” In recent years, families with restrictions on who can be present during labor and delivery may have even more unanswered questions. If you were injured before, during, or shortly after childbirth, you may have these or other questions.
Birth injury attorneys at Morris James understand how difficult this time can be. We know how frustrating it is to search for answers, and when the medical professionals don’t answer them, it feels like the door is slamming in your face. We make it our mission to help these families find answers. And in cases where medical negligence has resulted in a birth injury, we help families get the financial compensation they deserve.
What is a mother’s birth injury?
A birth injury is an injury to a mother or baby that occurs before, during, or shortly after birth. Although most people think of babies when they think of birth injuries, mothers can also sustain serious injuries during pregnancy and childbirth. This post focuses on a mother’s birth injuries.
What are some common complications of labor and delivery?
Pregnancy, labor and childbirth put a lot of stress on the mother’s body. As a result, a number of complications can arise. According to the National Institutes of Health, some of the most common complications of labor and delivery include:
- work that does not progress. A healthcare provider can give the woman medication to intensify labor and speed up labor if it isn’t progressing, or they can perform a cesarean section. Various terms can be used to describe labor that is not progressing normally, including “prolonged labor”, “dystocia of labour”, “protracted labour”, “arrest”.
- perineal tears. A woman’s vagina and surrounding tissues are likely to tear during the delivery process. More serious tears or episiotomies (a surgical cut between the vagina and anus) may be stitched.
- Abnormal heart rate of the baby. Sometimes, an abnormal heart rate in the baby necessitates immediate delivery, making a cesarean delivery and/or episiotomy more likely.
- water breaks early. This is sometimes called “prolonged rupture of membranes”. If labor does not start on its own within 24 hours of ruptured membranes, labor is often induced. Infection can occur if the waters break early and labor doesn’t start on its own.
- heavy bleeding Excessive bleeding can occur after childbirth, either due to ruptures in the uterus or failure to deliver the placenta. Such bleeding is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality worldwide.
In addition to the above, the following serious complications may occur during pregnancy and/or childbirth.
According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, preeclampsia “is a condition that occurs only during pregnancy and after childbirth and affects both the mother and the unborn child. It affects at least 5-8% of all pregnancies and is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and usually the presence of protein in the urine. Early detection of preeclampsia symptoms can save your life.”
Symptoms that can be signs of preeclampsia include:
- stomach pain
- Shortness of breath or burning behind the breastbone
- nausea and vomiting
- Increased anxiety and/or visual disturbances such as hypersensitivity to light, blurred vision, or seeing flashing spots or auras.
Although most women with preeclampsia and their babies make a full recovery, some women can experience serious and even life-threatening complications. If a diagnosis of preeclampsia is delayed or if treatment for this condition is poorly managed, both mother and baby can suffer serious injury and even death.
A uterine rupture is as terrible as it sounds: the wall of a woman’s uterus ruptures. There can be many reasons for this, but when it does occur, permanent physical damage and, in rare cases, death can occur to both mother and child.
Causes of a uterine rupture are:
- The uterus expands too much to accommodate a large baby or more than one baby
- A versioning procedure in which a doctor manually repositions a fetus that is still in the womb
- Previous perforation of the uterus
- Decreased uterine function after multiple pregnancies
- Excessive contractions
- Use of prostaglandins during vaginal delivery after a previous cesarean section
A doctor can take steps to protect both the mother and baby from harm if a uterine rupture is predicted or caught early. Warning signs of a uterine rupture include:
- Sudden, severe uterine pain
- Uterine contractions that won’t stop
- Regression of the baby in the womb, including a decreased heart rate
- Fetal Distress
- Severe bleeding or bleeding
If a uterine rupture is not properly predicted or treated, it can result in serious harm and even death to both mother and child.
Infections during pregnancy can lead to complications, including injuries to both the mother and the baby. Some examples of infections that can occur during pregnancy or after childbirth are:
- a urinary tract infection or yeast infection
- bacterial vaginosis
- Group B Streptococci
- Hepatitis B virus, which can be passed to the baby during birth
- zika virus
If a mother develops one of these infections during pregnancy or after childbirth, it is imperative that it is recognized early and treated appropriately. Otherwise, the mother and her baby could suffer serious injuries, including pain, organ damage, brain damage, or even death.
Complications of a cesarean birth
Caesarean section, also known as caesarean section, is a very common and generally safe procedure. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with caesarean sections. As a result, complications can arise, sometimes leading to serious injuries to the mother.
Examples of complications that can lead to serious or catastrophic injury from a cesarean delivery include:
- postpartum hemorrhage. Postpartum bleeding is heavy bleeding after childbirth.
- placenta accreta. Placenta accreta occurs when the placenta grows too deep into the uterine wall.
- Hysterectomy. Certain complications of a cesarean section (usually involving heavy bleeding) may require the doctor to remove the uterus to save the mother’s life.
- blood clot. Blood clots forming in the mother’s legs or pelvic area can break off and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism or death.
- Complications from anesthesia.
If any of these complications are not recognized and treated appropriately, they can result in catastrophic injury to the mother.
Retained Products of Conception
Sometimes fetal or placental tissue remains in the uterus after birth. When this happens, the materials left in the uterus are called Reserved Products of Conception (RPOC). RPOC can cause a mother to have abnormal vaginal bleeding, fever, infection, or other symptoms. To prevent or treat these problems, it is important that healthcare professionals recognize that RPOC can remain in the mother’s uterus and remove them. Although most women with RPOC can have this condition treated through medication or surgery without long-term complications or injury, in some cases, if RPOC is not treated in a timely and appropriate manner, the mother may suffer scarring that can affect fertility or future pregnancies. In other cases, if RPOC are not managed appropriately, the mother may experience chronic pain, develop infections, or suffer other injuries.
How do I know if my complications and injuries were normal or due to medical negligence?
Not only can birth injuries cause pain and injury to the mother, but they could also prevent the possibility of having future children or increase the risk of harm in future pregnancies. Sometimes when these complications arise, the injuries the mother suffers as a result are expected and normal. But just because a complication is common doesn’t mean it should hurt the mother. When a woman has a permanent injury that occurred before, during, or after childbirth, she deserves answers about how and why that injury occurred and whether it was caused by medical negligence. In situations where medical malpractice by a healthcare provider caused avoidable injury to a mother during pregnancy or childbirth, she and her family may be entitled to medical malpractice.
If you or a family member was injured before, during, or just after birth, we may be able to help you find the answers you are looking for.