Many Ohio Maternal Injuries and Postpartum Maternal Fatalities Determined Preventable
Each year in the United States, 700 to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes, and almost 65,000 women suffer severe or near-fatal injuries. This is the worst maternal birth safety record in the developed world, and quite alarming, as many of the deaths are preventable. These traumatic injuries fall within the broader category of Birth Injuries.
American women are more than three times as likely as Canadian women to die from the start of pregnancy to one year after delivery or termination. In every other wealthy country, and many less wealthy nations, maternal mortality rates have been falling.
But in the United States, maternal deaths increased from 2000 to 2014. A recent analysis by the CDC Foundation found nearly 60 percent of such deaths were considered preventable.
Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Cincinnati hospital negligence lawyer and Ohio medical malpractice attorney with experience in birth injuries. Mr. Lyon has represented plaintiffs nationwide in a wide variety of medical negligence, wrongful death and injury claims.
Maternal Injuries & Childbirth Complications
Maternal mortality is more common among African Americans, low-income women and in rural areas, however, childbirth complications kill women of every race and ethnicity around the country.
Many expecting mothers die from cardiomyopathy and other heart problems, hemorrhage, blood clots, infections and pregnancy-induced hypertension (preeclampsia). Some patients die in the days or weeks after leaving the hospital.
About 31 percent of deaths occur during pregnancy, 36 percent on the day of delivery or within a week after, and 33% percent from 1 week to 1 year postpartum. Medical professionals and hospitals must do more to ensure the safety of pregnant women.
Agencies and hospitals can issue health guidelines to better handle emergencies. Mothers can also take measures to care for themselves and recognize serious health complications before it’s too late. Common causes of injury and death include:
- Cerebrovascular accidents
- Acute obstetric emergencies
- Amniotic fluid embolism
- C-Section complications
- Thrombotic pulmonary embolism
- Hospital Infection
High Maternal Injury and Death Rates
An analysis by the CDC Foundation of maternal mortality data identified more than 20 “critical factors” that contribute to pregnancy-related deaths.
The reasons for higher maternal mortality in the U.S. may include several factors, including the following:
- Older mothers have more complex medical histories
- Lack of standardized hospital policies
- Inadequate clinical skills
- Failure to consult specialists
- Poor coordination of care
- More C-sections leads to more life-threatening complications
Medical professionals should be able to prevent most maternal deaths. It is argued that the American medical system is focused more on infant survival than on the mother’s health and well-being.
In fact, at the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network, the preeminent U.S. obstetric research center, only four of the 34 online-listed initiatives target mothers—the other 30 aim to improve the lives of infants.
Placental Abruption Injury
A partial placental abruption occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterus and starts bleeding. It can be difficult to detect when bleeding begins. Placental abruption is most common during the third trimester of pregnancy, and may deprive the fetus of critical nutrients and oxygen.
This condition can cause fetal distress as well maternal injuries. Doctors must monitor pregnant patient carefully, or they may be negligent in failing to diagnose and treat placental abruption cases.
Placental abruptions are usually associated with abdominal trauma, though certain women may be predisposed to placental abruption if they have high blood pressure, diabetes, or autoimmune diseases. Around 15 percent of severe placental abruption cases end in death, and others result in birth injury and maternal injuries.
Uterine Rupture Malpractice
Uterine rupture cases occurs when there is a breach in the mother’s womb. Uterine rupture can occur in a uterus with no scarring, but is more commonly seen in women who have pre-existing uterine scars.
When a uterine rupture is discovered, an emergency cesarean section is necessary to remove the baby, and to prevent harm to both child and mother. A child may be deprived of oxygen and a mother may suffer from internal bleeding.
Risk factors of uterine ruptures include scars from previous cesarean sections, and also various medications. Cervical ripening drugs like Pitocin and Cervidil can cause of uterine ruptures and placental abruptions.
Maternal Death Lawsuits
In 1990, about 17 maternal deaths were recorded for every 100,000 pregnant women in the U.S. Pregnancy-related deaths have risen over the last 25 years, and in 2015, more than 26 deaths were recorded per 100,000 pregnant women. On top of that, the health risks are consistently three to four times higher for black women than white women.
Pregnancy-related conditions, like high blood pressure and blood clotting disorders, result in severe injuries, due sometimes in part to medical malpractice. When most people think about maternal deaths, they imagine medical emergencies like a hemorrhage while in labor.
But not all maternal deaths actually occur during childbirth. In fact, four out of five of maternal deaths happen in the weeks and months before or after birth. Much is to be investigated, including unsafe medical care, maternal education, and timely medical care.
After giving birth, women are sent home from the hospital, usually on their own until a consultation several weeks later. Between maternal checkups, mothers experience a myriad of health complications. Over time, the health risks become increasingly severe.
Experts are concerned with the gap between maternal and fetal and infant care. Mary D’Alton, chair of OB-GYN at Columbia University Medical Center, claims there is a lack of training at medical facilities. She says some doctors complete their maternal-fetal medicine training without spending time in a labor and delivery unit.
In maternity wards, babies are monitored more closely than mothers during and after birth. Newborns in the slightest danger are carried to intensive care units, staffed by highly trained specialists, while the mothers are lightly tended to by nurses and doctors, often unprepared for worst case scenarios.
When new mothers are discharged, they routinely receive information about how to breastfeed, but less likely to receive any information on how to tell if they need medical attention.
According to an analysis of data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CD), around 60 percent of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, and many due to medical malpractice and hospital negligence.
About 700 women die in the United States each year in from pregnancy-related complications. Even with postpartum maternal deaths on the rise in recent years, a deeper understanding is needed related to pregnancy-related deaths and medical strategies to prevent future deaths.
Medical experts have worked together with Ohio medical malpractice attorneys in filing postpartum maternal death lawsuits, holding individual physicians and hospitals liable for preventable injuries and deaths.
In medical data recording, maternal deaths that occur due to complications of pregnancy or childbirth, or within six weeks after giving birth, are recorded as maternal mortality.
Preeclampsia, one of the leading causes of maternal death, is a type of high blood pressure that occurs in pregnancy or the postpartum period, and may lead to seizures and strokes.
In developed countries, preeclampsia is considered highly treatable. It is simply important to act quickly, and prevent complications. Medical staff in the U.S. has not excelled in preventing poor results. Whereas Britain has reduced preeclampsia deaths to a total of two deaths from 2012 to 2014, in the U.S. preeclampsia still accounts for 50 to 70 deaths a year.
Thousands of women in the United States each year suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical staff ignore safety practices and procedures. In the last 25 years, the number of maternal deaths in most developed nations has been flat or dropped. Yet in the U.S., the rate has risen.
Doctors and nurses have faced numerous medical malpractice lawsuits after childbirth injuries, when those responsible for medical care fail to uphold basic safety guidelines and injuries occur. Doctors have been targeted in maternal injury claims for failing to prevent infection, track blood loss or administer proper medications.
Below are the other primary causes for maternal injuries and death, some of which are preventable with the right medical care:
- Preeclampsia & Eclampsia
- Postpartum deaths
- Air Embolism
- Post-surgical infection
- Cardiovascular & Coronary Conditions
Forceps Birth Injury
Obstetric forceps are often used to assist in a delivery. Using forceps, the doctor guides the baby through the birth canal. Unlike a vacuum, another common childbirth medical instrument, the use of forceps is delicate and requires a high level of skill and training.
Obstetricians in recent history have been using forceps regularly during childbirth. But there are cases when the medical device should not be used, and can harm the mother and infant. Delivery malpractice and birth injury cases arise when a delivering doctor makes a mistake with forceps, or utilize an improper tool during delivery.
Medical experts say the use of vacuums is now more common because they may be more forgiving and easier to use. When a baby shows signs of distress, a doctor must make a decision quickly. Some birth injury delivery malpractice cases involve mid-forceps deliveries.
A mid-forceps delivery is technically more difficult, and the risk of birth injury rises. Doctors will decide whether or not to perform a C-section delivery.
Vacuum Extraction Birth Injury
When a delivery is not assisted with forceps, it is usually done with a vacuum extractor, which uses a small suction cup placed on the infant’s head in the birth canal. During the birthing mother’s contraction, the doctor pulls gently on the baby’s head with the vacuum suction, pulling the infant’s head out of the birth canal.
Vacuum extraction has a very high success rate when it is used properly, though vacuum errors are possible, and vacuum extraction birth injuries can be quite serious. Any delay in delivery can raise the risk of a lack of oxygen for a baby and potential brain damage. Many delivery malpractice lawsuits are filed because in the circumstances a vacuum extraction was not the wise medical choice.
For example, using the vacuum device during childbirth may be poor medical decision if there has already been an attempt to deliver with forceps. The Ohio standard of care also prohibits the use of vacuum extraction when the infant’s head is too high in the birth canal.
In summary, the purpose of vacuum extraction is to deliver a baby as fast as possible to avoid oxygen deprivation. A primary risk of vacuum delivery is a subgaleal hematoma, the swelling of clotted blood in the issues. This can occur when a vacuum is placed improperly on child’s head or the vacuum is used incorrectly.
Brachial Plexus Birth Injury
The brachial plexus is a nerve network which allows the transfer of signals from the spine to the extremities. Damage to these nerves during childbirth can result in severe brachial plexus birth injuries. In extreme birth injury cases, a plexus injury can lead to lifelong complications.
During difficult deliveries, a baby’s shoulders may become impacted, stressing the brachial plexus nerves. Brachial plexus injuries can occur during vaginal childbirth or Cesarean section.
Excessive traction malpractice can lead to birth injury when doctor fears there is an imminent risk of asphyxia injury. Brachial plexus injuries may include:
Brachial injuries sometimes heal over time, and some children will suffer with permanent injuries such as:
- Muscle atrophy
- Impaired bone growth
- Joint dysfunction
- Coordination problems
- Psychological issues
Umbilical Cord Prolapse
A prolapsed umbilical cord can occur when a baby’s umbilical cord drops through the open cervix into the vagina. During prolapse, the cord may be compressed by the fetus, limiting the blood and oxygen supply. If doctors do not recognize the problem quickly, there is a risk of long-term birth injury and brain damage for the infant.
Umbilical cord prolapses are rare, but are very dangerous. The mortality rate is quite high, and if the baby survives they have a high risk of developing cerebral palsy or other birth injuries. There are three different kinds of umbilical cord prolapse, including:
- Overt cord prolapse
- Occult prolapse
- Funic presentation
Shoulder Dystocia Birth Injury
Shoulder dystocia is a birth complication that occurs about once in every 30,000 deliveries. Shoulder dystocia and brachial plexus injury occur during childbirth where one shoulder of the baby gets trapped behind the mother’s pelvis.
When this occurs, an experienced doctor will pull on the infant’s head with either forceps or using vacuum extraction. When obstetricians see that a baby’s shoulder is stuck on the pelvic bone, they have a limited amount of time to either order a C-section or to perform a maneuvers to free the shoulder. Excessive traction can lead to shoulder dystocia and other birth injury.
Ohio Maternal Injury Lawyer
The Ohio standard of care requires nurses, doctors and your OB/GYN to detect complications before, during and after childbirth. If an OB/GYN or other medical staff is negligent and fails to properly diagnose serious medical conditions and a birth injury results, a delivery medical malpractice lawsuit may be considered.
Between 2011 and 2015, 3,410 pregnancy-related deaths occurred in the United States. About three of five of the pregnancy-related deaths were determined by MMRCs to be preventable.
The Lyon Firm specializes in representing plaintiffs in catastrophic injury cases and postpartum maternal death lawsuits. Hospitals and medical centers have a responsibility to protect pregnant women, not only during delivery but in the weeks to months after.
If you or a loved one suffered a fatal or near-fatal birth injury, involving the mother or child, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm at (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer critical questions regarding maternal injuries and postpartum deaths.