Posted On: December 19, 2012 by Andrew G. Slutkin

Forgotten Childbirth Risk: Maternal Injuries and Medical Malpractice

When most hear about complications during childbirth most immediately think of the child. Obviously the birthing process is a delicate one, and infants are quite vulnerable to long-term harm that results from prolonged oxygen deprivation, the applications of excess force, and other incidents. However, it is important not to forget that mothers are just as susceptible to serious injury and even death caused by problems during childbirth. In fact, according to some recent reports, the most serious maternal complications are actually on the rise in the United States.

CDC Maternal Injury Report

Some assume that the days of high maternal death rates during childbirth are a thing of the past - at least in the developed world. The reality, however, is that while medical advances have obviously made childbirth safer, there remains serious risks of a mother suffering injury during birth. Those risks may be higher now than they were just a few decades ago.

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emergencies which threatened the life of the mother during childbirth increased by a startling 75% in the decade ending in 2009 compared with the rates from the 1990s. In particular, there were significant increases in the number of mothers who experienced kidney failure, cardiac arrest, and serious respiratory emergencies. These are not minor problems but life-threatening events.

Causes of the Increase

These statistics are are a rude awakening for those who assume that things automatically get safer over time. That is not necessarily true. One of the main reasons for the increase in maternal complications is the changing demographics and characteristics of those getting pregnant and having children. Compared to the past, many more mothers are older, potentially obese, and with chronic health problems like diabetes and kidney disease. In previous years these mother would likely not have gotten pregnant at all. Advances have made it possible for them to more regularly take a child to term, but with the “high risk” delivery comes increased complications

Though, it is not only “high risk” mothers who are harmed during childbirth. In fact, the single most common serious maternal injury--hemorrhaging or excessive bleeding--can affect even the healthiest of mothers.

Fixing the Problem

The one positive to be taken from the CDC report is that, now with the problem out in the open, medical professionals can take the necessary steps to improve the situation. The single best way to do it is with increased preparedness. In other words, medical delivery teams should never be caught off-guard by these complications. Instead, they should expect them and have protocols in place to provide the necessary emergency care to most efficiently deal with the problem. The CDC is providing funding to address that very topic--seeking to determine the best way to train and prepare medical teams to deal with these increasingly common maternal complications.

With a commitment to addressing the problem, hopefully the trends are reversed and complications are spared. However, if you ever suspect that a medical team did not act reasonably when working to prevent or treat a complication of this nature in our area, consider contacting the attorneys at our firm for more information on how the law might apply.

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