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Medication Errors During Labor and Delivery Can Cause Catastrophic Birth InjuriesPharmacological advances have made pregnancy, labor, and delivery safer and less painful than in decades past. Unfortunately, the risks associated with certain medications are not always fully understood. Improper use of medications can cause serious injury or even death to a mother or an infant. If a doctor or other medical professional’s negligence results in a preventable birth injury, the victim or the victim’s surviving loved ones may have a valid medical malpractice claim. Compensation for past medical bills, future medical care, pain and suffering, and other damages may be available.

Medication Mistakes That Often Lead to Medical Malpractice Claims

Any patient can suffer injury or death from mistakes involving medications or medical procedures; however, pregnant women are especially vulnerable to medical mistakes. The birth process is already very hard on a woman’s body. When doctors and other medical staff do not uphold their duty to provide competent medical care, they put the woman’s life and the life of her unborn child in danger. One of the most egregious types of medical negligence occurs when a pregnant woman is given the wrong type of medication. Doctors, nurses, or other staff may misread the medication label or otherwise become confused and administer the wrong drug. Another serious error occurs when a woman is given an inaccurate dose of a medication.  

Medication Errors Involving Pitocin

When labor is not progressing normally, an infant can be at risk of asphyxia and other dangerous conditions. Consequently, a doctor may choose to use medications to expedite the birth. A synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin is sometimes used to accelerate delivery despite the risks associated with this drug. This medication, often referred to by the brand names Pitocin and Syntocinon, makes the mother’s uterus contract. There is significant debate as to the effectiveness and safety of this medication. If Pitocin is administered incorrectly or at an excessive dose, the mother’s contractions may become too intense and cause a detached placenta or “placental abruption.” If the placenta becomes partially or fully separated from the uterus, the infant will be deprived of oxygen and nutrients. This could lead to fetal brain injuries, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), fetal stroke, stillbirth, and maternal hemorrhaging.

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Birth Injuries Sustained During a Cesarean Section May Be The Result of Medical Negligence  Approximately one-third of all infants in the United States are born via Cesarean section or C-section. Some C-sections are planned because the mother or baby has certain risk factors that make vaginal delivery an unsafe option. In other cases, a mother plans to have a traditional birth but complications require an emergency Cesarean delivery. C-sections can often prevent medical complications that would have likely been caused by traditional delivery. However, when a C-section is performed incorrectly, delayed, or performed unnecessarily, preventable birth injures may occur.  

Delayed C-Sections  

Obstetricians and other medical professionals must carefully evaluate the mother’s medical history and the baby’s health in order to determine whether or not a C-section is a safe delivery method. C-sections are often ordered when the infant is in a breech or transverse position or shows signs of fetal distress. A C-section may also be ordered if the mother experiences problems such as:

  • Prolonged labor
  • Failure to progress normally during labor
  • Umbilical cord prolapse
  • Uterine rupture
  • Placental abruption
  • Placenta Previa

The decision to perform an emergency C-section is one that must be made swiftly. If a doctor waits too long to perform a C-section, the baby may suffer from oxygen deprivation, which can lead to hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, cerebral palsy, and other forms of brain damage. When a doctor fails to order a necessary C-section or delays a C-section and the mother or infant is harmed as a result, the mother may have a valid medical malpractice claim.

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What Types of Birth Injuries Can Be Caused by Hypoxia?While a baby is still in the womb, oxygen is delivered to the infant via the placenta and umbilical cord. One of the most critical times during the birth process is the baby’s transition to breathing on his or her own. When problems occur during this transition, the baby may receive too little oxygen. Hypoxia, or inadequate oxygen, can lead to a number of devastating birth injuries as well as death.

What Complications Can Lead to Hypoxia?

Hypoxia is often caused when a problem with the baby’s umbilical cord reduces the oxygen available to him or her. Nuchal umbilical cord occurs when the umbilical cord wraps around the baby’s neck. A short umbilical cord or knotted umbilical cord can also cause hypoxia. Umbilical cord prolapse occurs when the cord drops through the mother’s cervix and reduces blood flow to the baby. Placental abruption occurs when the placenta separates from the uterus. This can not only deprive the baby of oxygen but may also cause dangerously heavy bleeding in the mother. The use of forceps has also been shown to sometimes cause hypoxia.

Hypoxia Can Cause Life-Altering Injuries

Doctors should be aware of the risk factors associated with hypoxia as well as the warning signs that a baby is not receiving enough oxygen. If swift action to correct low oxygen is not taken, the baby may develop:

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What Types of Brain Injuries Can Occur During Birth?Your baby’s birth is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. Unfortunately, for many parents, an unexpected birth injury fills the day with uncertainty and fear. Brain injuries during birth can be especially frightening. When an infant suffers brain damage during birth, he or she may develop problems that last the rest of his or her life. If the injury is the result of medical malpractice, the child’s parents may be entitled to compensation for the losses they have suffered because of the brain injury.

Brain Injuries Caused by Problems During Birth

There are numerous medical complications that can arise during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Asphyxia, or lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain, is one of the most concerning birth injuries that a baby can experience. Brain injuries can also be caused by physical trauma during delivery or infections that travel through the bloodstream and enter the baby’s brain.

  • Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) – When a baby’s brain receives too little oxygen before, during, or after birth, brain tissue may start to die. Once oxygenated blood flow returns to normal, a “reperfusion injury” is caused by the toxins that are released by the dying brain cells. HIE can be caused by umbilical cord problems, uterine rupture, placental abruption, feto-maternal hemorrhage, trauma during delivery, shoulder dystocia, and other conditions that reduce blood flow to the baby’s brain.
  • Neonatal Stroke – The most common type of fetal stroke, an arterial ischemic stroke, often occurs when blood flow within a baby's brain or spinal cord is blocked by a blood clot. Fetal strokes are more common when the baby or mother suffers from a cardiac disorder, a genetic condition affecting blood clotting, or sickle cell anemia.
  • Cystic Encephalomalacia Infections, physical trauma, or inflammation may result in the softening or death of brain matter. Cystic encephalomalacia can lead to intellectual disabilities, seizures, coma, and, in some cases, even death.
  • Microcephaly – When a baby is born with a much smaller head than is normal, the baby can develop problems learning to walk and talk, intellectual disabilities, feeding problems, hearing and vision loss, seizures, and other significant symptoms.
  • Skull Fractures – Usually, skull fractures are the result of the use of instruments like forceps and vacuum extractors during birth. Skull fractures can cause bleeding, brain damage, and ruptures in the membranes enveloping the brain.
  • Cerebral Palsy – Injuries to the brain during labor and delivery are some of the most common causes of cerebral palsy. A child with cerebral palsy may suffer from spastic muscles, problems with movement and coordination, difficulty swallowing, and a number of other debilitating symptoms.

Contact an Illinois Birth Injury Lawyer

Brain injuries during birth or pregnancy are sometimes caused by a doctor’s negligence. If a child develops a condition such as cerebral palsy or other health problems after being the victim of medical negligence, the parents may be entitled to compensation. To learn more, contact Schwartz Injury Law at 815-723-7300 and schedule a free consultation with a skilled Joliet personal injury attorney.

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Erb’s Palsy Is Sometimes the Result of Medical NegligenceThe birth of a child is a joyous occasion, but for some parents, this joy is tarnished by a birth injury. Injuries to a baby during pregnancy, labor, or delivery may result in serious health concerns for both the mother and the child. In some cases, birth injuries cause a child to suffer from health concerns for the rest of his or her life. Erb’s Palsy is a condition that most often results from injury to a baby’s brachial plexus nerves during birth. A baby suffering from Erb’s Palsy may experience weakness, loss of feeling, and partial or total paralysis of the arm. He or she may need several surgeries and years of physical therapy to reduce the harm caused by the injury.

Causes of Erb’s Palsy

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that allows movement of the arms, shoulders, and hands. Damage to these nerves can be caused by any type of trauma, however, most brachial plexus injuries are the result of injury during birth. Often, this nerve damage occurs as a result of attempts to move the baby through the birth canal. A condition called shoulder dystocia can occur if the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged on the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. This is a very dangerous condition because it may deprive the baby of oxygen and cause brain damage or death. Consequently, doctors must work quickly to fix the condition and allow the baby to exit the birth canal. Some brachial plexus injuries occur when a doctor uses force to pull the baby through the birth canal and the baby’s neck is stretched to the point of injury. Other times, the use of vacuum extraction or forceps during birth causes an infant to suffer from a brachial plexus injury.

Receiving Compensation for Your Damages

Erb’s Palsy is often preventable. If a doctor acts negligently during an infant’s birth and this negligence causes the child to suffer from Erb’s Palsy, the doctor or the medical facility at which the child was born may be liable for the injury. Medical negligence typically involves the doctor deviating from the accepted medical standard of care. This standard of care refers to the proficiency of care that would be reasonably expected of someone with comparable medical training and experience in a similar situation.  

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