Risks of Personal Injury During Labor and Delivery

By Greg Kohn

Why are the risks of personal injury during labor and delivery so high in this country?

As medical care in the U.S. advances by leaps and bounds in terms of technology, our infant and mother mortality rates continue to shame us. Although we outspend the rest of the world in obstetrical care, infants born in this country have less than half the chance of surviving to their first birthday than those born in Finland and Japan. Moreover, The U.S. now ranks 60th in preventing mortality of mothers during childbirth. Even more shocking, our country is one of only eight in the world in which the maternal mortality is rising!

Reasons for Our Distressing Statistics

There are a number of reasons for the alarming rates of maternal and infant mortality in this country and some veer into the area of medical malpractice. These reasons include:

  • Poorer health of the general population which contributes to higher risk pregnancy
  • Tendency to be medically expedient rather than safe
  • High rate of C-sections, nearly one in three births
  • High rates of scheduled, induced births

Americans are used to being consumers and getting their way. American doctors are used to being considered important people whose time is valued above all else. Both of these facts contribute to our sometimes scheduling births as if they were shipping deliveries, interfering with the natural timing of the event. Every step taken to unnecessarily intervene in the birth process (through medication, mechanical or manual intrusion, or surgery) puts mother and baby at greater risk, and potentially increases the number of malpractice lawsuits.

Ways to Improve Maternal and Infant Care and to Cut Down on Obstetrical Malpractice Cases

In order to reduce the serious risk of infant and maternal mortality in this country, unless there is a medical necessity for intervention, we have to:

  • Reduce the number of unnecessary C-sections, particularly with a low-risk first birth
  • Reduce the use of planned early deliveries and labor inductions
  • Reduce the number of automatic second birth C-sections
  • Reduce the number of ultrasounds at 24 weeks
  • Reduce continuous fetal monitoring which restricts maternal movement, increasing the chance of a cesarean or delivery with forceps
  • Reduce the use of early epidurals
  • Reduce doctor’s rupturing of membranes (“breaking the water”) to speed delivery
  • Reduce unnecessary episiotomies
  • Keep babies out of an infant nursery unless they need special monitoring

Although medical interventions are wonderful and can be lifesaving when needed, birth is a natural process, most of the time best left alone. Studies show that medical interventions are associated with poorer outcomes for both mothers and babies. According to Catherine Spong, M.D., chief of the Pregnancy and Perinatology branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, “the safest method for both mom and baby is an uncomplicated vaginal birth.”

When does convenience become medical malpractice?

In far too many cases, births in this country are scheduled for the patient’s and/or doctor’s convenience, increasing the risk of complications. Unfortunately, in many cases patients may have trouble finding doctors or hospitals which will accommodate their desire to let nature take its course, often because of insurance and financial concerns.

 In too many cases, complications occur that endanger the infant and/or the mother.  Malpractice charges may be brought against doctors whose intervention has resulted in injury, permanent disability, or even death. If you have experienced a delivery during which the infant or mother suffered injury or death, you should contact a highly skilled personal injury attorney to fight for the compensation you deserve.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.