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The Rise of Maternal Birth Injuries

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

Maternal birth injuries are on the rise across the nation, and it is a concerning statistic to women, doctors, and insurance companies. Unfortunately, many birth injuries are preventable errors by medical professionals. Women who suspect they have experienced birth injuries at the hands of professionals who made a bad decision or preventable error should consult with birth injury lawyer, Eileen Kroll at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. to seek compensation for their resulting pain and medical costs.

A birth injury lawyer at our law firm can help you navigate the complex medical malpractice system that is common in most states. In addition to making sure that all your medical records are in order, your malpractice lawyer will bring your case before a team of doctors who will assess your case’s veracity. If your case meets all the qualifications required for medical malpractice, you can move forward and seek justice for your injuries.

Types of maternal birth injuries

While many expectant mothers may be aware of the potential birth injuries that can happen to their child, less are aware of the injuries that can happen to them as a result of childbirth. Some of these injuries are unavoidable, while others are due to decisions made during pregnancy and childbirth by their healthcare providers.

The focus is often on the baby, but maternal birth injuries can be extremely painful and life-threatening to the mother. Some of these injuries are life changing. Common maternal birth injuries include:

  • Vaginal tearing
  • Bleeding and infection
  • C-section complications
  • Anal fissures
  • Uterine rupture or prolapse
  • Preeclampsia
  • Post-partum hemorrhage
  • Perineal nerve damage
  • Broken coccyx
  • Pelvic girdle separation
  • Blood clots and stroke
  • Permanent incontinence
  • Organ failure
  • Improper administration of anesthesia, epidurals, labor-inducing medications, and other drugs

Uterine ruptures can occur from labor-inducing drugs which cause the uterus to contract. Violent contractions of the uterus can lead to ruptures, resulting in the mother needing a partial or total hysterectomy. Uterine ruptures can also occur during C-sections.

Organ prolapse is another birth complication that can have serious consequences for the mother’s long-term health. The uterus, bowel, and bladder can bulge into the vaginal canal, causing injury to the pelvic floor muscles and requiring interventions such as surgical repair. Long-term consequences can include incontinence, painful sexual intercourse, and nerve damage.

Vaginal tearing is another common side effect of giving birth, and often, an episiotomy is performed on the mother to widen the vaginal opening. This cut, performed between the bottom of the vagina and the rectum, needs to be sutured after birth. Improper suturing and monitoring of this area can lead to infection and bleeding. Severe tearing can involve the anal sphincter, and despite repairs, some women may experience lifelong incontinence.

Broken bones and pelvic girdle separation occur from the pressure and size of the baby as he or she passes through the birth canal. The cartilage and ligaments which connect the bones of the pelvis are supposed to stretch during childbirth; however, sometimes a large baby forces these bones apart more severely, causing pain and occasional rupturing of the ligaments. A baby’s head can also cause the mother’s coccyx to break, which can take up to two months to heal.

Surgical procedures often require the use of anesthesia. In emergencies, the mother may be put under anesthesia completely; however, in most C-sections, an epidural is used to administer an anesthetic to just the lower half of the body.

The epidural is also used to administer pain management medications during childbirth, and sometimes for labor-inducing medications such as oxytocin. Improper monitoring and administration of these drugs come with complications such as respiratory distress, infection, cardiac arrest, or death. The use of an epidural needle can also puncture the spinal sac or pierce the spinal cord, causing permanent neuropathy or paralysis. Septic meningitis is another complication that can result from epidurals.

Too much anesthesia can lead to hypoxia, which can cause permanent brain damage. Cardiac arrest can also cause permanent damage to the heart muscles.

Effects of maternal birth injuries

The physical, mental, and emotional side effects of these injuries on mothers can also affect their newborn child and other family members. Mothers who are in pain, or who become depressed because of their injuries often have difficulties with bonding with their babies, returning to work, and problems in their relationships.

Furthermore, maternal birth injuries to mothers before and during childbirth can lead to oxygen deprivation and nutrient deficiencies for the baby. This can cause birth injuries to the child, leading to conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, learning disabilities, and Erb’s Palsy.

Maternal birth injuries do not just cause for alarm for the mother; they can have a serious impact on entire families.

Preventable errors

Many maternal birth injuries can be avoided with proper diligence and decision-making before and after childbirth. OB-GYNs, midwives, and other medical staff should make proper decisions when it comes to observing a baby’s size, the mother’s birth history if available, the mother’s health issues, the mother’s pelvis shape, and other pertinent information.

Some doctors often decide to go ahead with vaginal delivery, despite a large baby and many, many hours of labor. Improper monitoring of the baby and mother can lead to serious complications, including bleeding and infections.

Vaginal tearing can be caused by forceps and vacuum-assisted deliveries, or by a vaginal delivery that should have been changed to a C-section because of the size and position of the baby. Severe pressure from the baby’s head, combined with tearing, can lead to perineal nerve damage and anal fissures as well. Perineal nerve damage can cause bladder and bowel incontinence, and sexual dysfunction due to numbness, tingling, or pain in the genitals.

Preeclampsia occurs when the mother has hypertension, or high blood pressure, during pregnancy. Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose this dangerous condition can lead to death of the mother and the baby before or during childbirth.

This is also why doctors need to carefully monitor the mother’s blood pressure before, during, and after childbirth. Potential problems can arise from high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, including blood clots and stroke.

The rise of birth errors and risks to mothers

According to a study by Kaiser Permanente conducted in 2008, one in three women will suffer from a pelvic floor disorder (PVD), and of those women, 80% have given birth vaginally. They are twice as likely to develop a PVD than women who have had a C-section or who have not given birth at all. Of the PVDs surveyed, 25% of women suffered from anal incontinence, 15% from urinary incontinence, 13% had overactive bladder, and 6% had some sort of pelvic organ prolapse.

Not only is prolapse and incontinence underreported, but there is a culture of silence and embarrassment around it that leads women to feel ashamed of it. Doctors often tend to think that organ prolapse is rare, but six percent is not a rare statistic. A deep-dive study conducted by Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2014 reveals that 30.4% of women who have delivered vaginally have at least one PVD, 20% experience urinary incontinence and 11.5% experience bowel incontinence.

In addition to maternal birth injuries, the United States leads the developed world in maternal morbidity rates. Fifty thousand women experience complications from childbirth each year, and between 700 and 900 women die from childbirth annually. According to a study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2016, the mortality rate for women who have just given birth rose by 26.6% from 2000 to 2014. As our technology improves, this rate should be going down; instead, it has nearly doubled.

While the CDC attributes this rise in complications and deaths to the mothers’ health, weight, and increases in C-sections, many women know that their concerns are often brushed off by their doctors. For instance, in a study conducted at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California in 2012-2014, an opportunity for improvement in care in severe maternal morbidity cases was found in 44% of those cases. The two most common factors attributed to severe maternal morbidity included preeclampsia and hemorrhage, and in those cases, healthcare provider factors contributed 78.8% of the time.

While follow-up care is often scheduled and closely monitored for infants, women’s care is usually put on the backburner. Many women suffer in silence with their maternal birth injuries as a result. Some states and hospitals have only recently begun to track these statistics, while others have no plans to track this data at all.

Michigan malpractice laws

While the full impact of maternal birth injuries may not be understood for a few months or a few years after giving birth, women can usually tell when something is not quite right with their bodies. In Michigan, you have up to two years after a malpractice injury to file your medical malpractice claim.

There is a caveat to this statute of limitations. If you have made reasonable attempts to find out what is causing your symptoms and were diagnosed with a maternal birth injury after the two-year time limit, many judges will take into consideration what is known as the “law of discovery.” They will allow the claim to move forward after the two-year time limit as long as the claim is filed within six months of discovery. You must have adequate documentation of your steps to uncover the source of your symptoms.

You cannot file a claim after six years of the birth injury.

Michigan medical malpractice law also requires that a mediation panel review the contents of the case being brought forth by a plaintiff against a doctor, midwife, hospital, or other healthcare providers. The panel must consist of at least one certified healthcare provider, while the remainder of the panel typically consists of licensed lawyers. To prove medical malpractice or negligence, you must show:

  • The provider has violated the standard of care
  • The injury is the result of negligence or errors that were preventable
  • The injury caused significant monetary damages, pain and suffering, and/or will require future care costs.

It’s not enough that complications may have resulted from giving birth; you must be able to prove that your injuries are a direct consequence of poor or negligent decisions and care on behalf of your healthcare provider. If you cannot prove this to the mediation panel, then your case will not be approved to move forward in court.

This is why it is essential to hire a birth injury lawyer at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. to help you build your case. Not only will a medical attorney know the appropriate steps to take to navigate the complex legal and insurance systems, but they also know what evidence to collect that is essential to getting your case approved before the panel.

Your malpractice lawyer will review all necessary medical records, medical bills, and lost wages that stem from the time you received your birth injury. They will request documentation from the doctor or healthcare provider to review whether or not proper steps were taken to prevent your injuries. All of this documentation is necessary to support your claims and move your case forward. Medical malpractice cases are very difficult to pursue in court and are often settled out of court. To maximize your chances of winning in court, your medical malpractice attorney will be your best ally.

There are no caps on economic damages caused by medical malpractice in Michigan. This means all quantifiable costs associated with your injury, including future care costs, can be pursued to their fullest extent.

Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and stress. Women who suffer damage to their reproductive organs that leaves them unable to procreate, or who have suffered paralysis or cognitive impairment can seek damages up to $832,000. Other non-economic damages currently have a cap of $489,000.

We can help you with your maternal birth injury

If you suspect you are the victim of a maternal birth injury, let us help you seek justice for your pain and suffering. Eileen Kroll is not only a trial attorney; she is also a registered nurse. Her qualifications give her a unique perspective when it comes to medical malpractice cases, and expertise that many other malpractice lawyers do not possess. Call Cochran, Kroll, & Associates today at 866-MICH-LAW for a no obligation consultation. Our law firm never charges fees or costs unless we win your case.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Ms. Barry is studying Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. She has won multiple awards both for her persuasive and creative writing and has written extensively on the topics of medical malpractice law, personal and birth injury law, product liability law. When she's not researching and writing about these topics, she edits a literary magazine and tutors students at Penn's writing center.



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