Posted by Bill Sandweg.
In many ways, there is no more heartbreaking injury than a birth injury in what had been a low-risk, completely normal pregnancy. For nine months the expectant mother had been carrying new life and nourishing it inside her body. The pregnancy was developing as expected and everything appeared to be going well until the labor began. When the baby is born severely damaged or dies in childbirth, the pain and suffering of the parents is beyond description.
Being born is a difficult thing. The baby must transition from life in the womb to life outside where it is cold, loud and harsh. To get to the outside in a vaginal birth, the baby must travel down the birth canal and be pushed through a small opening by the contractions of its mother. Even with a Cesarian section, there are a lot of things that can go wrong during the delivery or before the decision is made to proceed to a surgical delivery.
Birth injuries come in many forms. Some will heal quickly and the baby will develop normally. Some will cause permanent injury throughout the life of the child. In some cases the child will not survive the birth or the first few days of life. Sometimes these birth injuries will occur in spite of the best medical care. But sometimes, they will be the result of some failure of the medical care. That is when the parents come to see me.
Some of the factors which increase the risk of a birth injury are things which can be identified before the birth. For example, a large baby is more likely to have difficulty with vaginal birth. Similarly, there is a condition called cephalopelvic disproportion in which the head of the baby is too large for the pelvic opening of the mother. This can occur even when the baby is of normal or even small size. Prematurity increases the risk of a birth injury as does an abnormal birth presentation, such as a breech presentation. Competent physicians and nurses should recognize these conditions and address them for the safety of the baby. Some of them may require that the mother proceed to a Cesarian section.
In some cases, however, there is no reason for anyone to suspect there will be a problem. The onset of the fetal distress may slow and insidious. In my experience, this can produce the worst outcomes because the distress sneaks up on the doctor and the nurses, who are lulled into a false sense of security by everything going normally at first. Even when this happens, the baby may end up being fine. When the parents come to me, however, it is because the baby is not fine.
Over and over, I see charts and fetal heart monitor strips that show a baby becoming progressively more distressed. Sometimes the team members caring for the mother recognize the developing problem but hope to deliver the baby before the problem gets too bad and the baby is injured. I see the parents when the medical team misjudged how much time they had left to safely deliver the baby.
Sometimes the doctors and nurses caring for the mother fail to recognize that a problem is developing with the baby until it is a big problem and it is too late to prevent an injury. It is surprising to see this happen at a major Phoenix hospital with all its well-trained nurses and physicians and with all the modern equipment available to monitor the baby during the delivery process. Frankly, it is surprising to see at pretty much any hospital in Arizona as they all have access to good monitoring equipment.
If your baby was injured during birth or died, it may have been the result of mistakes by the doctors and nurses involved in the delivery. If you have questions, you should see a qualified medical malpractice attorney and get those questions answered.