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Failure to timely perform a Cesarean section (C-section) during labor and delivery can result in birth injuries to the mother or the baby. During labor and delivery, the doctor, nurse mid-wife and nurses ( the obstetrical team) should be monitoring the mother and baby for signs of fetal distress or other complications. If there is a failure to progress natural through the labor or certain complications arise, the doctor should order an emergency C-section.
In other situations, for example when the infant’s head circumference is too large, the doctor should recommend a planned C-section to avoid the unnecessary risk of serious harm to the baby or mother.
Failure to timely order and perform an emergency C-section may constitute medical negligence if the failure to timely perform a C-section results in harm to the mother or baby. Generally, if the obstetric team has determined that a C-section is indicated, the time from “decision to incision” has to be expedited and there are ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) guidelines that have to be followed. If you, your child, or a loved one suffered birth injury as a result of a doctor’s failure to timely perform a C-section, it’s important that you seek legal advice immediately.
When Should a Doctor Order a C-section?
A doctor should perform a C-section delivery when the surgical procedure would be safer than a vaginal delivery. In making this decision the doctor must consider the health of both the mother and the baby.
C-sections are common when labor is extended, when the Fetal Heart Monitor (FHM) shows signs of fetal distress, the fetus is not in the normal (head down) position, when the mother is experiencing excessive bleeding, and if the mother has had prior C-section deliveries.
Other reasons to order a C-section include:
The doctor should monitor the fetus throughout the pregnancy. Many doctors plan a C-section in advance because of risk factors the doctor observes during pregnancy. A doctor may order a C-section if a small mother is delivering a large baby, if the fetus weighs 9 pounds or more, or if the ultrasound shows that the baby is in a breech position and attempts to re-position the baby are unsuccessful.
High Blood Pressure
Known as hypertension, or gestational hypertension, high blood pressure is common during pregnancy and results in an increased risk of complications. High blood pressure may be a sign of preeclampsia which, if not treated, can lead to serious and sometimes fatal complications for both mother and baby. Doctors often perform a C-section to deliver a baby after a diagnosis of preeclampsia.
The doctor should monitor the baby’s heart rate, through a Fetal Heart Monitor (FHM), especially if the baby has not been delivered by the due date. The nurses and doctors should monitor the fetal heart tracings for increased or decreased variability or late declarations which are signs of fetal distress and could mean that a C-section should be ordered.
Labor and Delivery Complications Might Indicate a C-section Should Be Performed
A common birth injury is shoulder dystocia, which happens when the baby’s shoulders are too wide for the birth canal and become wedged behind the mother’s pubic bone. To prevent fetal distress the baby must be removed quickly to prevent oxygen deprivation. Forceps may be required to remove the baby; however, the use of forceps increases the risk of fetal injury.
The use of forceps during delivery can also result in injury to the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a nerve center that conveys signals to the hands, arms, and shoulders. If the baby’s shoulders are too large for the birth canal and become trapped behind the pubic bone, the nerves may be stretched or torn by the use of force during delivery.
Other Reasons to Perform a C-section
A C-section might also be appropriate if the mother is carrying twins, had a prior C-section, or has an STD such as herpes.
Failure to Timely Perform a C-section Can Injure the Mother or Baby
Failure to timely perform a C-section can result in excessive blood loss by the mother and is potentially fatal. Problems such as difficulty separating the placenta from the uterine wall can cause bleeding and, without a timely C-section, can prevent the baby from getting enough oxygen.
A doctor has a duty to recognize signs indicating that a C-section is necessary. A C-section is often a quick and safe alternative to a vaginal birth that decreases the risk of injury to both mother and baby.
If a doctor recognizes the need for a C-section too late, he or she may have committed malpractice. The doctor has a duty to recognize not only that a C-section must be performed, but also when it must be performed.
Complications from Failure to Timely Perform a C-section
Babies may suffer from various complications resulting from a failure to timely perform a C-section, includiing:
- Broken bones
- Oxygen deprivation
- Cerebral palsy
These complications can result in lifelong medical issues, or even wrongful death.
Long term oxygen deprivation can be particularly dangerous for infants, who may suffer permanent brain damage, injury to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, digestive organs, kidneys, and more.
It can be difficult to determine whether an infant suffered oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery. Signs and symptoms of brain damage in infants may include:
- Unusual reactions to stimuli and interactions, such as refusing nourishment and extreme crying or high-pitched wailing
- An infant who has seizures in the neonatal period
- Developmental delays such as not crawling, walking, talking, or swallowing appropriate for their age
- Arms or legs that develop spasticity
Remember that infants develop at their own pace and that delays are not always related to brain damage
Birth Injury Due to Failure to Timely Perform a C-section? Contact an Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today
If you believe you, your child, or a loved one suffered a birth injury due to failure to timely perform a C-section, contact an Ohio medical malpractice attorney at Robenalt Law today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case. Call 216-223-7535, complete our online form, or email [email protected].
Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing doctors and hospitals at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 20 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured by negligent health care providers.