Cesarean sections are delicate medical procedures and failing to perform them when complications arise can seriously impact the health of mother and child and cause a birth injury to the infant. Obstetricians and other members of the medical team have a duty of care to pregnant patients that includes making the decision on when to perform a c-section. When their timing is off or they delay the decision to perform a c-section, medical professionals let their patients down and leave them with lifelong disabilities.
Understanding C-Section Procedures
Approximately one in every three babies in the United States is delivered via a c-section. Only a small percentage of c-sections in the United States are planned and scheduled before delivery. These often involve cases where the baby’s head is not facing downward or if the mother has an underlying medical condition that would make vaginal delivery especially hazardous. C-sections may also be required due to obesity, placenta previa, pre-eclampsia, the presence of diabetes, or in instances where multiple births are expected.
Prior to the procedure, physicians are required to properly prepare the individual for the procedure. This includes making sure a catheter is placed in the woman’s bladder, the incision area is properly sterilized, and that the anesthesia is properly administered via epidural or spinal block. During the surgical procedure, the obstetrician makes an incision in the woman’s abdomen. Once the abdomen is open, the obstetrician will make a second incision into the uterus and remove the fetus before cutting the umbilical cord. Before closure, the obstetrician will remove the placenta and inspect the uterine cavity to ensure no sponges or surgical instruments remain inside. Most c-sections take between 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete. This period can be longer if complications are encountered during the procedure.
Physicians and nurses have a responsibility to closely monitor pregnant women who may require an emergency c-section procedure. Instances that can necessitate immediate action include a sudden drop in the baby’s heart rate, the umbilical cord comes out prior to delivery causing oxygen deprivation, fetal distress, or uterine rupture. When physicians and nurses ignore the physical signs that a c-section is necessary, they may cause serious injury to the mother or the death of the infant.
Most c-section procedures require 2-4 days of hospital recovery. However, if an injury is suffered, this period can extend for considerably longer. During the recovery period, physicians and nurses are responsible for ensuring the health and recovery of mother and child.
Potential Injuries to Mother and Child
Babies delivered in a botched c-section can suffer from cerebral palsy and other life-altering conditions. They may suffer permanent brain damage, paralysis, or other injuries that can require lifelong care and treatment. Mother’s can suffer internal bleeding, severe organ damage, damaged nerves, heart complications, and other injuries that can impact their quality of life and ability to have children in the future. Approximately 20% of all c-section deliveries result in at least one complication.
Overall, the maternal mortality rate of 2 per 100,000 deliveries is higher for c-section than the .2 per 100,000 recorded for vaginal delivery. When a death occurs, it is often the result of either a blood clot, uncontrolled septic infection, or hemorrhaging.
The high rate of injury and maternal death during c-section procedures highlights the importance of skill, training, and attention to detail during the procedure. Physicians, nurses, and other members of the medical team who fail to thoroughly monitor pregnant women before, during, and after the procedure negligently place their health and the long-term health of the baby in danger.
Newborns must be closely monitored following a c-section delivery for signs of a birth injury. This includes monitoring lung function, heart rate, etc. for signs of injury. While prompt intervention may help minimize the risk of some injuries and infant death, many injuries suffered during birth such as cerebral palsy are permanent.
Long-Term Costs of C-Section Failures
Failing to order or perform a c-section in a timely manner can cause serious financial consequences for families. The current cost for care and treatment for cerebral palsy can cost upwards of $1 million. Treatment for intellectual disability can cost between $500,000 to $1 million. Vision impairments can cost upwards of $600,000 while hearing impairments can cost approximately $400,000 to address. Because these injuries are lifelong, individuals must calculate the rate of inflation and the increased cost of care in the future when pursuing claims for a birth injury.
These are significant financial burdens for any family to carry. When physicians, obstetricians, nurses, and other members of the medical team fail to perform a timely c-section, their negligence can affect a family for a lifetime. When this happens, a birth injury lawyer can pursue claims that can help mothers and fathers secure the compensation they will need to care for their disabled child.