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How To Know When to Pursue Damages for Pregnancy Malpractice Cases

Updated February 26, 2024 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

For expectant parents, pregnancy is usually a time filled with joy and hope as you excitedly await the birth of your child. But complications of pregnancy can cast a shadow over this time, which can be a source of anxiety for both the mother and the other expectant parent. Even worse, some complications can arise due to the negligence of a doctor or other healthcare provider.

In this article, we’ll outline common complications of pregnancy, how they can affect a mother or her baby, steps you can take to minimize the risk of obstetric complications during pregnancy, and how to tell the difference between complications that arise naturally and complications due to medical malpractice.

Common Pregnancy Complications

First, let’s take a look at common pregnancy complications. Johns Hopkins Medicine provides the following list of categories. Each of the categories in the list of pregnancy complications encompasses a number of different pregnancy problems.

Complications may be related to:

  • Amniotic fluid—too much or too little of the fluid that fills the placenta and surrounds a developing baby can be a sign of problems that can affect both mother and baby
  • Bleeding—this  is often a sign of a problem with a pregnancy; an expectant mother should immediately talk to her doctor if she experiences bleeding during pregnancy
  • Ectopic pregnancy—this refers to any case in which a fetus is developing outside the uterus (e.g., in one of the fallopian tubes); an ectopic pregnancy will never result in a healthy baby and is a threat to the life of the pregnant mother
  • Miscarriage and fetal loss—miscarriage generally refers to the loss of a pregnancy during the first 20 weeks, while fetal loss refers to the loss of a baby later in pregnancy;
  • Placental complications—these are problems with the placenta, the sac in which a fetus develops in the womb; examples include placental abruption, in which the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus, and placenta previa, in which the placenta blocks the cervical opening through which a baby must pass at birth
  • Preeclampsia and eclampsia—signs of preeclampsia include maternal high blood pressure and fluid retention. If preeclampsia is not treated properly, it can develop into eclampsia, which is a threat to the mother’s life.

Knowing the Difference between Unavoidable Complications and Medical Malpractice

No matter which doctor, nurse practitioner, or midwife you choose for your prenatal care, they should provide you with health care that meets the established standard of care for pregnant women. This article from the American Academy of Family Physicians explains what should be included in standard prenatal care.

Pregnancy complications can arise naturally during pregnancy, even if the health-care professionals involved in your care fully meet the standard of care.

There is a potential medical malpractice pregnancy case when the health-care personnel in your care neglect to give advice, screening, and treatment that meets the standard of care.

 To pursue a pregnancy malpractice case, you must be able to:

  • Show that you have an established doctor/patient relationship with the healthcare provider in question;
  • Show that you or your baby suffered some form of harm; and
  • Prove that your health-care provider’s negligence caused the injury that you or your baby sustained.

Here are some instances in which you might be eligible for a labor and delivery malpractice settlement.

First, consider an ectopic pregnancy malpractice case. A woman takes a home pregnancy test that tells her that she is, indeed, pregnant. She visits her obstetrician, who orders an ultrasound. The ultrasound doesn’t show signs of a developing fetus in her uterus, and no further action is recommended. Later, the ectopic pregnancy causes the woman’s fallopian tube to rupture. The ensuing internal bleeding sends the woman to the emergency room, endangers her life, and results in significant medical expenses. Her healthcare providers may be guilty of medical malpractice for failing to diagnose the ectopic pregnancy and recommend prompt treatment.

Second, consider a case involving a post-birth hemorrhage. A woman goes to the hospital for a planned cesarean section. After the surgery, blood shows up in her urinary catheter. After her husband points out the blood, further testing to find the source of the bleeding is delayed due to the hospital being short-staffed. Later, when it is discovered that the woman is suffering from massive internal bleeding, it is too late to save her, and she dies. The hospital and its staff may be liable for medical malpractice for failing to provide prompt treatment when there were signs of a post-birth hemorrhage.

Can You Sue a Hospital for Traumatic Birth?

Traumatic birth is a somewhat tricky concept because its meaning changes depending on the context.

From the perspective of the psychiatric health of mothers (or parents), a traumatic birth is any birth in which the mother experiences trauma. For example, if a mother has past experiences of sexual abuse, some routine aspects of the birth process may trigger memories of those experiences and cause her trauma. Another example might be a case in which a mother or baby sustains an injury during labor and delivery—being injured or witnessing an injury to her baby might traumatize a mother. Cases that fall under this definition of traumatic birth do not usually involve medical malpractice.

In a legal context, traumatic birth or birth trauma typically refer to a birth injury to mother or child. If a birth injury results from negligence on the part of healthcare personnel, you may be eligible to receive compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit. 

For more information on birth injuries and birth defects and how they relate to labor and delivery malpractice cases, read our article, “Birth Defects vs. Birth Injuries” or watch this video on different types of birth injuries.

Experienced Pregnancy Malpractice Lawyers

If you’re a mother who’s suffered an injury during pregnancy or labor and delivery or if you’re the parent of a baby who’s suffered a birth injury that you believe may have been the result of negligence on the part of your healthcare providers, contact the Indianapolis Birth Injury Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The Indianapolis medical malpractice lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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