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Common Problems in the Delivery Room

by The Beasley Firm  |  February 6, 2019  |  

For any pregnant woman, the nine months long wait for labor is one filled with anticipation, excitement, and other emotional feelings. The moment comes when it’s time to go into the delivery room, but it’s not always the experience that many people hope for when they find out they’re going to have a baby. Unfortunately, there are a number of errors that may occur in the delivery room that can put both mother and baby at significant risk of harm.

If a doctor is negligent during delivery, they should be held fully accountable for any physical or mental damages the baby experiences. The family of the affected child can take legal action to sue for the damages experienced to help cover any medical expenses, rehabilitation or therapy costs, and any future expenses resulting from a birth injury.

Failure to Progress Labor

The labor and delivery phase of a pregnancy can be very straining on both the mother and the baby. It must progress at a steady rate or it may be considered prolonged—defined as any labor lasting longer than 20 hours for a first delivery—which can result in pain or birth injury.

Prolonged labor can result from slow dilation, a larger baby, emotional factors, or a small birth canal. It’s important for the mother to relax during this time and take the steps to help move the delivery along. During the active phase of birth, failure to progress can be problematic, calling for emergency cesarean section to prevent problems.

If a labor fails to progress properly, the baby might suffer from any of the following:

  • Low oxygen levels
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Uterine infection
  • Abnormal substances located in the amniotic fluid

If the baby is distressed, the delivering doctor must take emergency action.

The Potential of Shoulder Dystocia

When a baby’s head is delivered, but the shoulders get stuck behind the birth canal or pelvic bone, there is a high risk of potential damage. This is referred to as shoulder dystocia, a roughly uncommon condition that is more likely to impact mothers who have not given birth before.

Shoulder dystocia can also be associated with the following:

  • Brachial plexus: An injury to the nerves impacting the baby’s shoulder, arms, and hand. This condition may heal over time.
  • Fetal fracture: This is a possible break in the humerus bone or collar bone which typically heals without any additional issues.
  • Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy: A lack of oxygen to the brain which can result in traumatic brain damage and impact developmental progress.

If the baby is suspected to be very large, a doctor might recommend a cesarean delivery or inducing early. If the doctor diagnoses shoulder dystocia during a vaginal delivery, the healthcare team might try moving the mother in different positions or performing various maneuvers to help the delivery continue. The doctor might also evaluate for an episiotomy, which is an incision in the perineum to make the vaginal opening larger.

Failure to Monitor

During delivery, it is extremely important for the obstetrician, nurses, and other medical professionals to ensure that both mother and baby are properly monitored. This means checking blood pressure and heart rate throughout the process to check for abnormalities.

If medical professionals fails to properly monitor, they might miss serious complications, which can result in long-term issues. Whether a baby is showing signs of decreased oxygen flow or they are distressed in any way, the medical professional must take the necessary steps to diagnose the situation and provide a solution, whether that means speeding up delivery, performing a C-section, or moving the baby to relieve stress.

Abnormal Presentation of the Baby

During a normal delivery, the baby is positioned with his or her head down, facing the back of the mother, and with the chin tucked. The baby moves into this position in the weeks prior to the due date, but there are times when the baby isn’t presented properly.

When a baby is presented with his or her buttocks or feet towards the mother’s birth canal, it is in what is called a breech position, which can be dangerous.

The following positions can be considered breech:

  • Frank breech occurs when the baby’s butt is the first part into the mother’s pelvis and the baby’s knees are extended and hips flexed.
  • Complete breech occurs when both knees and the hips are flexed with the butt or feet entering the birth canal first.
  • Incomplete breech occurs when one or both feet are first in the birth canal.
  • Transverse lie occurs when the baby is horizontal in the uterus and the shoulders will be first in the birth canal.

If a baby is in a breech position, meaning their head is not pointing down towards the birth canal, a doctor may recommend an attempt to turn the baby, known as an external cephalic version (ECV). This involves the doctor applying pressure on the mother’s abdomen to encourage the baby to turn into a head-down position. This procedure is typically done between 36 and 38 weeks of pregnancy and can increase the chances of a vaginal birth.

If the baby cannot be turned or if there are other concerns, the doctor may recommend a cesarean delivery to ensure a safe birth for both the mother and baby.

Improper Use of Birth-Aiding Tools: Forceps and Vacuum Extractors

Two different tools may be used when a labor becomes extensive and prolonged. These are forceps and vacuum extractors, both of which typically are fine as long as they are used correctly. However, if used incorrectly, they can cause significant problems.

Both tools involve the baby’s head and when there is too much force or trauma, it may lead to fractures or other issues in which the baby can be harmed and suffer brain damage.

Possible Infections Contracted In the Delivery Room

While you would think that delivery rooms are sterile and safe, there are a number of different instruments and individuals that are introduced. If there are not proper precautions taken, there may be a potential increase in the risk of infections contracted in the delivery room.

Here are some things medical professionals must do to prevent infection:

  • Ensuring equipment is sterilized is of the utmost importance. This includes scalpels, forceps, and any other items that may come in contact with the mother and baby during labor.
  • Antiseptic should be applied to the umbilical cord to prevent cord infection.
  • The baby should be properly cared for to prevent infections from occurring.
  • Doctors must wear fresh gloves and clean gowns before entering the delivery room as anything brought from another room could be dangerous to the baby or mother.

If the doctor notices signs of infection, such as difficulty breathing, irritability, change in behavior, rashes, or more, they must take action to test and treat the baby or mother as soon as possible. Failure to do so can allow the condition to worsen and in some cases, this can be life-threatening.

What to Do If a Doctor Was Negligent During Labor & Delivery

At The Beasley Firm, we go the extra mile to protect families in their times of need. We recognize the struggles that may come from a birth injury, and how it may impact developmental progress over the child’s lifetime. This is why we work so hard to help families seek compensation.

Our Philadelphia birth injury attorneys stop at nothing to help you when you need us most. Trust that we aim to provide the most comprehensive services so you can focus on your family while we handle the legal matters that follow.

Call us today at (215) 866-2424 to discuss your potential case with our team. Your family is our top priority and we will work hard to build a strong case on your behalf.

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