Pregnancy is an exciting time for expecting parents. While expecting mothers will typically do all the right things (eating healthy, exercising, etc.), complications still sometimes arise. Fortunately, the majority of these complications are preventable with proper medical care.
Preventing and/or treating birth complications starts with prenatal care. Prenatal care is recommended to all pregnant women because of its potential to improve the health of mothers and infants. According to The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention , inadequate use of prenatal care is associated with increased risk for low infant birth weight, premature births, neonatal mortality, infant mortality, and maternal mortality.
Prenatal care is typically performed by family doctors competent in obstetrics. If the family doctor does not practice obstetrics, an appropriate referral should be made. These doctors should identify possible risk factors and plan treatment accordingly.
During a mother’s first visit, a full exam should be undertaken, this can include a series of tests used to detect or anticipate possible complications:
- a complete blood cell count (CBC)
- blood typing and screening for Rh antibodies
- for infections such as syphilis, hepatitis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and (HIV)
- for evidence of previous exposure to chickenpox, measles, mumps, or rubella
- for cystic fibrosis
- for diabetes
Following this initial visit, even if there are no complications the doctor should schedule regular follow up examinations throughout the pregnancy. After several months the doctor should use an ultrasound as part of the care. This can detect fetal heartbeat or breathing movements and identify a variety of abnormalities that might affect the remainder of the pregnancy or delivery. If appropriately recognized through proper medical care, pre-labour complications can be addressed in a timely manner so minimize the harm to the baby.
During labour, most mothers are monitored regarding the well-being of their baby using external electronic fetal monitoring. These devices are attached to the mother’s abdomen. The doctors and nurses are to monitor the fetal heart rate and the frequency and length of contractions. The doctors and nurses are trained to regularly review and interpret the monitoring and be on the lookout for signs of complications. The monitoring will be classified into either of three categories:
1. Reassuring – Based on the monitoring patterns, the baby can be assumed to have normal oxygen and acid base status
2. Non-reassuring – Red flags should be raised. Monitoring patters cannot reliably whether the baby is receiving sufficient oxygen or is acidotic
3. Ominous – Fetal heart rate patterns should are associated with a dangerously low heart rate
Where the fetal monitoring is non-reassuring or ominous, doctors and nurses must act. It is negligent not to. Ominous signs require urgent intervention because minutes count during the birth process. The failure to perform a timely c-section can result in a serious birth injury and is considered medical negligence. It is also negligent to fail to give needed oxygen to troubled babies post-birth.
Tragically each year in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I., there are many babies born with preventable serious birth injuries, including:
- Brain injury, such as cerebral palsy
- Muscle tightness, including spastic diplegia
- Brachial plexus injuries, such as erb’s palsy
- Excessive bleeding
- Skull and clavical fractures
- Cranial nerve trauma
- Spinal cord damage
Timely and proper treatment will significantly increase the likelihood that all children will be born healthy. Sadly, such treatment is not always provided and many damaged babies will suffer the consequences. The lawyers at Wagners are the most experienced birth injury lawyers in the Atlantic Provinces. They understand the physical, emotional and financial turmoil that can result from negligent birthing care and have assisted many families in obtaining the financial assistance needed to lessen or eliminate the monetary burden caused by the injuries.