When doctors fail to properly manage dangerous conditions during labor, serious birth injuries can result.
During labor and delivery, the top priority is protecting the safety of both the mother and the baby. Medical providers need to be alert for dangerous labor complications, which can end up resulting in serious and potentially life-threatening birth injuries. The following are three common conditions of which you should be aware.
1. Umbilical Cord Prolapse
The umbilical cord carries oxygen and nutrients to the baby from the placenta, which is an organ attached to the lining of the mother’s womb during pregnancy. Comprised of blood vessels, the umbilical cord runs from the placenta to the baby, acting as a lifeline and carrying oxygen and nutrients the developing infant needs to survive.
During an uncomplicated labor, the baby’s head drops down first into the birth canal. Once the infant is delivered, the umbilical cord follows after, tethered to the placenta, which is delivered last. In cases of umbilical cord prolapse, the cord drops down first, between the baby’s head and the opening of the birth canal. As a result, pressure from contractions and the baby’s head descending during labor can decrease or even cut off the supply of oxygen, resulting in brain injuries. Umbilical cord prolapse is relatively uncommon. However, it is more likely to occur in preterm pregnancies, multiple pregnancies, or in infants with low birth weight and is something your doctor needs to be alert for and trained to handle.
2. Shoulder Dystocia
Shoulder dystocia is a more common type of birth trauma. According to the March of Dimes, it occurs in up to three percent of labors. It happens when one or both shoulders become stuck in the mother’s pelvis during delivery. Mothers of multiples and those who suffer from diabetes or weight issues are more at risk, especially if there is cephalopelvic disproportion, which is when the baby’s head and shoulders are large in comparison with the mother’s pelvis. Doctors need to carefully monitor these situations to determine if a cesarean section is needed.
Shoulder dystocia can cause broken collarbones or arms and damage to the brachial plexus nerves, which extend from the spinal cord down through the neck and arm, potentially resulting in paralysis. In severe cases, it can cut off oxygen flow to the baby, resulting in brain injuries. For the mother, shoulder dystocia can result in significant bleeding, severe tearing of the perineum that may require surgery, and uterine rupture, which can cause dangerous hemorrhage and even death.
3. Uterine Rupture
Uterine rupture is one of the most potentially dangerous types of labor complications. It occurs when the wall of the uterus rips open, leaving a hole that the infant can fall through into the peritoneal cavity. This can put both the infant’s and the mother’s life at risk.
Uterine rupture is more likely to happen in areas where there is scar tissue from past C-sections. It is one of the primary reasons why your doctor needs to use caution and careful monitoring when attempting a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).
When Labor Complications Happen
If a serious injury occurs during labor or delivery because of improper or substandard care, doctors and other healthcare professionals can be held accountable. Contact an experienced birth injury attorney to discuss investigating and pursing a claim.