What causes birth injuries? There are plenty of potential culprits – fetal and maternal health conditions, a breech or transverse presentation, problems with the placenta, and other complications. We would do anything to keep our babies safe, but many of those complications are simply unavoidable. However, the number one cause of birth injuries doesn’t fall into that category. It’s preventable.
What Is The Top Cause Of Birth Injuries?
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the most common reason cited for birth injuries is communication errors among the birthing team. That encompasses a range of potential errors, from misunderstanding a diagnosis and giving the wrong medications to failing to inform a doctor when a fetus shows signs of distress. Labor and delivery are stressful, especially if there are complications, and mistakes happen. When those mistakes threaten the health of our children, however, what can we do?
Some hospitals have joined the Premier Perinatal Safety Initiative (PPSI), a program designed to improve communication throughout the delivery process and avoid preventable birth injuries. They focused on 5 common failure points: missed signs of fetal distress, delayed c-sections, improper resuscitation techniques, misuse of labor-inducing drugs, and unnecessary forceps or vacuum use. Over the first few years of the initiative, these hospitals saw a 25% drop in the incidence of asphyxia and oxygen deprivation and a 22% drop in the incidence of birth trauma. In other words, these injuries really were preventable and hospitals are working to put systems in place to address that issue.
PPSI involves implementing bundles of procedures that were proven to make the delivery room safer. One aspect, for example, focuses on creating cohesive medical teams with clearly defined roles to limit any confusion during the heat of the moment. Another focuses on accurate communication of medical information between doctors and nurses and across shift changes. Participating hospitals also perform regular drills with mannequins and anatomical models so their teams can practice what to do in case of serious complications.
Keeping Yourself And Your Baby Safe
Unfortunately, not all hospitals participate in PPSI or other, similar programs. Even these programs aren’t perfect. Birth injuries, both preventable and unavoidable, are simply a risk of delivery. That said, there are certain things you can do to decrease your risk.
First, choose your prenatal care and delivery location carefully. Ask about their practices for complicated deliveries. For example, you’ll want to know about their policies for inducing labor or performing emergency c-sections. You’ll want to deliver somewhere that won’t simply try to rush you out the door and somewhere with enough staff and capacity to pay attention to your needs as you give birth.
Second, be active in your prenatal care. Don’t miss any visits and ask your doctor about any questions or concerns you have. The more you know about what to expect when you go into labor, the better you’ll be able to avoid any problems.
Finally – and this isn’t easy – be actively involved in the medical decisions surrounding your delivery. That means listening carefully to everything your doctors are saying and asking questions to make sure you understand. Don’t let them force any decisions on you – make sure you’re comfortable with any procedures and the reasons behind it. Make sure that your wishes are part of your birth plan and try to have someone with you who can ask your doctor questions and look out for your safety if you’re unable to do so. It’s easy to let doctors and nurses make decisions – they’re the professionals, after all – but they can make mistakes and you’re your own best advocate. If something sounds wrong, speak up. The same applies for the care of your child once you deliver. Make sure you know what treatment, if any, your little one is receiving and ask questions if it seems like something is wrong.
The Toll Of Birth Injuries
Serious birth injuries are not terribly common – they affect about 60,000 of the 4 million births in the US every year. When they do happen, however, they’re heartbreaking. They’re also expensive – a complicated childbirth can cost more than twice what a straightforward delivery does. Depending on your child’s injuries and needs, you may also have to deal with the cost of ongoing care and therapy. Less severe birth injuries are much more common and will still require medical care. An uncomplicated vaginal delivery costs an average of $10,000 – complications affecting mother or child only add to the tab.
The costs in emotional distress, pain, and money are all the more upsetting considering that so many birth injuries are preventable.
Birth Injuries And Your Rights
About 2/3 of birth injuries are unavoidable – they’re no one’s fault. The other 1/3, however, are caused by medical negligence or mistakes. If a medical care provider injures (or fails to prevent injury to) you or your child, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and other costs associated with the injury.
In order to get that compensation, you’ll need to speak to an experienced birth injury attorney about filing a lawsuit against the hospital, doctor, and other responsible parties. The Safe Birth Project can help – contact us today for more information about your legal rights and options for pursuing compensation for birth injuries.