Legally speaking, the term “birth injury” refers to the injuries sustained by both mother and child. During a difficult birth, children may end up with brachial plexus injuries or suffer hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) due to lack of oxygen, but what happens to mothers?
Below are some of the most common birth injuries to mothers:
When mothers deliver large babies or struggle through labor and delivery, they often end up with vaginal or perineal tears. Sometimes, tears span from the vagina through the perineum (the area of skin between the vagina and the anus), all the way to the anus, the anal sphincter, and the rectum. Many women require stitches.
Not only do these tears take time to heal, but they can also create long-term problems like incontinence (inability to hold in urine or feces) and pain during sex.
About 1 in 3 women suffer from a pelvic floor disorder, such as urinary incontinence – and 80% of these women are mothers. Prolonged labor and difficult births can overstretch or tear the muscles inside the pelvis that help hold the uterus, bladder, and bowel in place, which can lead to urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when pelvic muscles give out and pelvic organs slip down into the vagina. In severe cases, these organs can slip outside of the body entirely. Mostly, pelvic organ prolapse creates bladder and bowel problems and difficulties with intercourse.
During vaginal birth, women’s bones physically move to make way for the baby. Complications during birth can cause these bones to break. Fractured tailbones and separated pubic bones (pubic symphysis) are the most common broken bones that occur during a traumatic vaginal birth.
Uterine rupture occurs when the strain from a large baby or a traumatic birth causes the uterus to tear, sending the uterus and its contents into the abdominal cavity of the mother. This is a medical emergency that can cause many problems.
Likewise, uterine inversion turns the uterus inside out, which can lead to shock and fatal hemorrhaging. Uterine inversion happens when the placenta remains attached to the uterus – and pulls the uterus out with it. Doctors must respond quickly to uterine inversion and reinsert the uterus manually, perform abdominal surgery, or perform an emergency hysterectomy (uterus removal) to save the mother’s life.
Every woman bleeds after pregnancy, but abnormally heavy bleeding can be dangerous. If something goes wrong during birth, the mother is more likely to experience post-partum hemorrhaging or heavy bleeding.
Medical professionals should prevent and reduce postpartum hemorrhaging, so heavy bleeding after birth may be a sign that something went wrong.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Struggling to give birth can lead to serious physical injuries. During a difficult birth, you may also fear for you or your child’s life. Unsurprisingly, women who have experienced traumatic births sometimes suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If scary memories of your birth and intrusive thoughts keep you up at night, you may want to reevaluate the medical care you received. Giving birth is painful, but it should not leave you with psychological scars.
What Can Doctors Do?
To prevent birth injuries to mothers, medical providers can anticipate problems and solve them before they occur. If a mother with narrow hips is carrying a large baby, for example, doctors can schedule C-sections, so the mother does not have to endure a difficult vaginal birth.
Scheduled C-sections are much safer than emergency C-sections and save mothers the trauma of their birthing experience becoming an emergency. As women prepare to give birth, their doctors should also give them exercises that help them strengthen their pelvic muscles and make sure they understand the risks of a vaginal delivery and the medical options they have. If doctors use forceps or a vacuum to help deliver a baby, they should use these tools with the utmost caution and professionalism.
Failure to provide the correct care could be construed as medical malpractice.
If you think you have a medical malpractice case because of a maternal birth injury you have sustained, please discuss your situation with the Law Office of David A. Kates.
David Kates has 20 years of professional legal experience and a tenacious, results-driven practice.
For the personal attention you deserve, call Attorney Kates at (718) 866-3664 or schedule your free consultation online.