The twentieth century saw a 99% reduction in the risk of death associated with pregnancy. One technology that played a significant role in this reduction is the appropriate use of the cesarean section when the unborn baby shows signs of fetal distress.
The medical team taking care of the mother and baby is responsible for monitoring the progress of the labor and delivery for signs of fetal distress and performing a cesarean section when appropriate.
Many things can happen during birth that causes fetal distress and the need for a cesarean section. A few include: an infant that is too large to pass through the birth canal; labor not progressing because the cervix has stopped dilating; and the infant is in a breech position, with its feet coming out first instead of the head.
Monitoring the fetal heart rate is one of the important ways that the medical team monitors the baby during labor and delivery. Changes in the heart rate indicate fetal distress, and the infant is not getting sufficient oxygen. This is referred to as fetal hypoxia. When this situation arises, deciding to perform a cesarean section may be critical to the infant’s health. An infant suffering from hypoxia during delivery can develop cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is a crippling condition that affects the brain and central nervous system. The symptoms of cerebral palsy can be mild in some cases. In severe cases, cerebral palsy can cause uncontrollable reflex movements, intellectual disabilities, seizures, vision and hearing problems, and other strenuous physical injuries and permanent disabilities.
Cerebral palsy is one of the most common causes of permanent disability in children. However, not all children with cerebral palsy will suffer from the same problems. Some will have more severe problems, while others may only experience mild difficulties.
The National Institute of Health recently published a statement concluding that the appropriate use of cesarean section when there are signs of fetal distress has reduced the number of cases of cerebral palsy even though the overall rate of cerebral palsy has not decreased. The NIH explains this anomaly by pointing out that cesarean sections have also increased the overall survival rate of newborns.
The healthcare providers caring for the mother and infant during the labor and delivery owe the mother and the baby a legal duty of care. If the healthcare providers do not respond to an emergency, such as fetal distress/fetal hypoxia, by the accepted standard of care, the healthcare provider has violated this duty of care.
When this happens, and the mother or infant is injured, the healthcare providers may be liable for medical malpractice and responsible for the past and future medical costs along with other recoverable damages associated, which in the case of severe cerebral palsy can be extraordinary.
Suppose you believe your child has suffered birth injuries due to the failure to provide a timely C-section. In that case, an experienced personal injury lawyer can review the circumstances of your case with you and ensure that your legal and child’s rights are protected.