During the course of labour and childbirth, if not managed correctly, injury can be caused to both mother and child.   Here we concentrate on the injuries that the mother can sustain.

Are all women at risk of a birth injury?

Giving birth is one of the most natural functions a woman’s body can perform, but it can be both painful and put a lot of stress on the mother’s body, in a number of ways.   Anyone can sustain some injury at birth because of this.  However, there are a number of risk factors which can make giving birth more complicated, and therefore injury more likely, and should be considered by the medical staff assisting with the birth.   Examples of risk factors are:-

  • Big babies – a baby weighing over 8lb 13 ozs is usually considered to be macrosomic, a term used to describe a baby considered to be significantly larger than average.  An average baby is around 7 lb;
  • Cephalopelvic disproportion – this is where the baby’s head or body is unable to fit through the pelvis.   This can be because the pelvis is small, the baby is large or the pelvis is an odd-shape;
  • Rapid second stage of labour;
  • Where the mother has torn in a previous delivery;
  • Where the doctors attempt to speed up labour using a synthetic oxytocin – this is known as augmentation;
  • Forceps delivery;
  • Breech or face-first deliveries;
  • Premature babies.

What are some examples of maternal birth injuries?

These can be wide and varied.  Some are short-term but others can be permanent and have long-lasting implications, causing extreme distress to the mother and often embarrassment. These can include:

  • Abnormal uterine bleeding;
  • Broken bones or bruising;
  • Common peripartum emergencies;
  • Incontinence;
  • Fissures (tearing of skin);
  • Infection;
  • Pre-eclampsia or eclampsia;
  • Uterine hyper-stimulation;
  • Vaginal tears or lacerations;
  • PTSD;
  • Death of the mother

What causes a birth injury?

In contrast to a birth defect which cannot be prevented, birth injuries are usually avoidable and often arise due to lack of proper treatment and care by medical staff.  This can be, for example, the medical staff failing to notice that either the mother or baby are in distress, or taking a decision to delay a caesarean section, or improper use of birthing tools such as forceps or ventouse.   Birth injuries are more common in the developing world where medical care is not as advanced, but can and do still occur, even with improvements in obstetric care.

I sustained a birth injury - can I make a claim?

Each case is different and your case would have to be investigated before we could answer that question.  If a medical professional has made a mistake we would need to establish that another doctor would have dealt with you in a different way when presented with the same circumstances.  If a “reasonable” medical professional would have done the same as the doctor in your case then they could not have been said to have been negligent - even though they have made a mistake, and you will not be able to claim.   If you are able to establish that another doctor would have treated you in a different way however, then it is necessary to prove that what your doctor did caused an injury that you would not otherwise have suffered.

How do I go about making a claim?

Here at Metcalfes we are able to advise you about making a claim arising from a maternal birth injury. If you think that you or a loved one has suffered as a result of medical negligence or are concerned with the quality of care and treatment you or they have received and would like to know more please contact us on 0117 239 8012.  Alternatively, you can email us by using our online contact form and we will be happy to discuss your potential claim with you.

Where can I find support?

There are a number of organisations set up which can offer support to women if they have suffered a birth injury.  To name a few; Perinatal Illness UK is a registered charity set up to help women and their families who have any type of perinatal illness.  The Birth Crisis Networkis a helpline for women who want to talk about a traumatic birth. The Birth Trauma Association is a voluntary organisation working to raise awareness of post-natal PTSD.  The Capella Foundation seeks to increase awareness of medical complications during pregnancy and increase the support available to those affected.  Finally, Maternity Voices is a group where you can share your views and experiences of maternity care and services.

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