Maternal birth trauma can occur in various forms, such as tears and lacerations, episiotomy complications, pelvic floor injuries, perineal hematomas, and uterine rupture. The risk of maternal birth trauma can increase due to the healthcare team’s actions or inaction. Doctors can be held responsible for medical negligence during pregnancy. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or passed away due to medical negligence, you may be able to recover compensation.
What Is Maternal Birth Trauma?
The term birth trauma can be unclear and refer to three overlapping conditions:
- The child experiencing physical trauma.
- The mother experiencing physical trauma.
- The mother experiencing mental and psychological trauma.
Maternal birth trauma specifically refers to the two types of traumatic birth experience relating to the mother. Birth trauma for the mother can refer to any mental or physical distress or injury experienced during or after childbirth. Some physical injuries that mothers may suffer include vaginal tears, ruptured uterus, and postpartum hemorrhage, while others may experience psychological issues such as postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Physical and Psychological Trauma
What is a birth injury? It is any injury and other physical or mental damage that a mother sustains while giving birth. This can result from vaginal deliveries, breech delivery or cesarean delivery. Each mother may have a unique set of battle scars from these experiences. While some complications may be more serious than others, any complication can result in some physical trauma.
In addition to physical trauma, a mother may also experience mental and psychological traumas during the process of giving birth. These may be associated with physical traumas, but aren’t always.
Symptoms of psychological trauma after giving birth include intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares and avoidant behaviors, or becoming stuck in a fight or flight response. This can even lead to feelings of guilt and self-blame. These symptoms exist in your mind, making them challenging to identify, prove, and overcome.
Statistics on Maternal Birth Trauma
A significant number of mothers, particularly new mothers, undergo traumatic experiences during delivery, ranging from 25% to 34%. Injuries during childbirth occur in approximately 7 out of 1000 births in the United States. Mismanagement of labor and delivery can result in birth injury liability claims, with 40% of such claims originating from the failure to identify severe health problems before birth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disclosed that in 2020, 861 mothers died while giving birth, indicating a maternal mortality rate of 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births. These figures reveal the potential dangers associated with giving birth.
Types of Maternal Birth Injuries
Mothers may suffer injuries during childbirth that range from mild to severe. Medical malpractice may cause birth injuries in mothers, including:
Vaginal Tears and Lacerations
During childbirth, perineal tears are a common occurrence that cannot be prevented. However, sometimes these tears can be caused due to careless use of instruments during labor. If perineal tears occur, it is crucial to seek prompt treatment to prevent unnecessary pain and infection. Vaginal tears are classified into four categories based on the severity of the injury, ranging from 1st to 4th degree tears. The severity of the tear increases as the degree goes up. First-degree tears usually heal quickly, as they are only skin deep, while second-degree tears require stitches and several weeks to heal. Third and fourth-degree tears are the most severe types of vaginal tears that can damage the anal sphincter and anus muscles.
An episiotomy is a deliberate surgical cut made during delivery. It expedites delivery, reducing the risk of uncontrolled tearing of the perineum. The purpose of the incision is to make more room for the baby to pass through by making the opening of the vagina wider.
Midwives and doctors should only suggest an episiotomy if there is a medical necessity, or the mother specifically asks for one. It may be the best option if your baby is in distress and needs to be delivered quickly, if they are in a challenging position, or if you are undergoing an instrumental delivery using forceps or a ventouse.
An episiotomy may lead to complications including bleeding, tears in tissues and anal muscles, infection, swelling, blood collecting in the perineal tissues, and painful sex.
Pelvic Floor Injuries
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that supports the uterus, vagina, bladder, and rectum. During vaginal birth, these muscles can be damaged, leading to urinary and fecal incontinence, as well as prolapse. Up to 30% of women experience muscle damage during vaginal birth. Symptoms of pelvic floor injury include prolapse, bowel or urinary leakage, and a bulge sensation or pressure in the vagina.
Perineal and Vaginal Hematomas
A vaginal and perineal hematoma is a condition where blood accumulates in the soft tissues of the vagina or vulva due to the rupture of nearby blood vessels. This can cause blood to leak into the surrounding tissues, similar to a deep bruise.
Vaginal and perineal hematoma is a common complication after childbirth, especially in premature births, quick deliveries, and those with an episiotomy. Larger hematomas may cause pain, swelling, discoloration, painful or difficult urination, and bulging tissue.
A ruptured uterus occurs when the wall of the uterus (womb) tears. This condition is more common in women who have previously had a Cesarean section.
A uterine rupture is considered a medical emergency that can be life-threatening for both the mother and the baby. It can also cause serious damage to the health of both the mother and the baby.
The first line of treatment for a uterine rupture is an urgent Cesarean section and uterine repair, followed by a transfusion and antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection. Recovery time may vary, and women who have more children in the future will need a Cesarean section.
Why It Is Important to Seek Medical Assistance and Legal Support
Impact on Your Quality of Life
Maternal birth injuries can cause severe and long-lasting damage. They can have a detrimental effect on women’s relationships with their partners, families, and babies. These injuries may also result in severe postnatal depression and other mental health issues. Women affected by these injuries may experience a lifetime of pain and discomfort, which can lead to a fear of becoming pregnant again. Additionally, they may result in ongoing costs for the affected women and their families in terms of symptom management.
Therefore, if you have suffered maternal birth trauma, you should seek medical assistance to treat your injuries and minimize their consequences. You should also seek the support of a birth injury attorney to hold a healthcare provider responsible if your injuries were caused by medical negligence. You should not have to bear the costs of injuries that were caused by another person’s negligence.
An Attorney Can Help You Prove Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice pregnancy cases are on the rise. To qualify as medical malpractice, an action must have four elements present.
- The patient is owed a professional duty.
- that duty is not fulfilled, resulting in a breach.
- The breach can cause injury to the patient.
- The injury can result in damages.
Medical malpractice during childbirth can result in birth injuries to the mother or baby. One of the common reasons for such malpractice is mismanagement by healthcare professionals. Doctors may make mistakes during labor and delivery that cause harm to the mother and the child. Some examples of mismanagement include:
Failure to identify and manage fetal distress. If doctors don’t recognize signs of fetal distress, such as abnormal heart rate patterns, and respond promptly, it can put the mother and child at risk.
Inappropriate use of labor-inducing drugs. If doctors administer incorrect doses of drugs to induce or augment labor, it can lead to complications like uterine rupture and excessive bleeding.
Improper use of delivery instruments. Forceps or vacuum extraction used incorrectly during delivery can cause injuries to the mother, such as lacerations or damage to pelvic floor muscles.
Delayed Cesarean section. If doctors don’t perform a C-section when necessary, it can put the mother and baby in danger.
Prenatal care includes the regular check-ups and monitoring of pregnant women to detect and address potential risks. Poor prenatal care can contribute to birth injuries in mothers. Negligence in prenatal care includes failure to identify and manage pre-existing medical conditions, increasing the risk of complications during delivery. It may also include failure to identify and treat maternal infections, such as group B streptococcus or urinary tract infections, or ineffective monitoring of fetal growth and development, which can lead to failure to plan for a high-risk delivery.
It is crucial for medical professionals to carefully monitor the mother after giving birth to prevent any medical negligence that could potentially lead to severe harm. Negligence during this phase may involve the failure to manage complications such as infections, tears, or hemorrhages, which could result in significant suffering for the mother.
Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.