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Maternal Complications During Childbirth Rising in the U.S.

mother holding bare pregnant bellyUnfortunately, childbirth is much more dangerous than it used to be, for both mothers and children. The number of serious complications during childbirth doubled between 1993 and 2014.

Shockingly, the number of sepsis cases — indicating infection in the mother — rose 75% in that period. So did the number of maternal complications during childbirth that required breathing tubes for the mother.

While some news accounts of the drastic rise in the number of childbirth complications focus on the profoundly important danger to the mother, it should also be remembered that these complications can result in injuries to the child.

High complication rates during childbirth

In the 4 million births every year, roughly 50,000 women suffer dangerous complications in childbirth, ranging from hemorrhages to injuries during emergency cesareans, or C-sections. In total, that’s approximately 135 births per day.

Perhaps most disturbingly, those figures are the highest in any industrialized nation.

Childbirth injuries can cause long-lasting and permanent conditions, such as irreversible brain damage, seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, and microcephaly. They can also cause developmental delays.

Non-emergency C-section numbers higher in the U.S.

Why are the figures so high, and why have they risen so dramatically?

There are multiple causes. One of the most sobering is the high number of C-sections currently performed. In the 1960s, just 5% of births took place via C-sections. Now, 33% do. This rate, too, is far higher than in other industrialized countries.

While emergency C-sections are sometimes necessary for the health of both mother and baby, they are also far too often done when not medically indicated. Damage can be done to the baby via forceps that causes permanent and irreversible harm.

Many observers feel that some hospitals lack appropriate training and protocols for what might go wrong in childbirth. Some hospitals do not have enough blood for transfusions. Some medical personnel are not trained to recognize common complications until they have progressed to the point where the life of both mother and child are at risk.

In some areas of the U.S., conditions that may contribute to complications, such as diabetes and hypertension, have grown rapidly over the past several decades.

Finally, economic inequalities may hamper the ability of some new mothers to have adequate access to prenatal care, which could have identified and prevented complications or conditions that lead to them.

Birth injury attorneys serving California

Sadly, thousands of newborns are injured as a result of the dramatic rise in complications during childbirth. If you or a loved one needs a highly skilled birth injury lawyer in southern California, we can help.

Ellis Injury Law has been assisting families affected by medical negligence for more than 20 years. Contact us today at 1-800-INJURED for a complimentary consultation with a Los Angeles birth injury lawyer today.

More Resources on Pregnancy and Maternal Complications:

  1. Ellison, Katherine and Nina Martin. “Nearly Dying in Childbirth: Why Preventable Complications Are Growing in U.S.” December 22, 2017. National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/2017/12/22/572298802/nearly-dying-in-childbirth-why-preventable-complications-are-growing-in-u-s
  2. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pregnancy Complications. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregcomplications.htm

Rate of Home Births Escalates in the U.S.

Until 1989, statistics weren’t available regarding the number of American women who chose midwives instead of obstetricians. That year, just three percent of births in the U.S. were overseen by a midwife. Since 1989, the popularity of midwives and home births has grown considerably, though—at nine percent—this trend still represents a small percentage compared to hospital/Ob-Gyn births.

So what’s behind this trend? Every woman has her own reasons for choosing a home birth with a midwife, but there are a few common factors.

Why more women are choosing home births

Comfort: Comfort and convenience are among the top reasons for choosing a home birth. Welcoming a child into the world is a very personal, intimate experience, and many women aren’t enthused about the idea of a rotating team of medical staff coming in and out of the room, or about laboring in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable hospital room. With a home birth, women have all the comforts of home—literally—within easy reach.

Minimized medical interventions: C-section rates in the U.S. are high enough to be a cause for concern among public health professionals. Many women who have chosen a home birth with a midwife do so because they want greater control over the medical interventions they receive. Of course, if a serious complication develops, the laboring mother will need to be taken to the nearest hospital right away for medical intervention. This is why expecting moms are generally not advised to try a home birth if they live far away from a medical center.

Personalized approach: Most doctors and nurses are genuinely caring individuals who try their best to help their patients, but the healthcare system isn’t set up to facilitate personalized care—and midwifery is. An obstetrician and the nursing staff may supervise multiple laboring women at any given time. A midwife attending a birth is only attending that birth. She is available at the drop of a hat to step in and provide medical or emotional support. Additionally, the approach of midwifery completely respects a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions.

What about the risk of birth injuries?

The possibility of maternal and newborn birth injuries is a real concern for expecting parents. One of the primary advantages of giving birth at a hospital is the instant access to advanced medical equipment, neonatal intensive care units (NICU), and obstetricians in the event that a complication develops. It’s the responsibility of the midwife to assess the expecting mother’s risk of complications, and if necessary, to urge a hospital birth instead. These days, many hospitals welcome licensed midwives. Women may choose to give birth in a hospital with a midwife, with the understanding that their care can be transferred to an obstetrician if need be.

If your child suffered a traumatic injury due to mistakes or medical negligence, the Los Angeles birth injury lawyers at Ellis Law can help. Call 1-800-INJURED to find out how you can find justice for your child. We’ll be happy to review your case at no charge to you, and if you move forward with a lawsuit, you won’t receive a bill unless you receive a jury award or settlement.

Additional Resources on Home Births:

  1. The Atlantic, Call the Midwife, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/06/midwives-are-making-a-comeback/395456/
  2. NPR, Home Births Grow More Popular In U.S., https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2012/01/26/145880448/home-births-grow-more-popular-in-u-s

The Lifetime Cost of Cerebral Palsy

Because cerebral palsy is permanent and care often requires constant attention and assistance, the costs of the condition are very high. The CDC notes that the lifetime cost of cerebral palsy is close to $1 million, at an estimated $921,000.

The medical costs for care and treatment of children with the condition are 10 times higher than for children without it.

The CDC estimates that direct and indirect costs for all people with cerebral palsy will total $11.5 billion just for those born in 2000, over their lifetimes.

Cerebral Palsy: An Overview

Cerebral palsy is an overarching term for a number of disorders having to do with the brain being unable to control muscles. The condition is a physical disability that can have an impact on a patient’s ability to move, the ways in which they move, and their posture.According to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cerebral palsy is the most commonly suffered motor disability in childhood, with a global prevalence of 1.5 to over 4 per 1,000 births.

Cerebral palsy arises from damage to brain development. This can occur either when the mother is pregnant, during the birth process, or shortly after birth. Low birth weight, infection, and interruptions of the supply of blood and oxygen to the baby’s brain are all potential causes.

The condition can manifest in multiple ways. It can affect muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflexes, and balance as well as movement and coordination. In addition, people with cerebral palsy may have other impairments, including epilepsy, autism, or visual, hearing, speech or hearing deficits.

Unfortunately, cerebral palsy is permanent and there is no cure.

Contact a Birth Injury Lawyer in Southern California

Cerebral palsy is a serious condition that can, in some cases, be caused by medical malpractice during birth. If you have a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Ellis Injury Law can review the circumstances of your child’s birth to see if there are grounds for a claim. We have more than two decades of experience in getting parents and children the justice and help they deserve.

Contact a birth injury lawyer in Los Angeles today at 1-800-INJURED for a consultation at no cost to you.

Additional “Cerebral Palsy Cost” Resources:

  1. Cerebral Palsy Alliance. What Is Cerebral Palsy? https://www.cerebralpalsy.org.au/what-is-cerebral-palsy/
  2. United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cerebral Palsy Homepage. Data & Statistics for Cerebral Palsy. https://www.cerebralpalsy.org.au/what-is-cerebral-palsy/