The obstetrician is the leader and makes most of the decisions during pregnancy, labor and delivery. He or she meets with the expectant parents during pregnancy, takes a medical history, orders necessary tests, reviews the results of those tests, and delivers the baby. When everything goes smoothly, the result is likely to be a happy and healthy child. When the obstetrician is unprepared for potential problems, inexperienced, or makes a mistake, the injuries to the baby can be devastating.
Types of Obstetrician Negligence
There is no way to list everything that can go wrong during a pregnancy, nor is it possible to list all of the mistakes that doctors can make. There are a few major categories of physician error:
- Failure to Diagnose: Obstetricians must be able to evaluate their patients, the pregnant mother and the unborn child, and identify any problems that could affect the pregnancy. Patients may have diverse symptoms, and the doctor should be able to identify and treat infections [LINK: Infection during labor & delivery], lack of oxygen [LINK: Lack of oxygen during labor and delivery], placental abruption [LINK: Placental abruption birth injuries], uterine rupture [LINK: Uterine rupture birth injuries], prolapsed umbilical cord [LINK: Prolapsed umbilical cord injuries] and other conditions.
- Medication Errors: Prescribing the wrong type or amount of medication during pregnancy or labor can have devastating effects on the mother or child. Obstetricians should be careful when their patient is on antidepressants, for example, because some drugs have a higher risk of injury to the baby.
- Failure to Follow-Up: When an obstetrician orders a test (whether a routine test or a test in response to a potential problem), the obstetrician should follow-up on those test results. Failures in communication often cause problems—ordered tests may not be completed, or the results may not be appropriately delivered to the doctor, or the doctor may simply not know that the results are in.
- Failure to React to Known Complications: Obstetricians must be prepared for emergencies, even if they are unlikely. One example is shoulder dystocia, where the baby becomes unexpectedly stuck during delivery. The doctor may be required to perform a set of maneuvers to dislodge the baby. Failure to properly perform those maneuvers can cause a brachial plexus injury or lack of oxygen.
- Failure to Perform a Timely Cesarean Section: During labor, the obstetrician must carefully monitor the progress of the baby. Electronic fetal monitoring is one important tool that can help physicians know how the baby is doing. If the baby’s condition deteriorates, the doctor may need to order an emergency cesarean section to prevent brain damage and cerebral palsy.
Injuries Caused by Obstetrician Medical Malpractice
When obstetricians make mistakes, medical problems and injuries such as these can be the result:
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delays
- Wrongful death of the mother
- Stillbirth/wrongful death of the infant
- Placental abruption
- Placenta previa
- Uterine rupture
If you think your child’s injuries may have been caused by your obstetrician’s negligence during pregnancy, labor or delivery, contact our medical malpractice lawyers at (440) 252-4399 or send us information about your case through our online contact form.