PTSD from childbirth can mar one of the happiest times of a woman’s life. A difficult birth can quickly turn from a headache into a nightmare when medical negligence causes severe or fatal injuries. The psychological impact of a difficult birth can result in the mother developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from childbirth.
PTSD from difficult birth is not uncommon, but it may be underreported. Cheryl Beck, a nursing professor who has performed more than 20 years of research on the connection between mental health and maternity care, says, “The majority of studies across the globe examining the prevalence of PTSD report this rate to be between 1 and 3 percent.”
Although there can be many causes for PTSD in new mothers, medical malpractice is a major factor. Contact an attorney if your newborn suffered birth trauma, and in turn, you also suffered psychologically.
Common Causes of PTSD from Difficult Birth
What is considered to be a difficult birth for one mother may not be for another. Yet there are some common scenarios in which a mother might develop PTSD.
The following are examples of birth trauma from medical malpractice that could lead to PTSD in the mother:
- baby’s death;
- cesarean section;
- birth defect;
- intervention required (vacuum extraction, forceps);
- premature birth;
- extensive labor;
- poor bedside manners of medical staff;
- life-threatening complications;
- severe pain; and
- birth injury.
PTSD from difficult birth isn’t always immediately recognized. This is especially true when there are chaotic circumstances surrounding the child’s birth and special medical care or attention is required.
Left untreated, it will sometimes go away on its own. But it also could debilitate the mother. In severe cases, it may lead to thoughts of suicide or explosive anger. It can interfere with her ability to care for the child or to enjoy life. Mothers may not understand or feel comfortable enough to express how they are feeling, but there are signs to look for.
Types of Traumatic Birth Injuries
During labor and delivery, complications can sometimes arise. But when complications are caused by malpractice, the devastation of knowing an injury was preventable can be overwhelming.
One of the more severe types of birth injuries is when the fetus has been deprived of oxygen, which can cause severe brain damage.
Circumstances under which oxygen deprivation can occur during labor and delivery include:
- prolonged delivery (breech position, large-sized baby, weak contractions, birth canal is small);
- umbilical cord complications (compressed, wrapped around baby’s neck, or cord prolapse, where it drops through cervix before the baby);
- hemorrhaging (excessive bleeding); and
- placental abruption (placenta partially or completely tears away from uterus).
Neonatal sepsis is another type of injury that is a serious and life-threatening infection. Neonatal sepsis can develop with a preterm delivery, when the mother develops group B streptococcus during pregnancy, or when the water breaks more than 24 hours prior to giving birth. Complications can include disability or even death.
Shoulder dystocia is another serious injury. The shoulders may get stuck in the birth canal, which can cause injury to the nerves of the hands, arms, or shoulders. In severe cases, it can result in permanent paralysis.
These are just some examples of birth injuries that can be life-altering, both for the baby and the mother. As a result, the disturbing events surrounding the birth and then later learning more about the long-term consequences of an injury can significantly impact the mother’s mental health.
Symptoms of PTSD from Childbirth
Memories and thoughts surrounding the birth event may continue to plague the mother. Flashbacks of the chaotic scene in the delivery room, wondering if she could have done anything to prevent the outcome, can become consuming.
Emotions can be significantly impacted and can lead to a varying range including anger, sorrow, irritability, numbness, and fear.
PTSD from childbirth can cause insomnia, the inability to concentrate, and impact the ability to maintain relationships with others. It could even affect the bonding between mother and child.
Keep in mind that the symptoms of PTSD differ for each person. Symptoms may be less severe in some women, but debilitating for others.
Treatment could include medication, counseling, and various types of therapies. The cost – not just financially but also psychologically – could very well warrant additional compensation in a medical malpractice claim.
Discuss Your Options with an Attorney
For help understanding the types of damages that may be recoverable in a birth injury case, contact a medical malpractice lawyer at The Becker Law Firm. A lawyer can evaluate the details and determine the viability of a claim for a difficult birth and the subsequent PTSD from childbirth.