Advanced Maternal Age And Birth Injuries
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Women are overall waiting longer to have children, often while they pursue education and careers. According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the number of first births for women age 35 to 39 increased by 36 percent between 1991 and 2001, and the rate among women age 40 to 44 grew by 70 percent.
Medically, women who have children at age 35 or older are considered to be of advanced maternal age, even though 20% of all women have their first child at age 35 or after. There are six pregnancy-related risk factors associated with advanced maternal age: decreased fertility, miscarriage, genetic problems, high blood pressure, stillbirth, and maternal death.
Advanced maternal age can lead to an increased risk of birth injury. Contact The Becker Law Firm at (440) 252-4399 for a free consultation with one of our Ohio birth injury lawyers today.
Risks Associated with Advanced Maternal Age
With an increase in maternal age comes an increase in the risk of many birth injuries and birth defects, including:
- Down syndrome, neural tube defects, and other birth defects
- Gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Placental problems
- Premature birth
Physicians must inform older women of the potential risks so they can make informed decisions about their pregnancies. Obstetrical caregivers must also carefully manage these risks in order to prevent possible injuries to the mother and child.
The Ohio birth injury lawyers at The Becker Law Firm represent families who have been harmed by medical negligence, including failure to recognize potential issues associated with advanced maternal age and failure to make a referral to a doctor who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, such as a perinatologist or a maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist.
Down Syndrome and Advanced Maternal Age
Advanced maternal age is directly related to an increased risk of Down syndrome.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the risk of having a child with Down syndrome is:
- At age 25: 1/1,300
- At age 35: 1/365
- At age 45: 1/30
Testing can detect the presence of chromosomal defects that cause Down syndrome and other birth defects. Parents must be offered the opportunity to find out whether their child has these defects. The testing is voluntary; presenting the opportunity to be tested is not.
Physicians who fail to offer parents these tests can be held legally responsible in a wrongful birth lawsuit should the child be born with Down syndrome or another birth defect.
Declining Fertility: Negligent Fertility Treatments and Miscarriage
Statistically, older women are less fertile. It is not an all-or-nothing degree of fertility like a light switch, but rather it is a sliding scale. Among each age group, compared to the prior age group, there are fewer pregnancies where birth control is not practiced.
This means that women aged 35 and older, as a group, have more difficulty becoming pregnant and delivering children. There are two major reasons why this increased difficulty is important for medical malpractice.
First, women over age 35 are more likely to undergo fertility treatments to overcome an inability to become pregnant. Those fertility treatments and the resulting pregnancies carry with them an increased risk that must be considered and monitored by doctors. Though the choice of in vitro fertilization has a four percent higher risk of genetic abnormalities, many problems are preventable.
Some of the negligent risks of fertility treatments include:
- Bleeding and death from egg retrieval procedures
- Implanting the wrong embryo, using the wrong sperm, or using the wrong eggs
- Failing to test donated products for sexually transmitted diseases
- Failure to perform proper genetic testing or health/age background checks on donors and donated biological materials, resulting in children born with genetic injuries
- Negligent destruction of viable embryos
Second, women aged 35 and older are more likely to have miscarriages. Miscarriage is a spontaneous abortion before 20 weeks. These risks are often caused by increased chromosomal abnormalities. In a small percentage of situations, doctors may be able to prevent miscarriage through medication and other interventions. Doctors must timely diagnose a miscarriage to prevent maternal harm—if not properly diagnosed a harmful and perhaps fatal infection could be the result.
Chromosomal Abnormalities, Hypertensive Complications, Stillbirth and Maternal Death
Advanced maternal age is widely recognized as increasing the risk for chromosomal abnormalities. These are genetic problems that can cause health problems for the baby, including Down syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, and others.
There is no cure for these conditions, however, doctors may have a responsibility to timely diagnose genetic defects. In many states, parents have a right to terminate the pregnancy because of genetic defects, when detected early enough. A doctor who fails to give expectant parents that option may be responsible for the extraordinary medical care that the child will require over his or her lifetime. Lawsuits of that nature are known as wrongful birth cases.
Increases in blood pressure (hypertension) can cause problems in pregnancy. Women aged 40 and older are both more likely to have higher pre-pregnancy hypertension and more likely to develop pregnancy-related hypertension. High blood pressure can cause premature delivery, which means that “older” women are more likely to deliver premature or low-birthweight babies. Doctors must take care to identify hypertension and to treat it during the pregnancy to ensure the baby’s health.
Also associated with advanced maternal age is stillbirth, the death of the baby after 20 weeks. Women aged 40+ are two-and-a-half times as likely to have a stillborn baby. Stillbirth is not common under either circumstance, but wrongful death of the baby is still a risk.
Finally, as women age, there is an increased risk of maternal death during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Some studies have indicated that women 35 and older may be three times as likely to die because of pregnancy or childbirth, compared to younger mothers. Like stillbirth, however, maternal mortality is rare at any age.
$13.5 Million Birth Injury
Becker Law Firm attorneys Michael Becker and David Skall obtained a jury verdict for $13.5 million in Akron, Ohio. The case involved a now 16- year-old boy who suffered a brain injury at the time of birth (specifically a watershed injury). The doctor held liable for causing the boy’s injury is Laura Fortner, M.D., previously of Atrium OB/GYN, Inc.
- David W. Skall
- Michael F. Becker
$4.5 Million Birth Injury
Failure to Carefully Ligate Umbilical Cord, Resulting In Severing Child’s Great Toe, Major Fluctuation In Child’s Blood Pressure And Subsequent Brain Damage (Cerebral Palsy & Developmental Delays)
- Michael F. Becker
$4.25 Million Birth Injury
Failure of Obsterical Caregivers to Recognize Maternal Hemorrhage Resulting in Brain Damage
- Michael F. Becker
$4 Million Birth Injury
Failure to provide intra-partum and immediate post-partum antibiotics.
$3.14 Million Birth Injury
Failure to perform timely cesarean section which resulted in severe birth asphyxia.
Your unwavering dedication and expert guidance have truly been a lifesaver. Your sharp legal mind and compassionate heart have made all the difference. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being there for us every step of the way. We are forever grateful Words cannot express our gratitude for everything you have done for us. Your outstanding professionalism, attention to detail, and commitment to justice have been nothing short of remarkable. You have given us back our confidence and hope during a difficult time. Thank you for being our champions. Thank you so much.- The C. Family
We were greeted with professionalism, expertise, compassion, respect, and a desire to provide the best quality of life for our daughter. She was always the top priority. Mr. Becker represented our daughter and family as if it was his own. His staff was equ- Kris Harmon, mother of Perri
It was an honor having such an experienced lawyer handle my son's cerebral palsy case. He represented us as if he was fighting for his own family member. Everyone at the firm made us feel comfortable about our case. I knew that my son was getting the best representation in Northeast Ohio. The Becker Law Firm is dedicated to bringing justice to their clients. I've already referred families that I know!- Knyesha Washington
Right from the very beginning of our case, David Skall and his assistant Jean Witt were both extremely kind and compassionate to help us put closure on a wrongful death case involving my father at a care facility. They were quick to answer any questions that we had and they made sure we were kept in the loop of this entire process. even though we were in the middle of a pandemic, David and his team were able to adapt their technology and make it all work out for our benefit. I would strongly recommend them to anyone in need of legal help.- John Z.
Contact The Becker Law Firm
If you want to talk to a birth injury lawyer in Ohio about injuries or complications to the mother or baby, contact The Becker Law Firm. We can help you determine whether those injuries were related to the normal risks associated with “advanced maternal age,” or whether the doctors and health care team should have done more to prevent injury.
Fill out an online contact form or call (440) 252-4399 to get started with a free case evaluation.