Sharp Increase in Complications From Childbirth

Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of mothers experiencing serious complications during and following the birth of a child. The ten year period which concluded in 2009 registered a 75 percent rise in the number of new mothers who suffered kidney failure, respiratory problems, cardiac arrest or similar complications while giving birth. That same time period showed an astronomical over 200 percent increase in the severe complications new mothers experienced within days of giving birth.

Medical experts attribute some of the increase to the fact that some of the women giving birth may suffer from pre-existing kidney disease or diabetes, or be older or obese. But they also point out that many women without these health problems suffer severe complications too. Undoubtedly, medical malpractice plays a role in many cases.

Another factor is the huge, almost 60 percent hike in the number of Caesarean-section deliveries in approximately the last 16 years. Hemorrhage, or uncontrolled bleeding, is now the most frequent cause of a mother’s death after giving birth to a child. A significant number of women undergoing a Caesarean may experience a medical complication called placenta accreta. When this occurs, there is a risk of severe hemorrhage after delivery that can be life threatening cause by the placenta growing right into the wall of the uterus, making its entry through a scar created by surgery.

Of the approximately four million births in the U.S. each year, approximately 52,000 mothers, or around 142 a day, suffer from severe complications. Many hospitals have realized the scope of the problem, and are trying to mandate that doctors and other staff members engage in more training drills to attempt to prepare for foreseeable emergencies in the delivery room.

They are attempting in more instances, to have structured protocols in place to be able to respond to some of these common complications during delivery in an orderly, rapid, and systematic manner, to try to save more mother’s lives so that they can survive to go home with their babies.

Hospitals and doctors also need to carefully take measures to protect the health of new mothers in the days right after delivery, when they are still at risk for complications arising. One hospital, for example, respond to the possible risk of mothers who have undergone a Caesarean section delivery developing life-threatening blood clots by encouraging them to try to get out of bed and walk, with assistance and monitoring available, as soon as half a day after giving birth. These mothers are also routinely administered heparin, a powerful blood thinner, also for the purpose of preventing blood clots.

Pulmonary embolism and hemorrhage are other frequent causes of fatalities among new mothers in the days after childbirth, and sometimes occur in patients who have not exhibited any signs of being at high risk for these complications. Competent doctors know that it is important to take preventive measures against these complications arising.

Medical malpractice claims arising from obstetrics often lead to about one-fourth of many hospital’s payments to injured patients and their families. In a number of instances, medical malpractice claims arising from childbirth complications have resulted in hospitals, doctors, and other medical providers paying out over $20 million on each claim for their failure to comply with reasonable standards of professional medical care.

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