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Posted on 16th June 2017

Guide to a Mums Pregnancy and Birth Complications

During pregnancy and labour there are a variety of checks and tests that should be either carried out or arranged by your midwife. Whilst you do not have to have the screening tests, these tests will allow healthcare professionals to manage any complications that they find either with you or with your baby.

Some of the conditions and complications found during pregnancy and labour include:

Anaesthesia Injuries

During labour, you may be given an Epidural or general anaesthetic to numb the pain. It is common for women who have had an epidural to experience numbness and tingling for a period following birth. It may be that a midwife or other healthcare professional couldn’t administer the epidural in the correct place the first time round so they have to try more than once but that isn’t usually a sign of a negligent act. If you experience prolonged (more than 2 months) loss of feeling or weakness in limbs you may have suffered nerve damage and this may be grounds to make a claim for compensation.

Chorioamnionitis

Chorioamnionitis can be caused by E. coli and group B Streptococci infections. It is a bacterial infection which causes inflammation of the foetal membranes and can cause complications for mum and baby. It is thought that chorioamnionitis could cause pelvic and uterine infections, blood clots, endometriosis and sepsis.

If not treated quickly enough, your baby could go on to get sepsis, meningitis or severe respiratory problems.

Although the presence of chorioamnionitis would not be classed as negligence, if the diagnosis of this condition leading to a delay in starting appropriate treatment or if treatment isn’t started quickly enough and mum or baby go on to suffer complications, you may have grounds to make a compensation claim.

Folic acid deficiency anaemia

Folic acid is a key vitamin (B9) required for the healthy development of a foetus. Folic acid deficiency can increase the risk of spina bifida and neural tube defects. During pregnancy, as part of your antenatal care, you should be offered a range of tests which includes a blood test. You don’t have to have these tests. If the tests show you are anaemic, you should be given iron and folic acid.

If you opt to have the tests and anaemia is found but nothing is done about it and it results in complications, you may have grounds to sue for negligence.

Group B Strep infection

Group B Streptococci infections are bacterial infections that develop in the vaginal or rectal area. Up to 25% of women in the UK carry the bacteria with no symptoms or side effects. Testing for this infection is not offered routinely though it may be found during other testing. If a Group B Strep infection is found during pregnancy you should be offered antibiotics from the start of your labour and until your baby has been delivered.

Complications to your baby from Group B Strep infections can include Meningitis, Pneumonia, Sepsis and stillbirth. Mums can also get bladder and uterine infections as well as a fever.

If treatment isn’t started quickly enough and mum or baby goes on to suffer health problems as a result, there may be grounds to make a compensation claim for medical negligence.

Maternal Infections

Birth injuries can be caused by infections caught by mum such as rubella, chicken pox, Group B strep, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, urinary tract infections (UTI) and Hepatitis B. Some infections are completely harmless, however some can cause serious medical problems.

If baby contracts rubella from mum, the condition is far more serious and can cause a host of complications for your baby such as hearing and visual problems, cerebral palsy and inflammation to the brain.

Rubella screening stopped in April 16 and currently midwives do not test for Group B strep infections however blood tests are usually offered around the 8 to 12 weeks point of your pregnancy. You do not have to have the blood test but this will help to find out whether mum has any infections.

The presence of infections do not necessarily mean that there is clinical negligence. If infections are found and the treatment of those infections is started within the appropriate timeframe, it is unlikely that there will be a breach of duty. If however infections are found but treatment isn’t given within the correct timeframe and those infections result in harm to either mum or baby, there may be grounds to make a claim for clinical negligence.

Placental Abruption

The placenta is the organ which supplies food, oxygen and blood to your baby. A placental abruption is when the placenta detaches from the uterus wall. Whilst the causes of this are unknown, it must be closely monitored because it could cause significant birth complications for a baby such as cerebral palsy.

If mum experiences stomach pain, vaginal bleeding and frequent contractions, these could be a sign of placental abruption.

Placental abruption is a medical emergency if mum is near her due date and baby may be delivered by emergency caesarean. If the signs of a placental abruption are ignored by healthcare professionals and it goes on to cause injury to mum or baby, there may be grounds to make a compensation claim.

Placenta Praevia

This is a rare condition but it has significant complications associated with it and needs to be closely monitored by your midwife and medical professionals. Placenta praevia can cause stillbirths, infant seizures and asphyxia. It occurs when the placenta covers part or all of the cervix. A common symptom of placenta praevia is excessive vaginal bleeding.

At your scan around 18 to 21 weeks, an ultrasound scan should be performed and the position of the placenta should be recorded. It should be scanned again around the 32 weeks mark if it is found that the placenta is low lying.

Medical negligence may be established if at your first scan it was recorded that your placenta was low lying but a second scan was not performed or the second scan was performed but no action was taken. The low lying placenta has to have caused an injury to baby or to mum for breach of duty to be established as part of legal tests when assessing a claim.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Is when an egg attaches itself to a fallopian tube. If this happens, it may cause health problems for the mum. Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done to save the baby.

An ectopic pregnancy will usually be managed by closely monitoring the mum to see if the egg naturally is removed from her. If it is not, medication or surgery are the other treament options. An ectopic pregnancy could result in the rupture of a fallopian tube which is a medical emergency.

Medical negligence may be established if an ectopic pregnancy is identified but appropriate treatment isn't taken and the fallopian tubes rupture. 

Surgical Injuries to Mum

During a C-section, surgeons may accidentally cut organs near to the site of the incision. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a negligent act has occurred. If for instance the surgeon fails to identify your bladder during a C-section and it is in the normal physical position, there could be a case for negligence.

Additionally, if you have had a C-section and the surgery nicked you bladder but that nick was not identified, you may have a case for negligence. You may experience serious complications such as blood clots, haemorrhaging, infection and even sepsis.

Vaginal Tearing

An episiotomy may be performed during delivery to help increase the size of the vaginal opening and make delivery easier. The area between the vagina and anus may tear whilst in delivery and an episiotomy can help to avoid this and can also help with the direction of tearing. There are several degrees of tearing ranging from non to 4th degree.

A quick guide to whether a tear is negligent or not:

Degree Negligent or not
1st Degree Not Negligent
2nd Degree Not Negligent
3rd Degree Probably Negligent
4th Degree Definately Negligent

 

If an episiotomy has been performed or a tear has been experienced, depending on the severity the patient may be stitched internally and externally usually with dissolvable stitches. Sometimes the stitches can be too tight so the midwife should be careful not to overtighten the stitches.

 

Gestational Diabetes

Is most likely to occur during the second half of pregnancy but it can actually occur at any time. It can cause complications to the mum and baby if it is left undiagnosed and treated.

Gestational diabetes can cause a baby to grow bigger than normal, as a result, the baby may get stuck in the birthing canal then need to be delivered by C-section. The risk if the baby get stuck would be oxygen depravation.

As a result of gestational diabetes, there may be too much amniotic fluid surrounding the baby which could cause premature birth. The medical term for this condition is polyhydramnios.

It can also cause pre-eclampsia and even stillbirth if not treated correctly.

If left undiagnosed or untreat and harm comes to the mum or baby, there may be grounds to make a compensation claim.

Pre-eclampsia

This condition has symptoms of protein in the mum's urine and hypertension. The mum could also experience Swelling in the face, hands, ankles and feet, headached, problems with vision and pain below the ribs. 

If this condition is left undiagnosed the mum may have fits (eclampsia), these fits could cause the unborn baby to suffocate. Around 1 in 14 unborn babies may die and around 1 in 50 mums may die.

It is important that the mum is monitored if they have pre-eclampsia, if the condition is not diagnosed or monitored correctly and the condition goes on to cause further injury to the mum or baby, you may have grounds to make a compensation claim

 

 

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