A pregnant woman typically carries the baby for 39 to 40 weeks. This is considered a full term. But in some cases, babies are born prematurely. A baby is generally considered viable after 24 weeks and can survive outside the womb. But premature babies face a number of health challenges.
A baby may be delivered prematurely for any number of reasons. In some cases, doctor negligence may be a contributing factor. When a baby is delivered prematurely as a result of physician negligence, the doctor can be sued and held responsible for the consequences to the mother and baby. Victims of this negligence should contact a Chicago birth injury lawyer right away.
Causes of a Preterm Delivery
The specific causes of premature labor have not been determined. Yet, there are a variety of risk factors that can increase the risk of preterm birth. You may be at greater risk of giving birth prematurely if you have:
- Multiple babies in the womb
- Given birth prematurely in the past
- Abnormalities in the cervix such as an ineffectual cervix
- Uterine problems such as an infection
- Genital infections such as bacterial vaginosis
- An infection in the amniotic fluid
- Untreated urinary tract infections
- Pregnancy complications including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or excessive amniotic fluid
- Placenta previa or placental abruption that is in the process of occurring
- Sexually transmitted disease
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding when you are 20 or more weeks pregnant
- Kidney disease
- Clotting disorders.
You also face a greater likelihood of premature delivery if you are overweight or underweight or have had multiple first-trimester abortions or at least one second-trimester abortion, or if less than six to nine months have passed after a birth and prior to the beginning of your next pregnancy.
If you have any of these risk factors, it is imperative that your doctor monitor you closely to determine if you are showing signs of preterm labor.
Premature Delivery Warning Signs
Women who are experiencing preterm labor must get medical assistance right away. In some cases, the labor can be stopped so the baby can be carried to term or so steroids can be administered to accelerate development. If the labor cannot be stopped, the birth must take place in a hospital that can provide appropriate care for premature babies.
Some of the potential signs of preterm labor that a woman can experience include:
- Uterine contractions that are 10 minutes apart or less
- A tight, low or dull backache
- Menstrual cramps
- Abdominal cramps or cramping in the lower abdomen that feels like gas
- Pressure in the vagina or pelvis
- An increase in vaginal discharge or fluid leaking from the vagina
- Vaginal bleeding
- Reduced movement of the baby.
If you are exhibiting these warning signs, your doctor must take prompt action.
Medical Malpractice and Preterm Labor
Doctors must provide reasonably competent care for mothers and babies during pregnancy and birth. Unfortunately, in some cases, a doctor may fail to fulfill his duty. The doctor’s failure can contribute to causing a premature birth or result in inadequate care after a preterm birth.
A doctor, for example, could commit malpractice by failing to:
- Observe the signs of preterm labor
- Order bed rest when a mother is at risk of premature labor
- Properly treat ineffectual cervix with sutures
- Prescribe steroid injections to accelerate the development of the baby’s brain and lungs
- Prescribe medications to stop or slow preterm labor.
These are just some examples of medical malpractice causing or contributing to premature birth. In order to determine if a doctor is responsible for a preterm birth, it is necessary to assess what a reasonable physician would have done. If a reasonably competent physician with the doctor’s same background would have properly diagnosed preterm labor, but the attending doctor failed to do so, then the doctor can be considered liable for any resulting injuries his negligent failure caused.
Complications from Preterm Labor
The complications that a premature baby faces depend upon how early the baby was delivered. It also depends on whether any steps such as the administration of steroids were taken to accelerate fetal development. A baby born prior to 24 weeks is likely not going to survive outside of the womb. However, babies born after this time period may be able to survive with medical intervention. Often, babies born after 24 weeks but prior to full term will experience significant complications, including:
- Developmental delays
- Cerebral palsy
- Vision loss
- Hearing loss
- Digestive problems
- Respiratory problems
These birth injuries could all potentially be prevented if a doctor takes appropriate steps to identify and respond to preterm labor.
Contact a Chicago Premature Delivery Lawyer Today
If your doctor negligently failed to diagnose or respond to preterm labor, your doctor may be liable for medical malpractice. A Chicago premature delivery lawyer can help you to take legal action.
At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., we focus on birth injury cases and those coping with injuries due to premature delivery. You will not pay for our legal services unless we obtain compensation for you and your family.
To learn more about how our Illinois premature delivery attorneys can help, give us a call today at our toll-free number or by contacting us through our online form. We provide free, no-obligation consultations. Be aware of the statute of limitations on birth injury cases.