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Birth Injuries – Failure to Monitor

Pregnant woman with her partner and physician

Pregnant women depend on their doctors and healthcare providers to monitor the status of their pregnancy and make sure both mother and child are healthy. The failure of a physician or care provider to respond to symptoms or signs of distress can have a devastating impact, resulting in a premature birth, birth injuries, or even the death of mother or baby.

When healthcare providers fail to provide appropriate monitoring both during the pregnancy and during the birth, the providers may be held accountable. They may be found liable for malpractice and made to pay damages in a birth injury lawsuit.

The Importance of Prenatal Monitoring

During pregnancy, a mother should be monitored for signs of medical problems that could jeopardize her health or put the pregnancy at risk. These problems include:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • An ineffectual cervix or other cervical problems
  • Bladder, vaginal or uterine infection
  • Placenta previa
  • Placental abruption
  • Excessive amniotic fluid
  • Signs of preterm labor.

When a mother is experiencing complications during the pregnancy, these could put the baby at risk of being born too early and/or having lifelong problems that include cerebral palsy, respiratory problems and cognitive impairment. Many conditions that endanger mother or baby during pregnancy can be treated with medication and bed rest if care providers monitor for symptoms and take action.

The Importance of Fetal Monitoring During Birth

During the birthing process, monitoring of the fetus is extremely important to prevent birth injury and to respond promptly to any signs of fetal distress. During birth, a baseline heart rate that goes up slightly when your baby moves is normal, but a persistently fast heart rate or a sudden drop in heart rate can be an important sign that the baby is in distress.

Monitoring for an unexpected rise or drop in heart rate is important so your doctor can take action, including:

  • Changing your position
  • Giving you more fluids
  • Providing supplemental oxygen
  • Stopping Pitocin
  • Relaxing the uterus with medications
  • Using medications to decrease contractions
  • Using a catheter to infuse sterile fluid into the uterus
  • Ordering an emergency C-section.

By monitoring the fetal heartbeat to check for signs of distress and by responding appropriately, a doctor will be better able to prevent complications a baby may experience as a result of oxygen deprivation or a prolonged birth. For example, monitoring may help to reduce the risks of:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Neurological injury
  • Stillbirth
  • A fetal hemorrhage
  • A prolapsed umbilical cord
  • Placental abruption
  • Seizures after birth due to low oxygen.

The dangers presented by these and other complications can be reduced because monitoring allows a doctor to see more quickly when a baby is in distress.

How Does Fetal Monitoring Work during Birth?

Fetal monitoring is a simple process that typically involves listening to the baby’s heart. A fetoscope or handheld Doppler device is typically used during prenatal visits to check a baby’s heartbeat, and there is little to no risk of monitoring.

Continuous fetal monitoring during birth is more controversial, but most experts agree that continuous electronic fetal monitoring is advisable, especially in situations where the baby has an abnormal heartbeat or where there are reasons to suspect complications will occur.

Continuous monitoring can be achieved externally or internally.

External monitoring involves attaching an ultrasound transducer to the abdomen to record the fetal heartbeat and attaching an external tocodynamometer to the top of the uterus to record contraction patterns.

Internal monitoring involves inserting an electrode through the dilated cervix and attaching an electrode to the scalp of the fetus. Internal monitoring presents some risk of infection to the fetus.

Your doctor should advise you on what type of fetal monitoring is appropriate.

Failure to Monitor and Medical Malpractice

If a doctor fails to provide reasonable fetal monitoring either prior to or during birth, this failure can cause birth injury. Failure to monitor may be considered a form of medical malpractice. Negligent doctors can be made to pay damages.

Whether a doctor will be liable for medical malpractice for failure to monitor depends upon whether the doctor acted with a reasonable degree of competence. If his actions were below the standard of care a reasonable doctor would have provided, the doctor can become liable for compensating families for birth injuries.

Contact a Chicago Failure to Monitor / Birth Injury Lawyer Today

If your doctor negligently failed to monitor your medical condition or your baby’s health either before or during birth, you should consult with an experienced Chicago failure to monitor lawyer.

At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., we have extensive experience with birth injury claims and have the knowledge you need to win a case for medical malpractice as a result of failure to monitor. To learn how our Illinois birth injury attorneys can help, call us today toll free or complete our online contact form. We can schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. You will not pay for our legal services unless we obtain compensation for you and your family.