When a pregnant women receives proper prenatal care, she and her baby are less likely to experience medical problems that can cause them harm. Sadly, some women do not receive this care and they and/or their babies suffer from complications because their health care providers were negligent.
Although most obstetricians follow the proper protocol in testing pregnant women for certain medical conditions that can negatively affect a woman’s health and the health of her baby, some doctors are negligent when caring for pregnant patients.
What Does Pregnancy Negligence Look Like?
When medical negligence occurs during pregnancy, it is usually because an obstetrician failed to follow the standard of care that others in the same profession would have under the same circumstances. For instance, pregnant women are supposed to be tested for maternal infections and other health conditions that may cause harm — these screenings should take place at specific times throughout the nine months of pregnancy.
If an obstetrician fails to screen a pregnant woman for a harmful health condition or fails to investigate a pregnancy complaint, treatment may be withheld or delayed and serious harm to the mother and baby can occur. This is why it is critical that doctors conduct tests for the following conditions during pregnancy:
- Preeclampsia. When a pregnant woman has preeclampsia, it means she has high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Typically, a urine sample is given during each doctor’s appointment and it is looked at for the presence of protein; however, sometimes, a nurse may get distracted and fail to test the urine or mix up patients’ information. As a result, preeclampsia may be missed by a urine test. Typically, a woman with preeclampsia will develop sudden swelling and weight gain that may be apparent for a doctor to detect; however, some women with this disease have minor symptoms. When a doctor fails to examine a patient closely for signs of preeclampsia and it goes untreated, a pregnant woman’s blood pressure may rise to dangerously high levels which can cause a brain injury for the mother and cerebral palsy for the infant, among other injuries.
- Gestational diabetes. This condition is characterized by high blood sugar levels during pregnancy and it affects how a mother is able to use sugar (glucose). During pregnancy, women are given a test to determine their glucose levels. Although gestational diabetes isn’t usually a huge threat to a woman’s health, if left untreated, it can put a woman at high risk for developing other conditions such as hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, and preeclampsia, which can lead to a diabetic coma and even brain damage. A woman with untreated gestational diabetes can also give birth to an overlarge baby, which can mean a difficult delivery that could harm the mother and the baby.
Just as an expectant mother can suffer brain damage and other harm as a result of medical negligence, so can babies. For instance, failing to diagnose a harmful condition in the mother can actually cause the fetus to suffer brain damage, breathing difficulties, heart conditions, deformities, and other health problems — even death. Sadly, this type of medical malpractice happens more than it should because doctors fail to order appropriate tests, fail to follow-up on abnormal test results, or someone drops the ball.
While obstetricians are generally to blame for poor maternal care and harm to the baby, sometimes other parties are to blame. For instance, many doctors rely on their nurses to make sure patients receive the proper medical tests during their appointments; however, sometimes nurses fail to do so. Consequently, a test could be missed. If a test isn’t conducted at a certain time, a pregnant woman might not know she has preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or an infection that could cause the fetus harm.
Another way in which pregnancy negligence occurs is due to laboratory mistakes. Sometimes lab samples get mixed up or machines malfunction, and the wrong information about a patient’s labs could be sent to the doctor.
When an obstetrician, nurse, lab worker, or other healthcare professional is negligent in their duties and a pregnant woman and her baby suffer harm, pregnancy negligence may be to blame. If you believe you or your child suffered as a result of poor prenatal care, please call our office today for a free, no-obligation consultation.