Childbirth is one of the most amazing experiences in a woman’s life. However, the joy and thrill that welcomes the prospect of having a new baby can come with complications leading to injuries, to the mother. While some injuries are only a natural part of childbirth, some are caused, or worsened when medical professionals make mistakes during a mother’s pregnancy, labor or delivery. When things go wrong and a mother suffers a birth injury, this can impact her mental health, physical well-being and even career.
For some mothers, the impact of the injury may be mild and only last a few days. For others, it may be long-term, with pain that lasts several months or even years. In some extreme and avoidable birth injury cases, the mother or family may want to seek the help of medical negligence solicitors if they believe the injury was a result of medical negligence.
For this reason, understanding what to expect and what can be avoided during the pregnancy/childbirth process will help you when making birth injury claims. This article discusses some of the most common birth injuries that can affect women during childbirth:
This is a rare and serious complication that can happen before or during labor. Uterine rupture refers to tearing of the uterus during pregnancy and usually occurs along scarred lines in women who have previously had cesarean delivery.
Uterine rupture is a very serious complication that can cause increased heart rate, low blood pressure, and haemorrhage or pain to the mother. However, a uterine rupture can cause even more serious damage to the baby; if not delivered within 10 to 40 minutes, the baby could die from a lack of oxygen. As a result, it is important that medical professionals promptly diagnose and treat a ruptured uterus.
Uterine prolapse occurs when the muscles and ligaments of the pelvic floor stretch and weaken, bulging into the vaginal canal. According to the NHS, about 50% of mothers experience some form of uterine prolapse, as it is particularly likely in cases where labour is long, traumatic or difficult.
Symptoms of uterine prolapse include pain during sex, urinary incontinence, and feeling of heavy sensation in the pelvic region. Its severity can vary. For some women, they can manage the condition by engaging in pelvic floor exercises. In more serious cases, more invasive procedures like hysterectomy or repair of the pelvic floor muscles through surgery may be required.
Post-partum Haemorrhage (PPH)
Vaginal bleeding is normal for mothers after birth. This bleeding usually lasts two to six weeks, and is typically heaviest in the days right after delivery. However, some mothers may experience abnormally heavy, potentially life-threatening, bleeding; this is known as Post-partum Haemorrhage (PPH). PPH can be grouped into:
- Primary or Immediate PPH –This refers to heavy bleeding within 24 hours of delivery
- Secondary or Delayed PPH – This refers to heavy bleeding after 24 hours of baby’s birth and can last up to six weeks.
Post-natal Depression (PND) and Post-natal Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Some mothers may have negative pregnancy related struggles before or during childbirth that affect them after the baby is born. Birth trauma can affect their mental health and general wellbeing – and may even cause them not to seek medical help and support. Common signs and symptoms of PND and PTSD include:
- Feeling of guilt – A woman may feel that circumstances surrounding her baby’s birth was her fault.
- Hard time bonding with the baby
- Feeling of exhaustion
Vaginal tears are normal for the majority of women who give birth naturally. This happens when the baby’s head is either too large for the vaginal opening or the head is normal size but the vagina doesn’t stretch enough. However, the severity of these tears can vary:
First degree tears
These are skin-deep tears that affect the outer layer of the skin around the vagina and perineum. There is usually no long-term damage and they normally heal quickly; with a few stitches (which isn’t always required), you’d be fine. During consultation with your midwife, you will find out whether stitching will be necessary or not.
Second degree tears
These are deeper tears, affecting the vaginal muscles and the skin around the anal area. Stitches, mostly dissolvable ones, are usually required to aid healing, so there is no need for the mother to remove them. Second degree tears can be painful, even weeks after delivery. Your midwife will occasionally assess the tear to ensure it heals properly.
Third- and fourth-degree tears
These are the most severe of perineal tears. Third degree tears extend into the muscles surrounding the anus (anal sphincter) and sometimes require surgical repair. Fourth degree tears extend beyond the anal sphincter and into the rectal mucosa (mucous membrane lining the rectum). Although third- and fourth-degree tears shouldn’t normally happen, factors that can make them likely include:
- If it is the mother’s first natural delivery
- If the baby is over 8 pounds
- If the baby’s shoulder gets caught during delivery (Shoulder Dystocia)
- If instruments like forceps are used for assisted delivery
- If the second stage of labor takes too long
If an expectant mother fears that she may suffer a serious tear during delivery, she may request or be advised to have an Episiotomy. An Episiotomy is a surgical cut made at the perineum – the area between the vaginal opening and the anus. This process may be the best course of action if the baby is in a difficult position, as it allows more room for a baby in distress to be born. It will also be necessary if instruments like forceps are needed to assist delivery.
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Making Birth Injury Claims for Medical Negligence
If you believe that the birth injuries you suffered while pregnant, or during labor, were worsened by medical mistakes, you may be entitled to a claim. At Medical Negligence Direct, our panel of medical negligence experts possess the knowledge and experience required to handle birth injury claims.
We realize how devastating an impact a birth injury can have on mothers and their families. This is why our specialist solicitors handle your case with care and compassion. When you contact us, our friendly medical negligence solicitors will evaluate your case, and let you know of your chances of a valid claim. We will listen to your experiences, and walk you through the complex medical negligence claims process.