It wasn't long ago that childbirth was commonly viewed as one of life's most dreaded experiences by women. Going back to the 18th century, the maternal death rate was at an alarming twelve percent! Moreover, complications such as dehydration, hemorrhage, convulsion, and infection were an accepted part of the birthing process.
As legal experts in lawsuits involving wrongful death, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC work tirelessly to ensure the surviving family members have justice for losing their loved one involved in a maternal death during childbirth. We have successfully prosecuted defendants whose negligence caused the unexpected premature death of a mother during labor or delivery. Our attorneys are available to answer any legal questions you have on how to receive the monetary compensation you deserve if you lost your loved one through someone else's negligence. Should you have additional questions, we invite you to contact our office for a free review of your legal rights.
Have Advancements in Medical Technology Created a Safer Environment for a Mother?
Thankfully, advancements in modern medicine have dramatically reduced the incidence of pregnancy and delivery complications in women. However, as with all areas of medicine, it is ultimately up to physicians and medical staff to monitor the mother and child for complications and implement treatment as needed.
Wrongful Childbirth Related Maternal Death Statistics
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there has been a significant rise in the number of maternal deaths during childbirth across America since the early 1980s. These statistics account for the maternal deaths associated with childbearing before, during, and the six weeks after delivery. These statistics reveal that:
- In 1982, there were 7.5 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births
- In 2004, there were 13.2 maternal deaths for every 100,000 births
- In 2005, there were 15.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 births
The increase in childbirth-related maternal deaths have more than doubled in 23 years. The maternal deaths involving African-American mothers reached a staggering 36.5% per 100,000 births in 2005.
What is Preeclampsia?
The body during normal pregnancy development increases the production of blood volumes. However, in some women, that blood volume production is accompanied by a steep and dangerous increase in blood pressure. Women who have had ‘normal' blood pressure readings before they were pregnant and then experience high blood pressure combined with heightened protein levels in their urine can develop preeclampsia.
Doctors do not know exactly what causes preeclampsia. However, five percent of all pregnant women will develop preeclampsia. The only known warning signs and symptoms associated with the condition include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Proteinuria (elevated protein levels in the urine)
Typically, the expecting or delivering mother will be unaware that they have one or both conditions listed above. The doctors will usually only diagnose the condition upon observation during an antenatal (while pregnant or during delivery) visit.
When untreated or undiagnosed, preeclampsia can result in serious- and even deadly- complications for both the mother and baby. Given the universally accepted dangers associated with preeclampsia, doctors should be mindful of the risk and carefully monitor women with the condition.
What Causes Preeclampsia?
Medical science has yet not determined the common causes of preeclampsia. However, some research studies show that the condition develops as the body's reaction to placenta issues when there is restricted blood flow due to narrowing blood vessels or hormonal changes.
When the blood vessels become narrowed, normal blood flow can become extremely limited and cause problems that include:
- Blood vessel damage
- Immune system issues
- Insufficient uterus blood flow
However, genetic factors may also play a crucial role in the development of preeclampsia.
The Progression of Preeclampsia
In the later stages of preeclampsia, the mother may experience edema (fluid retention) where the face, ankles, feet, or hands become swollen. Swelling is a normal condition during pregnancy, especially in the last few months, so differentiating normal pregnancy-related swelling to preeclampsia can be confusing. However, there are significant warning signs and indicators that could occur in the progression of the stages of preeclampsia that include:
- Blurred vision including the sensation of flashing lights;
- Overall malaise (a general sense of illness or discomfort);
- Rapid but unexpected weight gain as the body responds to fluid retention;
- Severe headaches;
- Shortness of breath;
- Impaired liver function with or without intense pain below the ribs (right side only);
- Decreasing blood platelet levels;
- Decreasing urine output.
Preeclampsia developing before the child was born could cause stunted fetal growth when the blood supply to the placenta is restricted.
Without proper treatment, the mother can die. In some countries, the mortality rate of mothers during childbirth has significantly spiked even though there have been significant advancements in medicines and technology.
Currently, effective treatment for mothers experiencing preeclampsia who are in danger of early death include:
- Antihypertensives that are prescribed to lower the mother's blood pressure.
- Corticosteroids that seem effective at treating HELLP syndrome and preeclampsia because the steroid improves liver function and increase blood platelet levels. However, taking corticosteroids to treat preeclampsia could prolong the pregnancy.
- Anticonvulsants are prescribed in severe cases to avoid a seizure. The administration of this drug might include magnesium sulfate.
Other Causes for Maternal Death during Childbirth
Some women die unexpectedly due to a pre-existing pregnancy risk factor that does not display itself until the mother is in labor or delivering their child. However, there are also maternal deaths that are caused by medical malpractice when the obstetrician misdiagnoses an expectant mother's condition, performs a catastrophic mistake during labor or delivery, or ruins a surgical procedure including a cesarean section.
Other times, the mother dies during labor or delivery due to a reaction to a toxic medication or from a defective medical device. The most common causes associated with maternal death during childbirth include:
- Placenta Previa – Typically, the placenta in the womb will attach to the upper part of the uterus opposite the cervix. However, with placenta previa, the blood vessels connecting the uterus to the placenta can tear and cause uncontrollable bleeding to the mother and the baby.
- Uterine Rupture – The uterine wall can tear, usually at the site of a previous cesarean section incision causing dire consequences to the baby and mother. Early signs of uterine rupture include:
- Excessive vaginal bleeding
- A bulge in the pubic bone
- Less intense or slower contractions
- Abnormal abdominal soreness or pain
- Sudden intense pain between labor contractions
- Intense pain that occurs at an earlier uterine scar site
- Placental Abruption – The placenta can separate from the uterine lining, usually in the third trimester and produce a gush of blood. The serious condition can deprive the fetus of nutrients and oxygen and cause life-threatening, severe bleeding.
- Complications associated with Cervical Cancer or Polyps – Many pregnant mothers developed polyps that are caused by increased levels of the estrogen hormone. Cervical polyps usually develop as a benign condition but can become cancerous. Early warning signs when pregnant include intense pelvic pain and blood-tinged vaginal discharge.
- Postpartum Hemorrhage – Mothers who experience bleeding after the child was born are often suffering from an undiagnosed laceration that occurs from natural causes or during a cesarean section. Without immediate treatment that might include blood transfusions and IV (intravenous) fluids, the mother could die.
- Heart Disease and Cardiac Arrest – The normal course of pregnancy can lead to extensive changes in the expected mother's cardiac function. Due to an increase in blood volume, the mother might experience decreasing vascular resistance. Other expecting women who suffer from pre-existing cardiac problems, including heart disease, that might heighten the potential risk of an unexpected maternal death before, during, or after delivery.
Sometimes the mother dies because of the doctor's failure to address diagnosed risk factors including blood clot problems or preeclampsia.
Amniotic Fluid Embolism
Mothers can experience horrific complications that resulted in her death when an amniotic fluid embolism develops. The fluid from the amniotic sac can enter the mother's circulatory system and bring with it a “fetal debris” that migrates to other areas of the mother's body including the organs. The mother's body typically reacts to the potential of an amniotic fluid embolism by going into shock, causing traumatic, sudden labor or placental abruption.
When the embolism develops, the obstetrician typically has to use vacuum extraction or forceps during delivery. Typically, the warning signs for an amniotic fluid embolism are easy to anticipate; but failure to protect the mother with obvious risk factors might constitute legal issues including medical malpractice.
Fatal Cesarean Section
A cesarean section can carry significant life-threatening risks but may be a necessary treatment to preserve the safety and health of both the baby and the mother. However, any mistake during the procedure could claim either life or both, which could lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The nature of a vaginal delivery exposes women to a variety of medical instruments, medical personnel, and medical facilities that must be kept in a sterile condition. In addition to the normal trauma inherent with a ‘normal' delivery for a woman, many minor and very ordinary complications such as: vaginal tears, episiotomy incisions and fissures may further expose a woman to unwanted bacteria or unsanitary techniques.
Cesarean sections present other risks and complications due to infection and improper surgical technique. Doctors performing the procedure must be mindful of the risk of excessive bleeding and uterine infections when closing the incisions made through the uterus and abdominal wall.
What to Do
The unexpected death of the mother in labor after delivery is rare, but nothing can replace losing a loved one. However, doctors do make mistakes, or hospitals and nurses act carelessly, recklessly, or negligently and cause catastrophic problems including congenital disabilities and the death of the mother or child.
Many families facing the tragic outcome of a maternal death during childbirth seek justice to hold those responsible for the loss of their loved one by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. However, these cases can be complicated and require the skills of an experienced personal injury attorney who specializes in wrongful death cases.
Hiring Maternal Death Attorneys
The death of a mother during or after the birth of a child is not a normal occurrence. Consequently, all maternal death cases need to be carefully evaluated to determine where the error may have occurred. The Chicago, Illinois medical malpractice attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers (888-424-5757) can assist you in explaining why the situation occurred, and fight aggressively on your behalf to provide your family with the resources and compensation you and your children deserve for your loss.
We have successfully obtained millions on behalf of the victims and their family members to ensure they were adequately compensated to cover their medical expenses, household bills, daycare costs, lost wages, loss of future earnings, pain, suffering, and emotional damage and we can help your family too.
Our legal team encourages you to contact our attorneys today to schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation to discuss the merits of your monetary recovery claim. We accept all personal injury cases, wrongful death lawsuits, and medical malpractice injury claims through contingency fee arrangements. This legal contract postpones the payment of legal services until after we have successfully completed your case through a negotiated settlement or a jury verdict.
Our law firm gets results quickly because we understand you need money now. We probably offer every client a “No Win/No-Fee” Guarantee, meaning if we are unable to secure monetary compensation on your behalf you owe us nothing. All information you share with our law office will stay confidential.