The Law Firm of Leisawitz Heller

Preventable birth complications and maternal morbidity rising

Pregnancy is a time of expectant joy for parents. The impending birth of the child brings about a flurry of excitement and checklists as the due date nears. But for an increasing number of women, pregnancy and childbirth have devastating consequences. Roughly 50,000 women a year suffer life-threatening complications and several hundred die from pregnancy and childbirth in the U.S. annually. 

U.S. has highest maternal mortality rate

A joint investigation by Propublica and NPR revealed mothers experienced complications in nearly 1 percent of births, amounting to roughly 135 scenarios per day in which a mother experiences dangerous or life-threatening complications. This is part of why the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world. Serious childbirth complications have more than doubled in the last two decades.

Maternal morbidity encompasses unexpected outcomes from childbirth that result in short or long-term care concerns for the mother. Indicators of maternal morbidity include an aneurysm, cardiac arrest, eclampsia, and emergency hysterectomy. In 2014, the rates of septis and mothers requiring breathing tubes increased by 75 percent.

What is causing this problem?

The rise in maternal morbidity can be linked to several factors. The need for better medical care is cited most often by researchers. When symptoms are missed or treatment is administered too late, the problem can spiral out of control.

Additionally, during childbirth the focus is on the infant, leaving the mother's condition somewhat ignored. The CDC also listed increased maternal age, pre-pregnancy obesity and preexisting medical conditions as contributing concerns.

Lack of scrutiny allows the problem to continue

Unfortunately, U.S. government and hospital authorities are not overly concerned with identifying childbirth complications and mother fatalities. The governing body that accredits heath care facilities, The Joint Commission, only requires an investigation of the death or complication if it is not directly related to the patient's condition. Since the women were in the hospital for a pregnancy-related concern or to give birth, which would be directly related, it is concerning that more scrutiny of incidents does not happen.

The problems often don't end at the hospital

Women who experienced problems during the delivery often have ongoing medical problems, are unable to carry another child and leave the hospital burdened by medical debt. In addition to the physical and financial obstacles, many women suffer long-term emotional trauma, such as depression and PTSD.

Negligence on behalf of the hospital staff may necessitate a medical malpractice or wrongful death claim. While funds cannot repair the damage done, a settlement from a claim could help with medical expenses, lost wages and any other associated costs.

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