There are several risk factors among expecting mothers that increase the chance of a difficult delivery and birth injuries. It’s important for women and their healthcare professionals to be aware of these factors to avoid preventable birth injuries. Here are some of the most common risk factors:
- Maternal Obesity
According to the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, babies born to women classified with morbid obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more, were at significantly greater risk of birth injury. They reported that “elective cesarean delivery and vaginal delivery were associated with twice the increased risk of adverse neonatal outcomes when compared with women of normal weight.”
- Maternal Diabetes
When the mother has diabetes, studies have shown an increased risk of difficult deliveries, especially shoulder dystocia (when the baby’s shoulders get stuck during delivery), and this contributes to a higher rate of birth injuries. According to Thomas R Moore, MD, Chairman, Professor, of the Department of Reproductive Medicine at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, “Most of the birth injuries occurring to infants of diabetic mothers are associated with difficult vaginal delivery and shoulder dystocia… Common birth injuries associated with diabetes are brachial plexus injury, facial nerve injury, and cephalohematoma.”
- Dephalopelvic Disproportion
Dephalopelvic disproportion describes the situation when the baby’s body (usually the head) is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis. It can refer to situations where the baby’s head is large or the woman’s pelvis is small, or both, creating the potential for difficult delivery and increased risk of birth injury. It can cause high-risk pregnancies in which oxygen deprevation to the baby occurs, which can result in a number of birth injuries, including cerebral palsy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, it occurs in 1 of 250 births.
- First-Time Mothers (primpara/primigravidas)
Mothers giving birth for the first time (called primipara or primigravidas in medical terminology) might be at a higher risk for difficult deliveries, and a result, birth injury. According to a study by the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association, “Primigravidas were at significantly higher risk for prolonged first and prolonged second stage of labour, increased chances of foetal distress during labour and need for intensive monitoring as compared to the multigravidas [mothers who have had previously experienced child birth].” Primigravidas in advanced age (45 and older) may increase the risk.
Failure to Monitor Risk Factors is Negligence
Malpractice or negligence in a medical setting means the doctor or other medical professional acted in a way that breached their duty of care (i.e. the doctor failed to follow or deviated from standard procedures meant to keep patients safe). For women with risk factors, avoiding a preventable birth injury can be dependent on how the physician handles the delivery, and whether they monitor the situation properly. If you suspect negligence in a birth injury situation, get in touch with a Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer, (410) 698-1717 for a free case evaluation.