In the United States, there has been a steady increase in the number of women who experience short-term or long-term injuries during childbirth. In the medical community, a serious and unexpected injury to the mother is referred to as maternal morbidity. It is important for women to understand the risk factors and causes of severe maternal morbidity, which impact as many as 60,000 mothers every year.
Certain cases of maternal morbidity are considered situations where the mother is fortunate to have survived—a so-called “near miss” event. Despite the vast wealth and resources of the United States, our health care system has nearly double the maternal deaths compared with other developed countries. According to the Commonwealth Fund, most of these deaths are preventable. It’s important to note that the risk factors that lead to severe maternal morbidity are the same ones that can contribute to the death of the mother.
Therefore, it’s incredibly important for expecting mothers and their healthcare providers to understand and manage the risk factors that lead to maternal injuries:
- Age of the mother. The advanced age of the mother during pregnancy is a fairly well known risk factor for complications, but it’s not just older mothers who risk injury or death. According to the National Library of Medicine, “Severe maternal morbidity was significantly higher among teenage mothers than among those 25–29 [years of age] … and increased exponentially with maternal age over 39.”
- Pre-pregnancy obesity & gestational weight-gain. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), concluded that “low and high pre-pregnancy [body mass index] BMI, compared with normal BMI, were associated with a statistically significant but small absolute increase in severe maternal morbidity or mortality.” The study also concluded that women with pre-pregnancy obesity who experienced excessive weight gain during the pregnancy (i.e., gestational weight gain) had the highest risk of complications.
- Preexisting chronic medical conditions. The mother’s health conditions play a pivotal role in severe cases of “near miss” maternal morbidity, especially congenital heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, according to a paper in the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), 861 women died of maternal causes in the United States in 2020, which calculates to 23.8 deaths of the mother per 100,000 live births. This makes the United States one of the few, if not the only, industrialized nation where maternal mortality is rising. In 2018, the U.S. maternal mortality rate was 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 8.7 for France, 8.6 for Canada, 6.5 for the United Kingdom, 3.2 for Germany, and 1.7 for New Zealand.
Types of Injuries That Can Occur
The CDC lists the following 21 indicators of Severe Maternal Morbidity (injury to the mother) related to childbirth:
- Acute myocardial infarction
- Acute renal failure
- Adult respiratory distress syndrome
- Amniotic fluid embolism
- Cardiac arrest/ventricular fibrillation
- Conversion of cardiac rhythm
- Disseminated intravascular coagulation
- Heart failure/arrest during surgery or procedure
- Puerperal cerebrovascular disorders
- Pulmonary edema / Acute heart failure
- Severe anesthesia complications
- Sickle cell disease with crisis
- Air and thrombotic embolism
- Blood products transfusion
- Temporary tracheostomy
What to Do If You Suspect an Injury Related to Childbirth
If you believe that you or a family member has suffered a serious injury to the mother during childbirth, you might have grounds for a legal claim against the healthcare provider. You need the expertise of a birth injury attorney who understands the established standard of care and how to investigate whether it was followed in your situation. The consequences of medical malpractice can be severe, and there can be hidden costs and losses that haunt you for decades. Fortunately, the justice system provides a remedy so that the provider compensates medical malpractice victims for the economic damages they have along with potential financial recovery for pain and suffering. For a free consultation, please call Brown & Barron at (410) 698-1717 or contact us online by clicking here.