Complications from childbirth on the rise

Advances in medical techniques have made it easy for everyone to take patient safety for granted. In some circumstances, however, a failure to account for risks can lead to significant injuries, even in seemingly routine procedures. A recent study indicates that an increasing number of women are experiencing dangerous complications during childbirth.

According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergencies during childbirth increased 75 percent from 1999 to 2009. During the same time period, the incidence of severe complications for women rose over 50 percent in the days immediately following delivery.

Each year, there are over four Million births in the U.S. Although non-life-threatening complications occur during many of these births, CDC experts estimate that severe complications arise in approximately 52,000 cases each year.

It may be that the rise in reported emergencies is due to cultural changes: in recent years, for example, more women are delaying having children until later in life and a woman's age can affect her risk for certain complications. In addition, the U.S. has experienced an increase in the rate of obesity over the past decade, which can lead to difficulties during pregnancy and delivery. While these factors may play a role in the observed spike in emergencies, the reality is that healthy women are also experiencing problems. This raises the possibility that another important factor is the treatment that expectant mothers receive from doctors and hospitals.

While most childbirth safety improvement programs have sought to prevent harm to infants, the CDC has begun emphasizing programs designed to prevent harm to mothers. Most notably, the CDC is working with states to fund programs that will establish standardized checklists, guidelines and protocols for improving safety. Many hospitals, too, have begun to stage drills designed to raise awareness and improve the skills of those who respond to childbirth complications. The hope is that these drills will make it easier for teams to locate equipment, medication and necessary staff in the event of an emergency, which can greatly reduce response time.

Though establishing standardized processes and training staff are necessary first steps, it is clear that hospitals and doctors alike have a great deal more work to do to improve the quality of care for recent mothers and their children.

If you or someone you love has suffered an injury during childbirth due to the negligence of a doctor, nurse or other medical professional, contact a knowledgeable birth injury lawyer to learn more about your options.