Can birth choices prevent birth injuries?

While birth choices may not eliminate the risk of all injuries, researching a facility and asking questions can ensure you understand possible risks and side effects related to various interventions.

Over the nine months of pregnancy, there is time to research local hospitals and birthing centers. It is also a time to decide what interventions to avoid and draft a birth plan.

The Centers for Disease Control report that of the more than 2.6 million births nationwide, 32.8 percent were by Cesarean. That rate has increased from around 20 percent in 1996. In response, the American Obstetricians and Gynecologists developed new guidelines to reduce the high numbers of Cesarean deliveries.

While the higher C-section rates have many causes, induction of labor is one of them. Many physicians only allow a pregnant woman to go one week past her due date before inducing labor. The use of medications to induce labor may later require an emergency C-section and often poses higher risks that a baby will suffer birth injuries.

Pitocin, emergency C-section and oxygen deprivation

A recent medical malpractice case in Oregon illustrates what can happen. The expectant mother had a normal pregnancy but was 15 days overdue (normal in a first pregnancy), so she received a drug to induce labor. Pitocin the synthetic form of the labor hormone Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract. It is often used to start labor or get it going when labor starts naturally, but then slows or completely stops which is common after an epidural.

The woman received an epidural to numb the pain. After approximately 11 hours and increased dosages of Pitocin, the staff told the woman to push even though the baby’s head was not yet in the cervix. The baby’s heart rate dropped. The delivery quickly switched to an emergency C-section. When delivered the baby was not breathing. He had inhaled meconium, which blocked his airways and starved his brain of needed oxygen. Physicians allegedly tried resuscitation before clearing the airway.

While all this was happening, the new parents had little idea that anything was wrong. The father finally rushed to find their baby when informed that the infant was struggling to breathe. His son was white. Their child was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy related to his birth injuries.

The March of Dimes estimates that oxygen deprivation suffered during the birthing process contributes to between 5 and 10 percent of cerebral palsy cases. Approximately 800,000 people live with the condition in the United States.

Birth choices and options

During pregnancy, research local hospitals and ask questions. What is the average rate of C-sections performed at the hospital? Does the facility have a neonatal intensive care unit available if needed?

Understand possible red flags. Drafting a birth plan can help with this process. Make sure that any coaches present at the birth also understand the plan and can advocate those wishes to health care personnel. While it is not necessary to completely forego medications, ask nurses or physicians why they are necessary.

The months leading up to delivery are emotionally taxing enough. If something goes wrong during the birth process and your child suffers injury, life pauses while you watch your little one fight in a NICU. Consult with a medical malpractice attorney who may uncover that a mistake occurred. If the negligence of the facility or a physician was to blame, compensation could be available to help cover medical costs and pain suffered as a result of the injury.