When can you claim for maternal injuries?
1 – Bowel injuries
Sadly injuries to the bladder and bowel can happen naturally during childbirth, but there are situations where these injuries occur when they should not. This may be because a mother was not properly advised of the risks of vaginal delivery, the delivery itself was not managed appropriately, or the aftercare was not as it should have been. The types of injuries we often see are:
- Perineal tears – The extent of these injuries can vary and the prognosis is often worse if a primary repair is not carried out properly. These can occur because the risks of a vaginal delivery were not explained to a mother and she was not offered any alternative options, if the birth was not managed appropriately leading to a perineal tear, or when a perineal tear occurred naturally but was not repaired correctly. The injury can lead to long-term incontinence of faeces and flatus as well as ongoing pain.
- Ogilvie’s Syndrome – Ogilvie’s Syndrome is a rare complication following caesarean section that causes abdominal distension, impaired bowel function and abdominal pain. If left untreated gases build up in the colon causing ischaemia and/or perforation of the caecum. Early recognition following caesarean section is essential to avoid bowel perforation. Sadly, our team have now represented a number of mothers where Ogilvie’s Syndrome was not diagnosed until it was too late, causing them to suffer peritonitis requiring urgent surgery and formation of an ileostomy.
2 – Stillbirth
Not all stillbirths are preventable, but our specialist medical negligence team have represented mothers where sadly, they did not receive the check-ups or treatment during pregnancy that can help detect problems to keep baby’s alive and healthy. Such cases are extremely traumatic for families and we understand that it is difficult for families to relive such a traumatic event which is why we work closely with families to try and make pursuing the case as easy as possible. While no compensation can bring a lost child back we work with families to recover the cost of therapy, loss of earnings and other related expenses that have arisen due to their loss.
3 – Wrongful birth
Wrongful birth is a legal term that refers to the birth of a child who would not have been born without negligent treatment. A wrongful birth case can be brought by parents when there has been either:
- a failed sterilisation/vasectomy; or
- a failure to warn about a specific disability
A wrongful birth claim following a failed sterilisation/vasectomy can lead to compensation for physical and emotional pain, distress of an unwanted pregnancy and labour, and any additional re-sterilisation procedure. It is not, however, possible to receive compensation for the loss of bringing up a healthy child born as a result of failed sterilisation.
Where parents have not been warned that a child would be born with specific disability, and if they had been warned, they decided to terminate the pregnancy, they can pursue a claim for wrongful birth. The parents can pursue a case for the compensation for the costs associated with the child’s disability.
There are many other scenarios that can give rise to a medical negligence claim during childbirth. If you believe you may have suffered an injury following childbirth, get in touch with one of our specialists who will be happy to offer you a free consultation on whether you have a claim.
4 – Injuries related to sepsis
Sepsis is a complication suffered by some women in pregnancy (maternal sepsis) or after the delivery of their child (post partum sepsis),when the body responds in an extreme manner to infection causing systemic damage to organs and tissues in the body, usually causing heart and multi-organ failure if untreated.
Sepsis is one of the leading causes of maternal deaths. Common infections which go onto to develop into sepsis relate to perineal injuries becoming infected, spreading into the uterus and the blood stream. It is therefore extremely important for mothers and midwives to be highly alert to the signs of infection during and after pregnancy so that treatment can be offered at an early stage. Failure to spot clear signs of infection and to refer women into hospital for investigation and treatment can result in unnecessary delays and significant worsening symptoms and consequences (such as the need for a hysterectomy), which can be avoided with early intervention.
Risk factors associated with higher rates of sepsis include gestational or Type 1 diabetes, anaemia, perineal and pelvic infections, caesarean sections, Group B or Group A Streptococcus infections and the prolonged rupture of membranes. Early treatment of sepsis is paramount and is a medical emergency.
5 – Post-Partum Haemorrhage (PPH)
PPH refers to excessive blood loss following childbirth. Several factors increase the risk of a mother experiencing a PPH such as induction of labour, prolonged labour, instrumental delivery, caesarean section and retained placenta.
A PPH is an obstetric emergency and requires urgent steps be undertaken to stop the bleeding. Most medical negligence cases arise from a delay or failure to carry out these steps.