National Women’s Health Week: A Focus on Prenatal Care

National Women’s Health Week is this week! The birth injury attorneys at Reiter & Walsh would like to emphasize the ways that prenatal care should help ensure a healthy pregnancy! Here are some of the ways that doctors should be taking care of you and your baby.

The Importance of Prenatal Care in Pregnancy

Prenatal care is the first line of defense in making sure a pregnancy is healthy and progressing normally. Your prenatal appointments are the first chance you have to detect underlying health issues that can affect your pregnancy, so it is crucial that your doctors schedules regular appointments and diagnostic tests for your situation.

Through prenatal care, doctors should diagnose the following conditions, among others that may have importance to your pregnancy:

  • Infections: Certain infections, like sexually transmitted infections (STIs), urinary tract infections (UTIs) or Group B Strep (GBS), don’t necessarily show harmful signs in a mother, but a baby can be severely hurt by such infections. Treating and preventing transmission of infections from the mother to the baby is an important part of  prenatal care.
  • Gestational diabetes: Expectant mothers who develop gestational diabetes have a greater risk of having a macrosomic baby (a baby greater than 4500 grams at term) or a baby that will develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) after birth. Being aware of maternal diabetic status allows medical professionals to take steps to prevent adverse effects.
  • Reduced fetal movement: Mothers sometimes feel their babies begin to move around after 28 weeks. Prenatal doctors will monitor how much you feel your baby is moving, and teach you how to monitor fetal movement. If anything indicates decreased fetal movement, doctors will order follow up testing to ensure your baby’s well being.
  • High blood pressure: Chronic high blood pressure is a concern because it can affect blood flow to the baby. This can be a sign of preeclampsia, a condition that can cause seizures and organ dysfunction in mothers and health issues for the baby.  Prenatal doctors should monitor a mother’s blood pressure in order to make sure that it remains within a healthy range during pregnancy.

Doctors should prescribe prenatal  vitamins. Proper food intake is always important, but a balanced diet is especially significant in pregnancy because the mother’s diet goes towards nourishing the growing baby as well. However, in pregnancy, mothers need increased amounts of certain vitamins or minerals (such as folic acid), so taking a prenatal multivitamin specifically formulated for pregnancy can help with this. Prenatal doctors will prescribe appropriate prenatal vitamins for this purpose.

What Sort of Tests Should be Done During Pregnancy?

There are certain health issues that doctors should be screening for during your pregnancy. At a certain point, they will begin to do ultrasounds and other tests to ensure your baby is developing properly. At this time, they should be checking for umbilical cord and placental issues, blood pressure issues, physiological issues like incompetent cervix, and infections. The testing needed for your pregnancy will depend on the specific circumstances of our pregnancy.  Speak to your doctor about health concerns and develop a plan for labor and delivery that fits your specific needs.

Should I Be Concerned About Birth Injuries?

While the majority of pregnancies have good developmental outcomes, it’s important to watch out for concerning details or issues during birth and delivery. Medical professionals are held to a high standard of care, as they are entrusted with the health and safety of their patients. This is why birth injuries are so devastating: a medical practitioner’s errors can not only injure a mother, but also cause a baby to suffer permanent injuries that require lifelong care and therapy.

Recognizing some of the concerning signs that a labor and delivery might not be going smoothly is the first step to determining if medical staff made a mistake. The following situations, medical errors and complications can result in dangerous and permanent birth injuries:

  • The overuse of Pitocin (Oxytocin) to stimulate contractions and speed up labor: The use of labor induction drugs is widespread, but, if improperly administered, these medications have the potential to cause severe birth injuries. In labor, the mother’s uterus contracts and relaxes in a particular pattern. When the uterus is not contracted, oxygenated blood flows to the baby, keeping blood oxygen levels appropriate. If Pitocin is overused, the uterus is more often clenched, and blood can’t flow to the baby. Pitocin overuse, therefore, can cause fetal oxygen deprivation, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and permanent brain damage.
  • The use of forceps or vacuum extractors to assist in the birthing process: While forceps and vacuum extractors can be effective if used correctly, we have seen cases where they have caused severe injury. The overuse of force or improper placement of the instruments result in birth injuries including brain bleeds and oxygen deprivation-related injuries, which can cause permanent disabilities.
  • Improper timing of delivery or errors in the delivery process: We have seen cases where mothers came to the ER or to their doctor’s office for assistance – due to vaginal bleeding, complaints of abnormal pain or reduced fetal movement, because they had foul discharge, or for a number of other reasons – and were improperly monitored, had their delivery delayed, or had a vaginal birth when a C-Section was indicated. Medical staff are trained to follow particular protocols for dealing with particular medical situations. If they handle these particular situations improperly or fail to diagnose an issue in a timely fashion, they have committed medical malpractice because they fall below the standard of care they should be applying to the situation.

As a parent who is not familiar with medicine or health care, it can be difficult to know what doctors should be doing in a given situation. However, it is the responsibility of medical staff to address maternal health concerns.

Legal Help for Mismanaged Prenatal Care

If you feel that your health concerns were not adequately addressed, and you suspect or know that your baby was injured as a result of a medical professional’s failure to properly diagnose or handle birth complications, you may be able to seek help from medical malpractice professionals.

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If you do choose to seek out legal counsel with Reiter & Walsh, P.C., know that your case evaluation is free, and you will not be charged out-of-pocket for any of our legal services (for further information, please see here). We seek to help improve the people’s access to the court system and get help for their children’s future. Feel free to reach out to us by phone (888-419-2229), live chat (the button to the left of your screen), or via email.

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