Doctors perform C-sections (Cesarean sections) in about one-third of all births in the United States. This procedure is an alternative to a traditional vaginal delivery. In a C-section, a doctor makes an incision in the abdomen and uterus of an expectant mother and removes the baby through the gap. Doctors often use regional anesthesia, which allows a pregnant woman to stay awake, but their vision, hearing, and sensation are temporarily suspended. General anesthesia may be used in emergencies, or upon request by the mother. Although C-sections have become commonplace, complications can arise from this surgery.
Greater Risks in C-Sections?
A woman who undergoes a C-section is twice as likely to develop another medical condition or die as a woman who undergoes a traditional delivery. This statistic may not tell the full story, though, since the situation that caused a need for a C-section may be the reason for the secondary condition or death, rather than the performance of the C-section.
Some women choose to schedule C-sections for convenience even when there are no risk factors supporting it. However, this is generally a poor decision due to the potential complications. When a woman has not undergone a C-section before, her doctor typically will advise a C-section only if unusual conditions arise during labor. These may include:
A woman who previously underwent a C-section likely will need a C-section during a subsequent pregnancy. Vaginal birth after a C-section may create a risk of uterine rupture and other major complications. These women, as well as others who have certain pregnancy complications or certain factors in their medical history, may know well before childbirth that they will need a C-section.
Complications of C-Sections
Failing to recognize the need for a C-section or conducting it improperly may harm both the mother and the baby. For example, the mother may suffer a hemorrhage (heavy bleeding) or develop blood clots. Infections may develop at the site of the procedure. Sometimes a C-section causes an infection in the lining of the uterus, which is known as endometritis.
Meanwhile, a baby may suffer from fractures or respiratory issues, and they may even develop permanent disabilities. Some of these conditions, such as cerebral palsy, affect the brain of the infant. Others may involve their nerves, including Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy. Both of these conditions arise from injuries to the brachial plexus, which transmits signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm, and hand.
Compensation for C-Section Errors
Unfortunately, injuries related to C-sections often result from avoidable mistakes by health care providers. A doctor may fail to recognize signs of fetal distress or other risk factors that suggest a need for a C-section. Inadequate preparation and training can contribute to mistakes during the procedure, as can understaffing at hospitals. A failure to follow up with a patient who has undergone a C-section exposes them to a preventable risk of dangerous infections. When any of these problems arises, a mother or family can bring a medical malpractice claim.
C-sections often are emergency procedures, and doctors are human, but professional standards of care still apply to emergencies.
Compensation in these cases can cover medical expenses for treating the mother, the baby, or both. If preventable complications arising from C-sections caused permanent disabilities, a patient can recover compensation for future treatment as well. Damages also may cover non-economic forms of harm, such as pain and suffering. To get compensation for C-section errors, a patient will need to file their claim within the statute of limitations. This provides a time limit for bringing a lawsuit, to which there are few exceptions. They also must compile medical records, retain experts, and comply with other procedural rules. This demands skill, effort, and experience, so a patient generally should retain a birth injury lawyer to bring their claim.