Uterine Rupture & Legal Liability for Related Medical Errors
An increasing percentage of pregnant women in the US choose to undergo C-sections, or are advised by their health care providers to undergo C-sections for medical reasons. This increases the risk of uterine rupture, which is a potentially severe complication during labor and delivery. In a uterine rupture, the uterus tears from the pressure of the baby moving through the birth canal, which may cause the baby to enter the abdomen. While the mother may experience heavy bleeding, known as a hemorrhage, the baby may suffer from oxygen deprivation.
Emergency Response Required
A baby likely will die from oxygen deprivation caused by uterine rupture if doctors do not extract them promptly from the mother.
Uterine rupture is a rare condition linked to scars in the uterus from previous surgeries, such as C-sections. Tears tend to occur at the sites of scars. If a woman undergoes multiple C-sections, the risk of uterine rupture increases. As a result, some women should not undergo a traditional labor and delivery if they have had a C-section before. If a women does choose to undergo a vaginal birth after a C-section, their health care provider will need to monitor them carefully for indications of uterine rupture.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Uterine Rupture
A mother who suffers a uterine rupture may develop heavy bleeding, abdominal pain, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, or a protrusion under the pubic bone. Contractions may slow down, while a mother may suffer bursts of pain between them. Sometimes a mother also will experience pain in the area of uterine scarring or lose muscle tone in the uterus. A baby may develop an abnormal heart rate, and the labor process may stall.
Uterine rupture may not be formally diagnosed until doctors start to operate to address problems arising from it. Fetal distress may indicate uterine rupture in some cases, which makes it important to monitor the fetal heart rate and other vital signs. However, many symptoms of uterine rupture overlap with other pregnancy complications.
Treatment for Uterine Rupture
Doctors may treat heavy blood loss arising from uterine rupture with blood transfusions. They may need to provide a baby with extra oxygen after removing them from the mother during surgery. In some cases, a mother who suffers from a severe hemorrhage may need to undergo a hysterectomy. This involves removing the uterus entirely. Unfortunately, a woman will not be able to become pregnant again after undergoing a hysterectomy.
Understand the Risks
Since uterine rupture cannot be prevented except through a C-section, a woman at high risk for this complication should understand the significance of choosing a vaginal birth. To provide effective advice, a doctor should know the medical history of a mother, including any previous uterine surgeries or C-sections.
Liability for Medical Errors Related to Uterine Rupture
Uterine rupture is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. If it goes unaddressed, the consequences can be devastating or even fatal, especially to the child. A failure to monitor for uterine rupture in a high-risk pregnancy may constitute medical malpractice. A doctor also may cause preventable harm if they do not promptly operate to remove the baby and curb maternal bleeding once the condition arises. Victims harmed by the errors of medical providers can bring lawsuits for compensation. Damages available in these cases may include medical expenses, the costs of future treatment and procedures, and pain and suffering.
Proving liability for medical malpractice in handling a uterine rupture involves showing that a health care provider did not address this complication with the same promptness and skill that a competent provider in their field would have used for a similar pregnancy. Since most people lack the medical knowledge to make this judgment, a patient usually will need to provide expert testimony about what the doctor should have done and how they departed from accepted standards in their field. A birth injury case also may need to comply with distinctive procedural rules, such as an affidavit of merit requirement. In an affidavit of merit, a qualified medical professional states that the patient has a valid basis for their claim, based on a review of the records.