Negligent Prenatal Care Leading to Patient Harm

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Most women know that when they find out they are pregnant, they need to see an obstetrician. An obstetrician is a doctor specializing in pregnancy and childbirth. Their role is to carefully monitor for any complications that may develop during the pregnancy and to deliver the baby as safely as possible. Unfortunately, sometimes women fail to receive the proper prenatal care, leading to serious harm or even wrongful death. When a woman experiences harm due to physician negligence, it is considered medical malpractice. 


What Care Occurs During the Prenatal Period?


Pregnant women see their obstetricians to ensure that their pregnancy is progressing well without any complications. At the beginning of the pregnancy, they are monitored for signs of miscarriage, have the option of genetic testing, and receive monitoring of their weight, blood pressure and urine to monitor for any potential complications. Women are seen monthly often until week 28, when they are seen every two weeks until week 36. From week 36 they are seen once weekly. However, complications sometimes occur making it necessary for women to be seen sooner for monitoring and additional testing. Women receive ultrasounds periodically to check on the health of the baby as well as other things such as the amniotic fluid level. These visits and testing help to detect any complications that could arise, allowing the physician to act in a timely manner to deal with these complications. 


How Can Prenatal Care Be Considered Negligent?


Negligence generally refers to any deviation from the standard of care. For instance, women are typically supposed to be seen on a set schedule for monitoring. If a physician fails to see the patient on a proper schedule, that can be considered negligence. It’s also important to note that sometimes patients need to be seen more frequently if they are high risk. It would be considered negligence if a physician failed to see them at appropriate time intervals based on their condition or if they failed to conduct proper monitoring for that condition. Other examples of negligence prenatal care include the following:


  • Failure to monitor blood pressure – Blood pressure should be closely monitored during pregnancy. This is because a dangerous complication of pregnancy is known as pre-eclampsia, and one of the ways the condition can be detected is with blood pressure monitoring for hypertension
  • Failing to test for and diagnose infections – Women should be tested for group b strep amongst other infections to ensure that they are not carrying any infections requiring treatment to prevent transmission to the baby
  • Failing to test for gestational diabetes – It is recommended that all women be tested for gestational diabetes. This is because women may have no signs of symptoms of the condition, but the condition can pose great risks to the baby if not properly diagnosed and treated
  • Failing to treat gestational diabetes – Gestational diabetes must be treated and managed appropriately. Some women are able to control the condition with diet, while others may require medication therapy such as insulin. If gestational diabetes is not properly managed, it can lead to serious complications include death of the newborn
  • Failure to diagnose umbilical cord problems – The umbilical cord is the lifeline while the baby is in utero. If there is a disruption in the blood flow, oxygen, and nutrient supply due to issues with the umbilical cord, it can cause serious harm, including death. Umbilical cord issues may be able to be detected before birth, allowing for intervention to prevent harm. If a provider fails to diagnose an umbilical cord problem that could have been detected and the infant suffers harm or death, it is considered negligence
  • Failing to diagnose a birth defect – While not all birth defects can be detected while in utero, many can. This allows ample time for treatment if that is an option, and also time for the parents to adjust. It also allows for planning of care the baby may need after birth. Failure to diagnose a detectable birth defect is considered medical malpractice
  • Failure to test for Rh incompatibility – this can cause problems for both mother and baby. If there is Rh incompatability, it can lead to hemolytic anemia for the infant which can lead to other serious problems such as jaundice and heart failure. Women should be tested and if Rh negative, they should receive Rhogam to prevent any issues with Rh incompatability. 
  • Failure to refer to a high risk obstetrician if indicated. There are certain conditions that create a greater chance for complications which may require more specialized care an observation. Problems such as pre-eclampsia, diabetes, carrying multiples, certain heart or blood disorders, a prior history of a complicated pregnancy or delivery, or many other things may require referral to a high risk obstetrician. 
  • Failing to properly investigate any potential problems that the mother is complaining of. If a pregnant woman is complaining of certain symptoms (i.e. cramping), the mother should be evaluated to ensure that there are not any complications occurring. If a physician fails to do so and the mother is actually experiencing a problem that is missed which then results in harm of the mother or baby, it is considered to be medical malpractice. 
  • Failure to recognize signs of early labor – If a mother reports signs that could be labor, it should be investigated even if it would be considered unlikely that the mother is in labor at this point in time. Women go into labor early all the time and sometimes without warning. Any complaints of labor signs and symptoms (i.e. leaking fluid, significant cramping, back pain, etc.) should be taken seriously as premature labor can be stopped in some cases. 


Ask Our Birth Injury Lawyer for Help After Negligent Prenatal Care Leading to Patient Harm in Oregon


If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form.  We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.


Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton,  Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles,  St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.


We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.

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