How safe are hospitals during child birth? With around 4-million babies born every year across the United States, one would assume that hospitals are safe, loving environments during childbirth. Unfortunately, the approximately 25,000 birth injuries that occur every year in U.S. hospitals would suggest otherwise. Obstetrics is one of the areas of medicine most prone to medical errors due to the myriad variables and often unpredictable nature of pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
During childbirth, mother and child are extremely vulnerable, and it is critical that doctors, hospitals, and staff do everything in their power to ensure a safe, ethical experience that preserves the legal rights of every patient.
Birth Injury Information
In order to address hospital safety, it is important to understand what causes birth injuries in the hospital setting. The most common factors that contribute to birth injuries to mother or child include:
- Delayed birth
- Failure to order a cesarean section (c-section)
- Improper use of birthing tools like forceps or vacuum
- Oxygen deprivation (commonly linked to umbilical cord injuries or premature birth)
- Failure to recognize, diagnose, or treat maternal infections
- Muscle injuries due to forceful birth
- Blunt force injuries due to turning or forceful birth
- Failure to recognize fetal distress
There are many different types of birth injury, and as many factors that may cause them. Unfortunately, doctors and hospitals are sometimes directly linked to the cause of a birth injury due to medical malpractice or negligence.
Have you or your child suffered a birth injury and you believe that medical malpractice or negligence was the cause? Learn more about medical malpractice and negligence, and your rights by contacting Brown Wharton & Brothers today.
What Can Hospitals Do to Improve Safety?
Patient safety programs in hospitals have proven to be effective in reducing the number of birth injuries. Research by the New York Weill Cornell Medical Center and the Yale School of Medicine reported a 90 percent reduction in obstetric-related medical malpractice lawsuits after safety programs were implemented. Some of the highlights of patient safety programs include features like:
- Electronic medical records (EMR)
- Effective quality review protocols
- Low doctor/patient ratios
- Strong communication among doctors and other medical professionals
- Standardized obstetric patient care plans
Electronic medical records are among the most promising safety features for hospitals. By using EMR’s, doctors have access to a comprehensive patient record. Further, EMR systems are capable of alerting doctors of potential dangers to the mother or child, dangerous medication interactions, history of medication allergies, or potential medical errors.
What about Organizational Safety Tools?
Of course, doctors are the first line of defense and protection for patients. In terms of hospital safety, however, organizational factors cannot be eliminated. The way that hospitals are organized, managed, and staffed can certainly factor into the childbirth experience. Some of the best organizational tools to promote patient safety include:
- Color coded IV lines
- Color coded medications
- Medication checklists
- Proper training of medical personnel on use of the electronic fetal heart monitors
- Proper training on recognition and correct interpretation of monitors
- Presence of a senior obstetrician on staff to oversee the care of all patients
- Low doctor-patient ratios to prevent dangerous gaps in routine monitoring and patient checkups.
The occurrence of birth injuries is not limited to the period of active labor. These injuries may occur anytime during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the recovery period. This means that obstetricians are only one part of a complex web of people that factor into the childbirth experience. This is a fact that many people overlook because they fail to consider the behind-the-scenes components of hospitals and medical care.
When to Get Help
Your body will experience a variety of changes during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish a complication or even emergent situation from the normal effects of pregnancy and childbirth. It is important that you take your health very seriously. Always attend your routine appointments, follow up with your doctor, and never hesitate to ask questions during your pregnancy.
When it comes to childbirth, be sure that you, your doctor, and those with you in the delivery room have a solid plan for the process. Create a contingency plan so you know what to expect if a complication arises, or if the baby becomes distressed. Talk to your doctor about options, medications, and the childbirth process at the hospital you have chosen.
If at any time during pregnancy or childbirth you feel that something is wrong, speak up. If your doctor or nurse does not take your concerns seriously, ask to speak to another doctor and the patient advocate. If you or your baby are injured during pregnancy, childbirth, or shortly thereafter, you should also take steps to explore your legal rights as a patient.
Getting the Help you Need
To explore your legal rights as a patient, or to find out more about medical malpractice, negligence, or birth injuries, contact Brown Wharton & Brothers. Birth injuries are unacceptable and our law firm is dedicated to helping you get answers and justice. Our team of attorneys has successfully litigated numerous birth injury cases, including those involving hospitals and hospital negligence.
Schedule your free case review with one of our attorneys by filling out our online form. No matter what the details or complexities of your case may be, our team will do its best to secure the best outcome possible for your family.