Cesarean sections (C-section) have increased in popularity over the past decade. Although the numbers have remained steady during the past few years, in 2010 alone, a little over 32% of all deliveries in the United States were C-sections. There are a myriad of reasons why C-sections are performed, but one thing each C-section has is common in the risk of C-Section injuries, to both mother and infant.
Common Reasons for C-Sections
As mentioned earlier, there are several reasons why a physician may feel a C-section is the best possible delivery. Some of the most common reasons includes:
- Placental problems, including placental eruption, placental insufficiency, and placenta previa
- Uterine ruptures, which affects 1 out of every 1,500 births
- An infant in the breech position, making normal delivery difficult
- Umbilical cord prolapse
- Fetal distress
- No progress during labor
- Having previous C-sections
- Genital herpes (active)
- An infant diagnosed with a birth defect
- Carrying twins or multiples
Risks and Birth Injuries Caused by C-Sections
Unfortunately, many birth injuries and risks occur during C-section deliveries. While some can’t be prevented, others are a direct result of medical errors and negligence.
Fetal lacerations are cuts, scrapes, and other similar injuries caused to an infant that typically occur during a C-section procedure. In most cases, fetal lacerations occur due to improperly-performed procedures by healthcare providers. Fetal lacerations range in severity, from mild to serious, and may lead to host of other health conditions, including Erb’s paly, Klumpke’s palsy, fractures, cervical cord injuries, and more.
Infant Breathing Problems
Infants are much more likely to experience breathing problems if delivered by C-section. It’s important that babies are constantly monitored after birth as breathing problems may lead to respiratory distress syndrome and long-term health problems.
In some instances, physicians fail to schedule a C-section despite the fact that the warning signs are there. For example, fetal distress is one of the most common reasons that C-sections are scheduled and carried out. A delayed C-section can also be caused by failure to closely monitor the mother for distress, and in some cases, failure to secure an operation room in time to perform the surgery.
A delayed C-section can lead to a myriad of injuries. In the most severe cases, infant death may occur. Other consequences may include:
- Lack of oxygen, leading to infant brain damage, cerebral palsy, and/or autism
- Heightened risk of physical injuries
- Physical developmental delays
In 2011, a New York judge awarded Dominic and Cathy D’Attilo $58 million after a delayed C-section caused their infant son to develop brain damage and cerebral palsy, leading to an inability to walk and talk. According to court documents, Cathy D’Attilo went in for a routine visit when her doctor detected that her amniotic fluid has reduced significantly. However, instead of scheduling an emergency C-section, it was delayed and she was sent home.
In addition to a delayed C-section, when Cathy D’Attilo finally gave birth a few days later, the physician made an incision in the correct place. Her son was born with no color, a faint heartbeat, and no movement. Sadly, these types of medical mistakes account for thousands of birth injuries each year.
During a C-section, the mother is administered medications to ensure pain relief, usually spinal or general anesthesia. It’s extremely important that the dosage is not only correct but that the mother isn’t allergic to it,although in many cases there may be an allergic reaction without any cause. Common anesthesia injuries include:
- Extremely low blood pressure
- Internal bleeding
- Blood clots
- Severe headaches
- Placenta previa
- Placental abruption
Maternal Surgical Injuries
Maternal surgical injuries are extremely rare, but if they occur, life-threatening health issues may follow. Surgical injuries happen when a nearby organ is cut or affected in some way during the C-section, such as the bladder. Additional surgery to repair the damaged organ may be required.
Infections are a possibility after any type of surgery, including C-sections. Physicians must be extremely dutiful with proper cleaning prior to the incision, followed up by proper post-surgery treatment, such as antibiotics and wound care. When the proper care isn’t carried out, the mother is at risk for infections such as:
- Intra-amniotic infection
- Extremely high fever
Blood clots are a common risk after a C-section. However, they can be prevented in many cases if the mother is monitored and allowed to walk within 24 hours after the surgery. If blood clots become too severe, they can break apart and travel to other parts of the body, including the brain, heart, and lungs.
There is always a chance of increased bleeding, but if it isn’t kept under control, a mother may hemorrhage. Transfusions are rare, but if the bleeding is uncontrollable and severe, it may become necessary.