An average pregnancy lasts 280 days. Maintaining good health habits during this almost-10 month period can be the key to a safe pregnancy and childbirth. Unfortunately, many injuries and birth defects that do not become evident until birth could be caused by inadequate prenatal care and not necessarily a birth injury.
To win a New York medical malpractice case based on prenatal care injuries or diagnostic errors, you will not only need to prove that the medical provider breached the standard of care, but also that the injuries resulted from this breach and not any of your own actions.
Birth Injuries Associated with Improper Prenatal Care
A woman who does not go to a doctor until the third trimester or later or who attends fewer than four prenatal appointments over the course of her pregnancy is considered to have had improper prenatal care.
Poor prenatal care has been associated with a higher risk of:
- Premature delivery
- Low birth weight
- Infant mortality
Attending all recommended prenatal appointments and following your OB-GYN’s recommendations can reduce your risk of premature delivery. This will keep your baby healthier and help you rebut allegations that your actions contributed to your child’s injuries.
Common Prenatal Medical Malpractice Claims
Medical malpractice claims involving prenatal injuries can often be grouped into one of three categories.
Failure to Diagnose
Many medical conditions that go undiagnosed in a pregnant mother can have adverse effects on the growing baby. High blood pressure can put you at risk of pre-eclampsia. Undiagnosed diabetes can significantly increase babies’ size and lead to birth complications. Even Group B strep, a normally harmless bacteria that about 25 percent of women have in their bodies, can cause a life-threatening infection if the infant is not given antibiotics at birth.
Appropriate prenatal exams will test for these issues and treat them before birth if necessary. A physician’s failure to diagnose or treat a pregnancy risk factor can be the basis of a malpractice claim.
Failure to Diagnose and Correct Birth Defects
Another common prenatal malpractice claim involves a physician’s failure to diagnose and correct a birth defect. Certain birth defects can be corrected during pregnancy, reducing their impact on the child later in life. For example, a surgeon may be able to close a hole in the baby’s abdomen (called gastroschisis) by performing surgery through the uterine wall. By operating while the baby is safely attached to the mother through the umbilical cord, the doctor can help the baby avoid painful and dangerous abdominal surgery at birth. Other surgeries in utero can correct spina bifida or repair heart valve holes or defects.
Failure to Diagnose and Treat an Ectopic Pregnancy
Certain birth control methods, including IUDs, have been associated with an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. This type of pregnancy occurs when the fetus implants itself in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. As the fetus grows, the fallopian tube may rupture. This can cause severe internal bleeding for the mother and the almost certain loss of the pregnancy.
A physician’s failure to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy can have a tragic outcome. And because these pregnancies can usually be detected by a simple urine test or ultrasound, a woman who pursues a prenatal malpractice claim on this basis will often have a strong case. This is even more true if the patient can show the OB-GYN was aware she had an IUD or another health condition that increased her risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Proving Improper Prenatal Care
To prevail in a medical malpractice claim, you will need to establish three key elements:
- The physician or medical provider owed you a duty of care;
- They breached this duty;
- This breach caused the injury or death of your child, injury to you, or any other damages.
All three of these elements must be proven. Even the most clear-cut case of medical negligence will not result in a settlement if the patient is unable to show they suffered damages.
Prenatal Standard of Care
To prove your medical malpractice case, you will need to show that your physician breached a duty owed to you. This means proving that the physician fell short of the actions that would be taken by a reasonable physician in their position. Some of the duties a prenatal physician must perform include:
- Assessing patient background and risk by asking questions about the patient’s health history, medical history, and risk factors;
- Performing a physical examination of the patient;
- Performing regular pregnancy exams, including an ultrasound;
- Identifying, diagnosing, and offering treatment for any pregnancy complications; and
- Warning the patient about risks and potential complications the patient faces.
If your medical provider failed to perform these assessments, provide this advice, or perform appropriate examinations and testing, the provider may be liable for malpractice.
Some of the damages available in a prenatal medical malpractice settlement or judgment may include:
- Medical and hospital expenses for both the mother and the child.
- Costs associated with long-term treatment of the child’s condition. This includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, and home health care.
- Lost wages if the injury has left either parent unable to work.
- Pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Wrongful death (if the mother, the infant, or both did not survive the birth).
Not all damages are available in all cases. A malpractice attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and work with you to recover all damages to which you and your family are entitled.
The experienced attorneys at Halperin & Halperin, P.C. have handled hundreds of birth injury claims in New York courts, achieving many positive outcomes for our satisfied clients. We know how to prove medical malpractice under New York law, and our results speak for themselves. Fill out the short contact form on our website today or give us a call to schedule an appointment to evaluate your case.