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A full-term pregnancy usually lasts from 37 to 42 weeks. Premature (pre-term) deliveries happen when the mother gives birth too early, before the 37th week.
A baby born prematurely usually experiences a host of health problems and complications. The earlier the child is born, the more severe these complications could become. Due to these complications, reducing premature birth rates is a public health priority in the United States.
There has been minor progress in this regard. In 2020, the premature birth rate was at 10.1 percent, a 1 percent decline from the previous year. However, premature birth rates are significantly higher among non-Hispanic black women (14.4 percent) than white and Hispanic women.
Many premature deliveries occur naturally, exacerbated by certain risk factors. However, some premature births could result from medical negligence or malpractice.
This post will explore premature delivery, its risk factors, complications, and how medical negligence could induce it.
What Causes Premature Delivery?
There is no definite cause for premature delivery. It happens naturally for some people. However, knowing the risk factors, warning signs, and possible complications could help you prepare if it happens to you.
Experts have not yet identified definite causes for premature delivery. Risk factors can increase the chances of premature birth, although people without these risk factors could still give birth prematurely.
Some risk factors might be under your control, but others may not be. If you have any of the following risk factors, your doctor must be extra careful in monitoring your pregnancy.
- Having a premature delivery in the past
- Pregnancy with twins, triplets, and other multiples
- Short intervals between pregnancies (less than six months)
- Conception through in vitro fertilization
- Issues with the cervix, uterus, or placenta
- History of multiple miscarriages or abortions
- Chronic conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.)
- Smoking or other harmful substance use
- Physical trauma and injuries
- Stressful events
Symptoms and warning signs of a premature labor
Pre-term labor has similar symptoms to regular delivery, except that it comes unexpectedly early. You may not be ready for a hospital trip yet. Below are some symptoms and warning signs that you may be going into early labor.
- Regular or frequent contractions (abdominal tightening)
- Low and dull backache
- Pelvic pressure
- Abdominal cramps
- Vaginal spotting/light bleeding
If you suspect you are undergoing premature labor, go to the hospital or call a healthcare professional immediately.
Medical Malpractice and Premature Delivery
Pregnant people require adequate medical care through all stages of the pregnancy and birthing process. Prenatal checkups help ensure the parent and the infant’s health during the pregnancy.
Doctors and other medical staff are responsible for providing competent medical care for expecting mothers and their babies.
If they fail to provide a certain standard of care, they might be liable for a medical malpractice claim. This is especially true if the pregnancy results in premature birth with significant complications. A medical malpractice lawyer can help identify signs of malpractice or negligence.
Examples of Premature Birth Medical Malpractice
Obstetricians and medical practitioners are responsible for providing a competent standard of care for expecting mothers and their children.
The “standard of care” is a term that has evolved across years of medical malpractice cases. In most cases, the law defines it as an action a minimally competent practitioner would do under similar situations and resources.
Failing to achieve a certain standard of care that results in premature birth complications could be considered malpractice. Below are examples of medical malpractice that could induce premature birth, including possible health complications.
Failing to identify high-risk factors for premature births
Experts have not yet identified definite causes for premature births. However, they have linked several risk factors that may cause expecting mothers to give birth prematurely.
Doctors must conduct interviews and diagnostic tests early in pregnancy to identify possible risk factors. Only in doing so can they address these issues in the best possible way. Failing to identify high-risk factors could be seen as negligence.
Prescribing the wrong medications or failing to prescribe the proper ones
Medications are a balancing act, especially during pregnancy. Some medications that are usually harmless could have detrimental effects on pregnant people.
Avoiding harmful medications is especially important during the first trimester. The first three months of pregnancy are critical to the baby’s overall health. The first trimester is when critical developments, such as the baby’s organs, occur.
Your healthcare provider should assess your current medications and determine if they are safe to take during pregnancy. They may provide alternative medicines when necessary.
Prescribing the wrong medications or failing to prescribe the right ones could negatively impact your health. Your medications should help you manage possible risks, not add to them.
Failing to treat symptoms
Regular checkups are a must during pregnancy. They allow your doctor to monitor your health and how it might affect your baby. Sometimes, health issues may arise, or your doctor may identify certain risks affecting your pregnancy.
It is your doctor’s responsibility to manage these issues and symptoms as they arise. Failing to do so could cause more significant health issues as time passes. Knowing something is wrong and failing to address it could count as negligence.
Failing to place the mother on bed rest
Whether you undergo vaginal birth or a C-section, giving birth is both mentally and physically taxing. Many doctors prescribe a few weeks of bed rest to aid recovery.
Although healing times vary across different people, doctors must still prescribe at least a few weeks of rest. This gives you enough time to physically and mentally recover from your pregnancy and labor.
Allowing a mother to perform physically demanding tasks right after delivery could be detrimental to the healing process. It could open up wounds and put unnecessary stress on the body. Failing to heal properly could also lead to premature birth for subsequent pregnancies.
Failing to mark a mother’s due date correctly
One of the first steps during any prenatal consultation is identifying the due date. Due dates aren’t usually very accurate. Some babies are born a few days or weeks before or after the due date. However, correctly identifying one is necessary for proper monitoring and guidance.
The due date serves as a guide for scheduling future tests, ultrasounds, and appointments. It helps the doctor expect when certain developmental milestones should occur. It also allows them to prepare and address issues when things don’t go as expected.
If your doctor doesn’t accurately identify your due date, pre-term or post-term delivery could be a risk. You might also not receive the appropriate care during certain pregnancy milestones, leading to potential health risks and birthing issues.
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Premature Delivery Complications
Not all prematurely-delivered babies experience complications. However, babies born too early typically experience short-term and long-term health problems.
The sooner an infant is born, the higher their chance of experiencing complications. Some issues might immediately appear upon birth, while others take time to develop.
Short-term complications for premature babies include the following conditions:
- Heart problems
- Breathing problems
- Brain problems
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Blood problems
- Immune system problems
- Temperature control problems
- Metabolism problems
Aside from short-term complications, premature babies could also suffer from the following long-term issues:
- Chronic health issues
- Impaired learning
- Cerebral palsy
- Vision problems
- Hearing problems
- Dental problems
- Behavioral and psychological problems
How To Deal With Premature Delivery Due to Medical Negligence
In personal injury law, negligence means failing to provide the proper care under the “reasonable person” standard. If a reasonable person would perform or avoid a particular action, failing to follow this standard would result in negligence.
Falling victim to medical malpractice during pregnancy and childbirth can be a traumatic experience. It can also be challenging to pinpoint malpractice as a cause of premature birth and other complications. Some complications and health defects can take weeks or months to become noticeable.
Ensure you take note of the advice and procedures you get during each checkup. This practice lets you make the most of your doctor’s advice. It also serves as documentation and possible proof should you decide to make a malpractice or negligence claim.
If you suspect your doctor failed to provide appropriate and competent care, consider filing a premature birth lawsuit. A lawsuit is a significant step requiring you to look at several factors. You must have enough evidence and file the lawsuit within your state’s medical malpractice statute of limitations.
Make sure to talk to a medical malpractice lawyer beforehand. They can assess your case and help you determine the best course of action.
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Factors To Consider Before Filing a Premature Birth Lawsuit
Going through pregnancy and childbirth is already an overwhelming process. Carrying an infant could be physically and mentally taxing, so we look to healthcare professionals for assistance.
No one expects to experience harm or injury from a healthcare professional, especially one you trust. However, if a doctor’s actions have induced premature birth and its complications, a lawsuit might be the right option.
A premature birth lawsuit is a significant undertaking. However, it can help you recover damages that can assist in your recovery. Before filing one, talk to a medical malpractice lawyer and consider the following factors.
Breach of duty
An essential element of a medical malpractice suit is the patient-doctor relationship. If you can prove you have such a relationship, the doctor owes you a duty of care.
The next step is to prove the doctor breached that duty to support your lawsuit. Failing to provide competent care during your association could prove their negligence towards your case.
Were they able to assess your medical history during the pregnancy? Did they fail to address risk factors that might have caused premature birth complications? Did they give you the wrong advice or medications?
If a competent healthcare practitioner had taken a different approach, you might have grounds for a lawsuit.
Injury or harm caused
Premature births sometimes cause short-term and long-term complications. These complications could severely affect your or your infant’s health.
Cerebral palsy, heart issues, and other chronic conditions significantly impact your way of life. A medical practitioner whose negligence induced such complications could be liable for malpractice.
Evidence is essential in malpractice cases. They are vital in a premature birth lawsuit, as not all premature births stem from a doctor’s negligence.
You must be able to link the premature birth and ensuing complications to your healthcare provider’s actions. Medical malpractice lawsuits especially require high standards of proof. You cannot simply rely on memories and anecdotes as the only bases for your case.
A medical malpractice lawyer could help you gather sufficient evidence if you had indeed suffered from negligence. Medical records and medication prescriptions are excellent examples of solid proof.
Statute of limitations
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice differs from state to state. It sets the maximum time to file a case with your state’s courts.
If you don’t act at wait too long, you might lose your right to sue and receive any legal remedy. You cannot take your suit to court even if you have a strong case if the statute of limitations has passed.
As soon as you believe medical malpractice may have occurred, speak with a lawyer immediately. They can inform you of your state’s statute of limitations and help you build your case on time.
Lawsuits aren’t cheap. Finding a good lawyer with fees you can afford would be best.
Some lawyers charge by the hour, while others charge a flat fee. Personal injury firms could also offer contingency agreements where the lawyer gets paid only if the case is successful.
However, winning the case isn’t guaranteed. You cannot simply rely on the compensation you expect to get. Win or lose, you should be ready to pay for your lawyer’s services.
Aside from financial costs, a lawsuit could be a stressful experience. You must also assess whether the emotional and mental stress would be worth the possible compensation. If not, you should consider arbitration or other settlement options.
Learn More About Different Medical Malpractice Cases
Premature delivery due to negligence is only one form of medical malpractice. Unfortunately, many people sometimes experience harm from supposedly trustworthy medical providers.
Learning about medical malpractice is an integral part of safeguarding your health. Listening, participating, and thinking critically during each step of diagnosis and treatment are essential.
Being educated and asking questions helps you see the red flags and demand the standard of care you deserve.