The majority of babies are born without mishap or injury, with both mother and child happy and healthy. However, along with pre-conception and pre-natal care, there are some things parents can do to lower the risk of birth injuries.
Know Your Risk Factors
Anyone who has had a difficult pregnancy is usually at a higher risk of a more difficult labour, meaning that experienced medical professionals should be on hand to minimise those risks. Some of the conditions that can predispose a person to a high risk pregnancy and a greater chance of a problematic labour include:
- Previous high risk pregnancy
- Diabetes / gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure
- HIV infection
- Being very young, or close to menopause
- Being underweight or overweight
Anyone with these risk factors would do well to work closely with an experienced obstetrician prior to conceiving and during the pregnancy in order to decrease the likelihood of pregnancy complications and difficulties during childbirth.
Find a Great Ob/Gyn
Ideally, every woman should have access to a qualified obstetrician prior to and during pregnancy. It is important to check out an obstetrician’s qualifications and experience, and to consider choosing a maternal fetal medicine specialist (known as a perinatologist) if there are risk factors, such as age, weight, medical history, that predispose a person to a high risk pregnancy.
Pre-register and Consider Your Options
In addition to following recommendations for a healthy pregnancy, it is good to know what to look out for and to plan for in the last trimester. Pre-registering with a hospital, perhaps meeting the delivery team that will be there at the birth, and understanding the potential risks of delivery so as to avoid having to make snap decisions during a crisis can all help calm nerves and make things go much more smoothly on the day.
Do a Kick-Count!
Many women take time to monitor their baby’s movements during the last trimester so that any possible problems can be spotted early. One way to do this is to keep a kick count. From the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy note the time it takes for baby to make ten movements during their most active time of day. Anything under two hours is OK, while most babies complete ten movements within 15 minutes.
Take Notes and Ask Questions
As well as monitoring baby, some medical negligence lawyers recommend taking notes while in the hospital. Mark down what is going on and the names of the nurses, doctors and other medical staff you interact with, and speak up if something seems strange.
Doctors and nurses save time and improve accuracy by using complex terminology, but this kind of jargon can leave most parents bewildered. Don’t be scared to ask questions. Knowing what is going on with medications and other aspects of treatment during labour can help keep you calm and prevent mistakes being made.
This is particularly important when thinking about assisted delivery. The incorrect use of vacuum extraction or forceps during delivery can result in birth injuries, meaning that a physician needs to be very clear with the patient about why they wish to use a given technique during a difficult birth.
Learn About Fetal Monitoring
Understanding how electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) works, whose responsibility it is to monitor EFM, and what some of the jargon around EFM means can all help catch any irregularities early. Ideally, EFM systems are monitored by trained staff at all times, but hospitals that are short-staffed, or without enough experienced doctors may miss early warning signs that a baby is in distress.
Ask for a nurse or doctor to explain how EFM works and know what to look out for, in case the nurse of physician is called away. Learning about ‘late decels’ and a ‘nonreassuring strip’ can help keep you in control of yours and your baby’s health.
Know the Chain of Command
Hospitals can be highly efficient places that leave little time for basic niceties, but if you feel that a nurse or doctor is unwilling or unable to answer a question, is inattentive, or otherwise problematic, there are other people you can talk to. If you have concerns over your care, ask to talk to a charge nurse or nurse supervisor, ask for the attending physician to be paged, or consider contacting the hospital administrator. Knowing the names of these people in advance is helpful.
Know What to Expect
Most labours and deliveries are free from serious problems and result in no birth injuries to mother or child. Knowing what to expect and what to do if a problem occurs can help minimise the risk of suffering from medical negligence and avoidable difficulties during childbirth.
Becoming a parent is itself something of an exercise in accepting risk. Babies, kids, and adult offspring can all have health crises and accidents that, as parents, there is little, if anything, we can do to prevent. The same goes for the risks of giving birth, as some things are simply out of our control. If, however, a medical professional didn’t do their job properly and this led to injury, illness, or even death during or soon after childbirth, there may be cause to file a claim of medical negligence.