Labor and delivery can be a precarious time for the mother and baby, even in cases where everything goes as expected. However, few births go exactly as planned. In many cases, doctors must make instantaneous decisions based on complications that may arise during the process. One of these decisions is usually whether to use birthing tools such as forceps to help with the delivery.
The use of forceps may not in itself be dangerous or harmful to the infant. But, if the tool is improperly used, it can cause severe and long-term birth injuries. There is the potential even for obstetricians with significant experience to make catastrophic mistakes when they use tools such as forceps. Such mistakes, when they occur, amount to medical malpractice because they should have been avoided.
When and Why Forceps Are Used
A forceps delivery is a type of assisted vaginal delivery, which is sometimes necessary. In such a delivery, a healthcare provider applies forceps, an instrument that is shaped like a pair of large spoons or salad tongs, to the baby’s head to help guide the infant out of the birth canal. This is typically done as the mother pushes. An obstetrician may resort to a forceps delivery during the second stage of labor, particularly if it is not progressing well or if the baby’s safety depends on an immediate delivery. A forceps delivery, however, poses a risk of injury to both mother and baby.
An obstetrician might consider a forceps delivery if the mother’s cervix is fully dilated, if the membranes are fully ruptured and if the baby has descended into the birth canal headfirst, but the mother is unable to push the baby out. A forceps delivery should only be done in a birthing center or hospital that is also equipped to handle a C-section because if the forceps delivery is unsuccessful, then an emergency C-section may become necessary. A forceps delivery will often be considered under the following circumstances:
• The mother is pushing, but the labor is not progressing. The labor might be considered “stalled” if the mother has pushed for a period of one to two hours with no progress.
• The baby’s heartbeat suggests a problem. If immediate delivery is necessary, a forceps delivery might be an option.
• The mother has a health concern such as narrowing of the aortic valve. In such cases, the mother may only be able to push for a certain time.
• The baby is facing the wrong direction.
It is important to remember that whenever a forceps delivery is recommended a C-section is also an option. Doctors should approach a forceps delivery cautiously. It might be risky in cases where the baby has a condition that affects the strength of his or her bones, and in cases where the baby’s head has not moved past the midpoint of the birth canal or if the position of the baby’s head is not known.
Injuries Caused by Forceps
Improper use of forceps may cause serious or even life-changing injuries to the baby including head trauma, brain damage, skull fractures, brain hemorrhage, facial injuries or nerve damage to the face or neck. It may also cause a traumatic brain injury, which may result in physical impairments such as difficulties with balance and coordination, speech problems, memory lapses, behavioral issues and other cognitive impairments.
One of the most devastating results of a brain injury due to improper use of forceps is cerebral palsy. This refers to a variety of disorders that can impair movement due to brain damage leaving the child with problems including stiffness, weakness, tremors, difficult swallowing, and hearing, speaking or seeing. It may also result in developmental and cognitive issues. There is no cure for cerebral palsy and symptoms can be treated with medications, surgery and therapy, which may be extremely costly.
If your child has been diagnosed with brain damage, cerebral palsy or other birth injuries as the result of medical negligence, your child may require special accommodations and therapy to deal with the impairments. You may be able to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost income and benefits, loss of livelihood, hospital and rehabilitation costs, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc.
Experienced Birth Injury Lawyers
The experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. Our client received a $43,940,000 verdict for a child who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The hospital failed to diagnose fetal distress, which led to brain damage and cerebral palsy from lack of oxygen supply to the brain. The verdict was so large that it was eventually reduced on appeal.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury cases in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
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