In the womb, the fetus is located within the amniotic sac, which is a bag formed of two membranes. During the stages of pregnancy, the fetus grows and develops inside this amniotic sac that is also surrounded by amniotic fluid. This fluid initially consists of water produced by the mother. Amniotic fluid contains vital nutrients, hormones and antibodies that fight infections. However, approximately after 20 weeks of pregnancy the fluid is almost entirely replaced by fetal urine as the fetus excretes the fluid. When the amniotic fluid leaks into the amniotic sac, it may result in severe problems for the fetus and lead to birth injuries.
What is the Function of Amniotic Fluid?
Amniotic fluid primarily does the following functions:
• It protects the fetus by cushioning it from outside pressures and acts as a shock absorber.
• It insulates the baby, keeping it warm and maintaining a regular temperature.
• It contains antibodies that can fend off infections.
• When the baby breathes and swallows the fluid, it uses the muscles needed for the development of the lungs and digestive system.
• When the fetus is inside the amniotic sac, it has the freedom to move about, and this helps its muscles and bones to develop properly.
• Amniotic fluid provides lubrication thereby preventing body parts such as fingers and toes from growing together (webbing).
• Amniotic fluid also prevents the umbilical cord from getting compressed. Cord compression may result in birth injuries as well.
Leaking Amniotic Fluid
During a normal pregnancy, there should not be leakage of amniotic fluid right until the end when the membranes rupture and the baby comes out. However, in some cases, the fluid may leak before the waters break. According to the American Pregnancy Association, one in 10 women will experience a dramatic and sudden water break. A majority of women tend to experience a trickle or a leak.
Sometimes, urine is mistaken for amniotic fluid. If the fluid is colorless or odorless, it is amniotic fluid. If you are experiencing leakage, it is important to call your healthcare provider immediately. If leaking happens before 37 weeks, this is known as premature rupture of membranes and may have serious consequences for the mother and child. It is important in these cases to seek medical help right away.
Some of the common causes of leaking amniotic fluid include an untreated maternal infection, a prior cervical surgery, injury or trauma to the amniotic sac and a history of premature amniotic sac rupture.
Birth Injuries Caused by Leaking Fluid
Here are some of the dangerous situations caused by amniotic fluid leaks, which may result in birth injuries:
• Prolonged labor. An amniotic fluid leak might cause the umbilical cord to become compressed. This may cause the baby to be deprived of oxygen and suffer brain damage leading to birth injuries such as cerebral palsy. Also, when prolonged labor occurs, the doctor may attempt to get the baby out with forceps or vacuum extractor that may result in brachial plexus injury or Erb’s palsy.
• Infections: If there is a rupture in the amniotic membranes, dangerous bacteria can enter the uterus and cause serious damage. Cerebral palsy is one of the most common consequences of such infections.
• Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE): When there is little or no fluid in the amniotic sac, the child may experience lack of oxygen or hypoxia leading to HIE, which causes irreversible brain damage.
Compensation for Victims
A number of these birth injuries that occur during labor and delivery can and should be prevented by early intervention and proper fetal monitoring. When risk factors are present, a Cesarean section may help deliver the baby safely. When a birth injury is caused by a doctor or by a medical professional’s negligence or wrongdoing, the at-fault parties including the doctor, medical staff, technicians and/or hospital, etc. can be held accountable. Plaintiffs in such cases can seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost income and benefits, hospitalization, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc.
If your child has been diagnosed with a birth injury as the result of medical negligence, 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 law firm helped a family secure a $43,940,000 verdict for a child who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Another client received a $23,500,000 verdict for a child who developed cerebral palsy and mental retardation after suffering a birth injury. Both verdicts were so large that they were later reduced on appeal. We also recovered $1,400,000 for a newborn who lost motion in the arm due to doctors applying incorrect force on the baby’s head.
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