Can Improper Prenatal Care be Considered Negligence?

medical malpractice lawyers Bend OR

Know When Improper Prenatal Care Can Be Considered Negligence and Medical Malpractice in Oregon or Minnesota 

Women who are pregnant are under the care of of obstetrician who specializes in pregnancy and the birth of a baby. Obstetricians are experienced in knowing how a woman should eat during her pregnancy, what medications she should or should not take, and what potential complications should occur and how to monitor for such potential complications. While most obstetricians are quite competent in their roles, there are times when even a competent physician can make a mistake, leading to a potential error that could harm the mother or her baby. When this occurs, improper prenatal care could be considered medical malpractice. 

Prenatal Care Explained

Prenatal care occurs from the time that the mother finds out she is pregnant until the time she delivers the baby. Women are seen frequently throughout their pregnancy, but often monthly for the first several months, and then every two weeks until week 36, and then weekly until the mother delivers. These appointments are designed to check on the health of the mother as well as the baby. Blood may be drawn, ultrasounds may be performed, and the heartbeat of the baby is listened to.

Additionally, the mother’s weight is checked at each visit to ensure she is gaining a healthy amount of weight as well as the urine is assessed to detect any protein which can be a sign of preeclampsia. It is a provider’s job to educate the mother and ensure she is doing everything she can to have a healthy baby (i.e. eating healthy, taking her prenatal vitamins, etc.). Perhaps most importantly, the physician or other healthcare provider monitors for any potential complication that could harm the mother or baby. 

Negligent Prenatal Care

While as mentioned above, that is what prenatal care is supposed to entail, unfortunately there are times when women receive substandard prenatal care, leading to serious complications. If your obstetrician fails to deliver the standard of care, the mother and baby are both at risk. Examples of negligent prenatal care includes the following:

  • Failure to run appropriate testing – failing to conduct routine blood work can lead to avoidable complications being missed
  • Failure to check weight with every visit – failing to assess if the mother is gaining weight appropriately at every visit is negligent. It is important to ensure that the mother is gaining enough, but not too much as that can create additional risks for the mother and baby. Additionally, monitoring of weight is important as a sudden significant increase in weight gain can indicate a potential complication is occurring (i.e. pre-eclampsia)
  • Failing to check the baby’s heart beat with each visit once it is audible on doppler – this is essential to assess the health of the baby. It is noninvasive and aids to ensure the mother and provider that the baby is doing well
  • Failing to have routine ultrasounds performed to assess the health of the baby – while some practitioners perform more ultrasounds than others, a few ultrasounds during pregnancy are essential to assess the health of the baby and to ensure that no complications are developing. Failure to do so can lead to missing a potentially serious complication that may be able to be dealt with while in utero
  • Failing to have the mother come in on an appropriate schedule to monitor the health of her and her baby per standard of care guidelines – It is essential for mothers and their baby/babies to be assessed on an appropriate schedule to ensure that both are doing well
  • Failing to refer a woman to a high risk obstetrician if indicated – If a mother or her baby is diagnosed with a complication that makes her high risk, or if the mother has known risk factors that make her high risk, she should be referred to a high risk obstetrician who can better manage her care
  • Dismissing the mother’s concerns without investigation of a potential problem, leading to a complication occurring – If a mother has concerns, they should be fully investigated to ensure that no potential complications are occurring. Failure to do so can lead to preterm birth, maternal or fetal death, or many other complications if a complication is present
  • Failing to diagnose infection – Failing to diagnose an infection puts the mother and baby at risk. Mothers are typically tested for certain infections before delivery (i.e group B strep) as some infections are treatable to prevent spreading the infection to the baby. Additionally, there are times when a c-section may be indicated in order to avoid spreading the infection to the baby
  • Failing to diagnose a birth defect that is detectable during routine ultrasound or blood work that is performed – Some birth defects are treatable in utero. Also, parents deserve to know ahead of time that their baby may have additional health needs
  • Failing to identify and treat ectopic pregnancy – Failing to diagnose ectopic pregnancy can lead to severe bleeding or even death if not treated in a timely manner
  • Failing to diagnose gestational diabetes – Gestational diabetes needs to be managed properly or complications for the mother and baby can develop
  • Failing to assess, diagnose, and treat anemia – failing to treat anemia can lead to pre-term labor, premature birth, postpartum depression and low birth weight
  • Failing to assess for Rh incompatibility, and provide adequate therapy as needed – Rhogam is administered to prevent Rh incompatibility between mother and baby
  • Failing to diagnose pre-eclampsia – Pre-eclampsia needs to be immediately dealt with in order to prevent severe complications including death of the mother or baby from occurring
  • Failing to induce or perform a c-section when indicated – There are times when complications occur that necessitate the baby being born a early. Failing to deliver the baby can lead to serious consequences
  • Failing to diagnose a birth defect that is treatable while in utero (i.e. certain neural tube defects or heart conditions) – Certain birth defects are treatable, and the baby may have an increased chance of survival or quality of life if the procedure is performed while in utero. Failure to do so may lead to more surgical procedures, poorer chance of survival and poorer quality of life

Complications Due to Negligent Prenatal Care

As mentioned above, there are many ways that a healthcare provider can fail you in your baby by failing to provide the appropriate standard of care. While there are some complications that may be unavoidable, there are complications that can be prevented entirely or managed much more appropriately. When a mother and her growing baby are not provided proper care, complications including some the following can develop:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Macrosomia
  • Preeclampsia
  • Eclampsia
  • Preterm labor
  • Premature birth
  • Baby born with low birth weight
  • Complications from ectopic pregnancy
  • Severe anemia
  • Brain damage (baby)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Maternal or fetal death
  • Stillbirth 
  • Worsening of birth defect due to a lack of proper care provided while in utero (i.e. surgical procedure to correct the defect)
  • Infection of the baby
  • Respiratory distress at birth 
  • HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count)

Ask our Medical Malpractice Lawyer if Your Baby’s Improper Prenatal Care Was Caused by Negligence

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form.  We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.

Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton,  Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles,  St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.

We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.

For a free case evaluation


(541) 385-1999 in Bend, Oregon
(503) 479-3646 in Portland, Oregon
(612) 444-3374 in Minnesota

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