As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I represent and file lawsuits on behalf of injured patients and their family members. At the beginning of my legal career, though, I spent several years at a large law firm where I represented doctors, medical schools, and hospitals, including a number of birth injury lawsuits.
Seeing birth injury lawsuits from both sides has given me an interesting perspective to identify common things that seem to be present when there is a birth injury. As a father of four children, I applied this knowledge to make sure that my wife and children experienced the safest labor and delivery process possible.
One of these factors is prenatal care.
It is important for any expecting mother to begin seeing and OB/GYN physician as early in her pregnancy as possible. For most patients, this starts with an office urine pregnancy test and continues all the way up to the week of labor and delivery.
Early and consistent prenatal care includes lab work, ultrasounds, and fetal measurements that allow your doctor to plan for a safe pregnancy and labor and delivery.
I have handled cases where prenatal lab work identified Rh incompatibility between the mother and baby, which allowed treatment to be implemented to prevent the mother’s immune system from killing the baby’s red blood cells and causing brain damage.
In other cases, fetal measurements done during ultrasounds revealed that the baby was not growing as expected. This allowed the OB/GYN to implement treatments that would help the baby get back on the correct growth curve.
With good prenatal care, your OB/GYN doctor and nurses provide useful advice on potentially serious symptoms that you should look out for during your pregnancy. Any time, for instance you notice a decrease or absence of fetal movements, you will want to let your doctor know immediately, and will likely be told to go straight to the hospital.
Unfortunately, some busy OB/GYN offices have poorly trained staff members answering patient telephone calls. I remember handling the case for a family whose baby was beautiful baby girl was born with severe cerebral palsy. These parents were very conscientious and called the OB/GYN when they noticed that the baby was not moving as much is normal. Rather than recognizing this is a potential medical emergency, the nurse who took the call at the doctor’s office advised the mother to drink some orange juice to wake the baby up. When that did not work, the mother went to the OB/GYN office, but by that time the baby had already suffered a permanent brain injury. Sadly, it could have been avoided.
When selecting an obstetrician (OB/GYN) to handle your prenatal, labor, and delivery care, avoid reflexively going with the first provider listed on your health insurance plan’s in-network last, or someone who is just near your home. Do some research.
Before selecting your obstetrician, you also want to consider which hospital you would like to use to deliver your baby. Studies show that most patients select a hospital based on location close to their home and comfort of the facilities. In my view, neither of these has anything to do with safety. Instead, I recommend looking for a hospital that has a brisk pace of deliveries, with a full neonatal intensive care unit, in case something goes wrong.
Significant information that you should acquire and doing your research is how many OB/GYN and neonatology physicians are on the medical staff. I recently represented a family and investigating a birth injury case that resulted from care provided at a hospital that advertised itself as having a neonatal intensive care unit it turned out, though, that had no neonatology physicians on its medical staff.
Once you have identified the hospital you want, then you can select an OB/GYN physician. The Texas Medical Board has a searchable database, where you can learn about a physician’s education and training, some malpractice history, and the hospitals where the doctor has staff privileges and works.
During your first prenatal appointment, have a discussion with the physician about his or her philosophy concerning labor and delivery care, including things like management and timing of induction of labor with Pitocin and percentage of C-sections. Another thing to discuss is whether you have any risk factors that would make you eligible for care by an OB advanced training, called a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, or perinatologist. If you are eligible, I recommend that you ask for a consultation.
Finally, I recommend having the same OB/GYN physician handle your care on all of the prenatal visits. This allows the physician to get to know you and your baby, and your combined unique medical and risk issues.
I am currently representing a family whose baby boy was born with a brain injury because some simple lab tests fell through the cracks at a busy OB/GYN practice. As I investigated the case, I realized that this mother’s prenatal care was provided by four different physicians in this one office. I do not believe that any of these four doctors were very familiar with his mother and her unborn child, and the office ran like an assembly line. If one OB/GYN had been handling the care, then I think the baby would have been born without any problems.
We are here to help
The medical malpractice lawyers at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, or experienced in prenatal, labor, delivery, and birth injury and negligence cases. For a free consultation about your potential case, call 281-580-8800.
Attorney Robert Painter represents and files lawsuits on behalf of medical malpractice plaintiffs. He has extensive experience in medical negligence cases and has handled a variety of birth and brain injury cases caused by poor prenatal and labor and delivery care.