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Maternal Death & How a Malpractice Lawyer Can Help

Offered by The Lancione Law Firm, LLC

An attorney can be your family’s voice for justice

Happiness and joy are typically associated with having a baby, but when a new mother dies at the hands of a negligent medical professional due to complications during pregnancy, during labor or delivery, or following childbirth, that death can have a devastating impact on the victim’s family and loved ones.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 700 to 900 women die every year in the U.S. due to complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Another 65,000 suffer devastating injuries. Tragically, most maternal deaths are caused by substandard care and medical negligence by a doctor, nurse, OB/GYN (obstetrician-gynecologist), or hospital.

The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is one of the worst in the world’s developed countries—especially for African American mothers—and it continues to rise. Most of these preventable fatalities can be attributed to inadequate care and medical errors by negligent healthcare professionals.

Holding medical providers accountable for their negligence is critical, which is why a victim’s family and loved ones should have a clear understanding of their legal rights and options in the aftermath of maternal death. In many cases, the victim’s spouse or certain eligible family members can file a lawsuit to seek compensation for their damages—and a medical malpractice attorney can provide guidance and support throughout the entire process.

What is maternal death?

Maternal death occurs when a woman dies due to complications during pregnancy, childbirth, or within one year of having her baby, often as the result of substandard care by a negligent healthcare provider. When a medical professional fails to provide appropriate care promptly after recognizing certain signs and symptoms before, during, or after childbirth, or fails to perform proper diagnostic tests to recognize those signs in the first place, the consequences are often deadly.

A mother’s health and well-being are just as important as her baby’s, yet far too many doctors, nurses, OB/GYNs, and hospitals concentrate on just the health and safety of the infant during pregnancy, the delivery, or when providing postpartum care. This can lead to a misdiagnosis of certain pregnancy- and childbirth-related conditions, mistakes during labor or delivery that cause the mother to suffer severe injuries or death, and other dangerous scenarios for the mother before or after childbirth.

What is the most common cause of maternal death?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of maternal death is hypertension-related issues (e.g., high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke), followed by postpartum hemorrhage (bleeding), infection, and other cardiac-related issues.

During labor and delivery, obstetric emergencies—that is, any life-threatening condition that affects a pregnant woman and her baby—result in the most fatalities. Maternal deaths during labor and delivery often involve an obstetrician who doesn’t appropriately diagnose a mother’s condition, makes a critical error during the childbirth, or makes a surgical mistake during a childbirth procedure, such as a C-section.

Common types of complications

There are many types of complications that can occur during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and following childbirth that may result in maternal death, including but not limited to:

  • Preeclampsia — A dangerous complication during pregnancy that causes high blood pressure in the mother, protein in her urine (proteinuria), and swelling of her hands, legs, and feet (edema). Preeclampsia typically begins later in the pregnancy (often after 20 weeks) but can also happen following childbirth (usually within 48 hours of delivery). Characterized by a rapid spike in blood pressure, preeclampsia may result in seizures (eclampsia), stroke, organ failure, and death if left untreated or undiagnosed.
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage – PPH, which is excessive, heavy bleeding after childbirth, can happen up to 12 weeks after giving birth to a baby. Vaginal bleeding that won’t slow down or stop may result in a dangerous drop in blood pressure that can potentially lead to death.
  • Postpartum Infection — Hospitals are supposed to be clean and sterile, but they are often a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. Dangerous, life-threatening infections can occur following vaginal childbirth or C-section.
  • Blood clots — A woman’s body goes through a lot of changes before and after childbirth that increase the risk of developing blood clots. During pregnancy, the fetus can put pressure on the blood vessels surrounding the pelvis and restrict blood flow to the mother’s legs, resulting in a blood clot. Following childbirth, blood clots can form in the arms and legs while the mother is on bed rest and trying to recover from the delivery. Blood clots can break free and cause a potentially fatal blockage in the lungs known as a pulmonary embolism (PE).
  • Placenta Previa – A condition that involves the mother’s placenta covering all or some of the cervix. During childbirth, tearing of the blood vessels that connect the uterus to the placenta can cause uncontrollable bleeding and death in both the mother and the infant.
  • Uterine Rupture – This occurs when the uterine wall suddenly tears during the late stages of pregnancy or active labor and results in hemorrhaging. Uterine rupture most commonly occurs at the site of a previous C-section along the healed scar lines.
  • Placental Abruption – A potentially life-threatening complication that can cause severe bleeding in a pregnant woman, placental abruption is defined as the detachment of the placenta from the inner wall of the uterus. The blood loss associated with this condition can result in maternal death. It can also deprive the unborn baby of vital nutrients and oxygen.
  • Amniotic Fluid Embolism – A serious condition that occurs during delivery or in the immediate period following childbirth, an amniotic fluid embolism happens when amniotic fluid or fetal cells (sometimes called fetal debris) enter the mother’s bloodstream and migrate through the circulatory system to cause severe and potentially fatal damage to the mother’s organs. This condition can also give rise to a placental abruption, cause premature labor, and put the mother into shock.
  • Errors When Performing a C-section — A cesarean section is done to deliver a baby non-vaginally using incisions in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. A C-section is a major surgery that carries risk for the mother and may cause fetal distress in the child if not performed properly.

Talk to a medical malpractice attorney to learn your legal options

Spouses and certain family members who are left to cope with the unthinkable loss of a new mother due to medical negligence by a healthcare professional or medical facility deserve answers, and they have recourse through the civil justice system.

The problem is cases involving maternal death are exceptionally complex, highly contested, and require a lot of resources to move forward. Furthermore, strict legal deadlines apply.

The key to obtaining accountability, financial compensation, and justice is to consult with an experienced attorney right away to get an idea of your legal rights and options. The stakes are high for hospitals, doctors, and other medical professionals who are being sued for maternal death, and they have teams of attorneys looking out for their interests. That’s why you need a law firm that will level the playing field and look out for yours.

A good medical malpractice lawyer will be able to launch a thorough investigation into what happened, gather and preserve critical pieces of evidence, consult with medical experts and specialists, and work with you to craft a compelling case for compensation that’s built on fact.

Most malpractice attorneys offer legal representation on a contingency fee basis. That means there’s no upfront money required to retain their services, and you pay no legal fees unless they make a financial recovery on your behalf, either through a negotiated settlement or a favorable court verdict.

If your loved one died before, during, or after childbirth due to medical negligence, you have the right to seek compensation, and an attorney can be your voice for justice. To learn more, schedule a free consultation with a medical malpractice lawyer near you today.

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The Lancione Law Firm is an award-winning medical malpractice law firm in Ohio that serves clients nationally. Attorney John Lancione has over 33 years of experience and is commit...