Labor and Delivery Complications

Birth Injury
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What Problems or Complications Can Happen During Labor and Delivery?

The process of giving birth to a baby is called labor and delivery. The majority of deliveries happen without complications, however, there are some common complications that can arise and place a mother, baby or both at risk for injury. Failure to promptly diagnose or respond to complications during labor can contribute to a preventable birth injury.

Some of the most common complications that can occur during the birth process include:

Preterm (Premature) Labor
Preterm labor occurs when labor starts before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM)

The amniotic sac, also called the membranes or bag of waters, is a protective sac that surrounds a baby in the uterus (womb) during pregnancy and holds the amniotic fluid (water) that protects a baby and gives the baby room to move. The amniotic sac also protects a baby from infections. When the amniotic sac breaks it is called ruptured membranes. When the bag of waters breaks before labor starts, it is called premature rupture of membranes (PROM). PROM raises the risk of infection to the mother and baby.

Problems with the Placenta

The placenta is an organ that develops in a woman’s uterus during pregnancy to provide oxygen and nutrition to a growing baby and to remove waste products from the baby’s blood.  A placenta attaches to the wall of the uterus (womb) and the baby’s umbilical cord connects to the placenta. The placenta is usually attaches to the top, side, front or back of the uterus.

However, it can attach low in the uterus and if it covers all or part of the cervix (opening to the uterus) it is called “placenta previa” and puts a mother at risk of hemorrhage during pregnancy. In some instances it may require bedrest for part of the pregnancy and may require operative delivery of the baby by cesarean section.  All of a baby’s oxygen is delivered by blood flow from the placenta through the umbilical cord.

In most cases, the placenta delivers within a few minutes after delivery of the baby.  However, if the placenta detaches from the uterus before the baby is delivered (placental abruption), oxygen to the baby can be decreased or stopped and can cause injury or death to an unborn baby.  In some cases a placenta will not detach after delivery and may need assistance from a healthcare provider for delivery. In rare cases a placenta may attach too firmly to the uterus and may require surgical removal.

Labor That Does Not Progress (Stalled Labor)
Labor can cease to process when:

  • Contractions are too weak or weaken over time.
  • The cervix does not dilate (open) enough or is taking too long to dilate.
  • The baby is not in the right position.
  • The baby is too big or the pelvis is too small for a baby to pass.

Abnormal Heart Rate of the Baby

Often, an abnormal heart rate is not a problem. But if the heart rate gets very fast or very slow, or shows an abnormal deceleration pattern, it can be a sign that your baby is not getting enough oxygen or that there are other problems.

Problems with the Umbilical Cord

The umbilical cord is an unborn baby’s only source of oxygen. If the cord is compressed during labor or delivery the oxygen to the unborn baby will be decreased and could potentially cause permanent injury or death.  Examples of cord issues are: nuchal cord (cord wrapped tightly around the baby’s neck), or prolapse of the cord where the cord slips between the pelvis and the baby’s head.

Problems with the Position of the Baby

In most cases a baby’s head is delivered first without problem.  However, where a different body part of the baby comes first, such as feet first (footling breech), buttocks delivered first (breech), face first or other abnormal positions have the potential for complications with delivery.

Shoulder Dystocia

Dystocia may occur when a baby's head is delivered but the shoulder is stuck in the pelvis.

Perinatal Asphyxia

Asphyxia may occur when the baby does not get enough oxygen in the uterus, during labor or delivery.

Perineal Tears

Tears of the vaginal and surrounding tissues. 

Excessive Bleeding

Excessive bleeding bay occur for a number of reasons, including tears to the uterus, early detachment of the placenta, failure of the uterus to contract to stop bleeding after baby is delivered.

Post-Term (post-dates) Pregnancy

A pregnancy that lasts more than 42 weeks

About Our Birth Injury Attorneys

Birth injury medical malpractice cases require extensive knowledge of both law and medicine. Robins Kaplan LLP birth injury attorneys and medical analysts have extensive experience handling these complex cases. We have been recognized for recovering remarkable settlements for people in Minnesota who have suffered serious personal injuries or economic harm from medical negligence. 

Contact Us for a Free Case Evaluation

Call 1.800.552.7115 or complete our free case evaluation form to speak to a medical analyst who understands. There is no charge for this call or evaluation.

Our attorneys handle matters primarily in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

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