An epidural can cause fetal distress, generally by triggering a series of events that include slowing down labor, extending the second stage of labor, and lowering the mother’s blood pressure. Doctors and other medical professionals must monitor the mother and baby closely following an epidural, watching for any signs of distress.
A literature review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) identifies a number of increased risks for babies whose mothers received an epidural during labor and delivery. This includes an increased incidence of emergency cesarean section because of fetal distress. In addition, these babies also had an increased incidence of other measures used to aid the delivery of a baby, including the use of forceps or vacuum extraction.
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Babies May Be at an Increased Risk of Some Negative Health Outcomes After an Epidural
While epidurals are generally thought to be safe and provide no negative long-term outcomes for most babies, A study published in the International Journal of Women’s Health (IJWH) points to several increased risks for these babies in the first few hours of life. This includes:
- NICU admission
- Respiratory distress
- High temperature
- Supplemental oxygen treatment during their first 24 hours
- Receiving antibiotic treatment
- Suffering additional birth injuries, possibly from stalled labor or assisted delivery
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Epidurals Require Close Oversight by a Trained Professional
To understand how an epidural can cause fetal distress, it is important to understand how they work. Sometimes called epidural anesthesia or a spinal block, they are a type of intravenous regional anesthesia that serves as a method of pain relief during labor and delivery.
To administer an epidural, an anesthesiologist or anesthetist will need to insert a needle and thin catheter into a specific area in the lower back, near the spinal cord. The needle is then removed, leaving the catheter to carry liquids into the epidural space and effectively numb the mother’s body below that area.
It is imperative that the anesthesiologist who performs obstetric epidurals has the proper training and education to select the medications and administer them properly. This is especially important since they need to go into a specific space very close to the mother’s spinal cord. Mistakes can lead to severe headaches and even spinal cord injuries.
An improperly administered epidural may involve:
- Administering the epidural too early
- Administering a medication the mother has an allergy to
- Administering an epidural to a mother with contraindications
- Administering too much of the medication
- Putting the needle in too far or in the wrong area
- Failing to monitor the mother and baby closely, since an epidural can cause fetal distress
Building a Birth Injury Case Based on Your Child’s Injuries
If your baby suffered any of birth injuries know to be associated with an epidural, fetal distress, assisted vaginal delivery, or stalled labor, you may be able to build a case to show the doctor, anesthesiologist, or another medical professional failed to provide you and your child with the proper care. There is no doubt that improper epidurals and poor monitoring can lead to epidural birth injuries and maternal injuries.
To prove your case, you will likely want to partner with a birth injury attorney who handles birth injury medical malpractice cases in your state. They will be familiar with the necessary evidence, process, and timeline to seek compensation.
Proving a birth injury case generally requires several types of evidence that may be difficult to obtain on your own. Your attorney will handle this process for you. This includes identifying and working closely with an expert medical witness who will review your medical records and other documentation and determine if they believe malpractice occurred. Most states will not allow families to move forward with a birth injury claim without obtaining and presenting this type of expert review of a child’s medical records.
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Get Help Today with Your Epidural Birth Injury Case
The Birth Injury Lawyers Group is here to take your call and review your case today. We can help you understand if you may have a viable birth injury case and the next steps you need to take to hold the doctors or facility responsible. You can get help today. Call (800) 222-9529 for a complimentary consultation.
Most medical malpractice attorneys who take on birth injury cases will do so on a contingency basis. This means your family will not need to pay a retainer or other fees before your case goes into settlement negotiations or to court. Your lawyer will only get paid after they receive the check for your award or settlement, and will not get paid if they do not secure financial recovery for you.