Generally, pregnancy is supposed to be one of the happiest times of any woman or any couple’s life. Bringing a baby into the world is a wondrous thing and, in most cases, that’s exactly how it plays out. Unfortunately, however, not all pregnancies are perfect, and some aren’t even wanted.
At this important time, the chief priority with any clinician is to safeguard the mother and her unborn foetus. Any instance of medical negligence – and the basis for any compensation claims – usually hinges on cases where this safeguarding has not taken place.
Let’s take a look at some of the pregnancy-related procedures which our experience has shown to be the main possible areas of medical negligence:
This is a very common medical procedure that involves the ending of a pregnancy and the removal of the unborn baby. It’s also referred to as a termination in some quarters. There are all sorts of different reasons, mostly personal, why a woman decides not to carry through with a full pregnancy. As long as certain criteria are met, abortions can be safely carried out at any point during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. But of course, despite being so commonplace, it’s still a medical procedure, so it still carries an element of risk.
- Failed abortion As the name suggests, this is an unsuccessful termination. This can be due to a failure of methods and incorrect checking of scans to make sure the procedure has been done properly. Drug induced abortions generally have a higher failure rate than surgical ones, while in some cases, where the baby has survived the abortion, it has been born with abnormalities or congenital contractures which is a muscle condition at birth where the muscles are abnormally contracted or short.
- Haemorrhage Also known as excessive bleeding, this occurs in about one in every 1,000 abortions.
- Damage to the cervix or womb The cervix is the entrance to the womb and in more than 10 in every 1,000 abortions, some form of damage occurs. Similarly, damage to the womb itself takes place in up to four of every 1,000 surgical abortions. These are not insignificant numbers and they can have serious repercussions for the patients involved.
- Infection in the womb Infections are a risk in every single surgical procedure – and this should be adequately explained to the patient beforehand by the surgeon. If left untreated, or not treated correctly, an infection could severely damage the reproductive organs. For example, it could lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can cause infertility or an ectopic pregnancy (where the foetus starts growing outside the womb).
Chromosome abnormalities in pregnancy
There are a number of tests available at the moment which can screen and diagnose any abnormalities in the early stages of pregnancy. These tests are mainly used to determine conditions like Down’s Syndrome but sometimes they do fail or the results are not interpreted correctly. Here are some of the main tests available for expectant mothers:
- Serum screening This is a blood test performed at 15-20 weeks. It measures the levels of pregnancy hormones in the mother’s blood.
- Nuchal translucency measurement Ultrasound is used to measure the fluid space at the back of the foetus’s neck at 11 to 14 weeks. If the foetus is affected by Down’s, there will be a noticeably bigger space there.
- Diagnostic tests If there is any doubt about chromosomal abnormalities, cells can be taken from the foetus and examined for a more accurate appraisal.
- Amniocentesis This is a well-known test. While mainly used for checking for Down’s and other chromosomal abnormalities, it can also determine the sex of the baby. (That’s why there are legal restrictions on using it in some countries.) It’s performed at the 15+ week stage and involves taking a sample from the amniotic fluid in the womb.
- Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) This examines a sample of the placenta and is performed at the 11 week stage.
All of the above tests carry a slight risk of miscarriage which is something all patients have to bear in mind. Balance that up with the possibility that the baby could be born with a chromosomal abnormality – which can’t be cured – and it’s not so difficult to see why many expectant mothers opt to have some or all of these tests run.
This is a very rare type of pregnancy that is comprised of an abnormal composition of chromosomes that mean the foetus fails to develop. A complete molar pregnancy will feature a placenta and no accompanying foetus. Proper monitoring of a pregnancy should be able to identify such a situation but mistakes have been known to be made and this tragic scenario can sometimes carry on much longer than is necessary.
Pregnancy can either be a time of great joy or great anxiety (or both). Emotions are generally running high and if medical negligence is part of the mix, it can cause severe levels of stress. This is something we’ve encountered time and time again and we see it as our job to make sure that we take all that stress out of the equation. Our expertise is second to none and will be just what you need to steer you through this emotional minefield. While you may have other pressing concerns, your appointed solicitor will be doing his or her utmost on your behalf.