Medical negligence

What are the signs of a negligent pregnancy ultrasound?

Can ultrasounds can be inaccurate during pregnancy? Learn about the potential dangers and signs of a negligent ultrasound to better protect your health and also, your child’s health.

Ultrasound scans are a routine part of prenatal care for expectant mothers. They were initially developed to monitor complex or high-risk pregnancies, and today, they are considered standard practice.

Many expectant parents wonder, “can an ultrasound be wrong?” It's a valid question, as ultrasound accuracy is essential in monitoring pregnancy and providing important information about the baby’s progress. Unfortunately, there are times when the results may be misleading or inaccurate, which could potentially result in medical negligence during pregnancy.

What could cause a negligent ultrasound?

Although complications can arise at any stage of your maternity journey, it's crucial to understand that ultrasound results may be misleading or inaccurate due to two primary reasons. Here are some signs of a negligent ultrasound during pregnancy that you can look out for.

  • Sonographer error

Despite being widespread for the last decade, ultrasound technology still demands a certain level of expertise to ensure accurate results. Whilst most sonographers receive appropriate training to perform examinations, some individuals are simply more skilled or experienced than others in this field.

Although there hasn't been specific research conducted on this matter within the realm of obstetrics, a study examining the use of ultrasound in emergency scenarios revealed that errors or missed diagnoses occurred in approximately 8% to 10% of cases.

If you ever have any doubts about the competence of a sonographer, it is advisable to request a more senior member of staff’s presence during the examination. This precaution ensures a higher level of confidence in the accuracy of the results, especially when dealing with an early pregnancy scan.

  • Incorrect pregnancy date

Inaccuracies surrounding pregnancy dating can also arise, resulting in maternity negligence. In this context, a sonographer (an ultrasound technician), will examine specific pregnancy milestones, for example, examining an ultrasound scan at 6 weeks, to assess the progression of the pregnancy. If the sonographer fails to identify these crucial indicators, it can raise concerns. However, there might not necessarily be something wrong.

For instance, if a person is seven weeks into their pregnancy and the ultrasound reading does not detect a foetal heartbeat, initial alarm may set in. However, the underlying issue could be relatively uncomplicated. It is conceivable that the initial dating of the pregnancy is inaccurate, and the actual gestational age is not as advanced as initially believed.

In such scenarios, the doctor or midwife might recommend a follow-up ultrasound in a week's time. Ultimately, the pregnancy could be entirely healthy, and the only necessary adjustment may be a straightforward change of the pregnancy's estimated date.

However, in some cases, ultrasound scans can miss health concerns, which was the case for our client, Susan. Ultrasound scans missed her baby's significant growth drop. From the 90th percentile in week 32, it plunged to the 18th percentile just two weeks later. Here, she shares her story.

What are the consequences of maternity medical negligence?

Negligence in maternity care can have devastating consequences for families, and mothers–particularly during a time when they are vulnerable, both physically and emotionally.

Neglect from healthcare professionals during this period can result in long-lasting repercussions, such as: significant physical trauma, prenatal injury, and sadly, even maternal mortality. The emotional toll on mothers should not be underestimated either, as they may grapple with feelings of betrayal, grief, and trauma stemming from preventable errors.

What is the process of a maternity negligence claim?

Our team of highly experienced medical negligence solicitors are recognised experts, having been instrumental in significant maternity negligence cases, including the recent Lucy Letby case. We understand the delicate nature of pregnancy and maternity claims and are dedicated to making the process straightforward for all involved, ensuring you have confidence that your solicitor has done their utmost to achieve the best possible outcome.

In our specialised medical negligence team, we have in-house midwives who offer medical guidance and support. Their expertise enables us to promptly identify instances of substandard medical care and assess its effects on both you and your child.

How Slater and Gordon can help

Ensuring expectant parents and families receive the correct information and support when battling and understanding maternity negligence is crucial. We are proud to work with various networks, organisations, and charities available to offer the necessary help.

Here are some valuable sources to help you feel secure in a healthcare environment:

· Tommy’s – a connected, caring community with a goal of making pregnancy safer for all and advocating for and supporting those who have lost babies

· ARC - Antenatal Results and Choices (TFMR) – non-directive information and support before, during and after antenatal screening

· SANDS – the UK’s leading pregnancy and baby loss charity providing the right support and care for every bereaved family

· Kicks Count – aiming to reduce the UK’s high stillbirth and neonatal death rate by raising awareness of baby movements

· 4Louis – supporting families through miscarriage, stillbirth and child loss with useful tools, equipment and training free of charge to hospital units, hospices and other professionals who sadly have the job of comforting grieving families

· The Lullaby Trust – raising awareness of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) with expert advice on safer sleep for babies and emotional support for bereaved families

· The Miscarriage Association – information for anyone who’s been affected by miscarriage, molar pregnancy or ectopic pregnancy

· 2Wish – support for those affected by sudden death in young people throughout Wales

· Child Bereavement UK –helping children, young people, parents, and families rebuild their lives when a child grieves or when a child dies

· Twins Trust – offering a support group for parents and carers of multiples who have experienced loss

· Richmond Hope – provides support for children and young people aged 4-18 years who have been bereaved. A safe space for children to work through their grief

· Aching Arms – there to help and support those who have experienced the heartbreak of losing a baby

· Bliss – support for parents and families of premature or sick babies

· The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust – work to increase awareness of the condition as well as offer support for both physical and emotional recovery

· Group B Strep Support – strive to eradicate group B Strep infection in babies whilst providing confidential support and information to families and professionals

If you believe you have received substandard medical care or have suffered further health issues because of clinical negligence, get in touch with our experts at Slater and Gordon. Your initial contact will be with one of our dedicated medical negligence advisors, who will gather all the necessary details about your case. To obtain further information, contact our medical negligence lawyers today on 0330 107 5023, or contact us online.

Discuss switching your case with our experts

Call us now on:   0330 041 5869
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