Medical negligence

The harrowing effects of maternity negligence on mothers and infants

Unveiling the harrowing effects of maternity negligence in the UK, our dedicated law firm explores how we can provide support and justice

21 June 2023

For parents and expectant parents across the UK, maternity negligence and pregnancy misdiagnoses are critical issues, demanding urgent attention. During a vulnerable time like pregnancy and childbirth, a culture of proactive and compassionate care is crucial. Unfortunately, this isn’t always what is received.

The after-effects of pregnancy negligence often extend far beyond immediate health concerns, and can lead to catastrophic, life-changing issues for mother and child. The many forms of this negligence can be varied, however, through comprehensive efforts we can help improve healthcare practices, enhance the quality of prenatal care and promote accountability among healthcare providers.

Our research shows that 26% of people feel that the level of care provided during their pregnancy was sub-standard, so this is clearly an issue that affects many families., A further 25% didn’t feel confident in their healthcare provider when giving birth.

Understanding maternity negligence

Maternity negligence refers to the failure of healthcare providers to meet the expected care requirements during pregnancy, childbirth, or postpartum. Sometimes, healthcare guidelines and protocols that ensure the safety and well-being of mothers and infants are ignored or do not form part of the continued professional development of medical practitioners, resulting in maternity negligence. This can arise at any stage within the pregnancy process, from prenatal care and labour to delivery and postpartum care.

Examples of maternity negligence may include:

  • Failure to offer effective prenatal care, such as failing to recognise and treat high-risk conditions or monitoring the mother's health insufficiently.
  • Misdiagnosis or a delay in the detection of pregnancy-related medical issues or consequences such as gestational diabetes, hypertension or placental abnormalities.
  • Errors made during surgery, such as poor incisions, organ damage, or excessive bleeding, after a caesarean delivery or during another operation.
  • Failure to properly diagnose and treat perineal tears following a natural vaginal delivery.
  • Pharmaceutical errors, such as prescribing, administering, or dosing medications incorrectly, which could be harmful to the mother or the growing foetus.
  • Inadequate monitoring of the woman and foetus during labour, which makes it harder to spot problems or signs of distress.
  • Failure to advise appropriately on maternity pathways and often associated failure to gain appropriate consent from the mother (and father) about such pathways.

Implications of maternity negligence on mothers

For mothers, the impact of maternity negligence can be devastating. It is a time when they are particularly vulnerable, physically and emotionally, and any negligence during this crucial period can have long-lasting effects. Inadequate prenatal care, failure to monitor and address complications, and surgical errors during childbirth, are just a few examples of how negligence can occur.

These lapses in care can result in severe physical trauma, including excessive bleeding, infections, organ damage, or even maternal mortality. The emotional toll on mothers cannot be underestimated either, as they may experience feelings of betrayal, loss, and trauma due to preventable mistakes.

Furthermore, stressful birthing experiences brought on by poor maternity care can have a serious influence on postpartum mental health. Disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), postpartum depression, or anxiety disorders can affect many people. The effects on society and families cannot be understated, as families may have additional difficulties in caring for the mother and child.

Implications of maternity negligence on infants

Babies who are the victims of substandard maternity care may experience birth-related bodily harm such as brain damage, nerve damage, or damage to their bones such as fractures. Birth injuries may result in disabilities or impairments that require continuing medical attention and support for the rest of one’s life.

Sadly, infants’ cognitive development may also be impacted by birth injuries or injuries which occur in the post-natal period and which are not identified at the correct time. Development delays or cognitive impairments that impede a child’s growth and potential might occur if problems are not addressed right away or if the right care is not given.

Following an investigation into one of our client’s cases, it was found that there were missed opportunities to monitor a baby’s growth. The failings in the care provided meant that an emergency obstetric review found no foetal heart rate, and the death occurred at 34 weeks gestation. Medical professionals failed to recognise the abnormalities in the child’s slow growth.

Another case involved our client whose baby almost died during delivery. Due to maternity negligence, the child now suffers from development delay, visual problems and cerebral palsy after suffering from brain damage at birth. The young child will now need rehabilitation and specialist care for the rest of his life, in a tragic incident that might have been avoided had protocols been more closely followed, and support better provided.

Empowering individuals

It’s important that expectant mothers and families receive the correct information and support in the face of maternity negligence. There are numerous networks, groups, and charities that can provide support.

Here are some valuable resources to help you feel confident in a healthcare setting:

High-quality prenatal care, as well as healthcare provider responsibility, is vital during the maternity process. Encouraging patient advocacy within expectant mothers, ensuring you speak out for your rights and express concerns, helps alleviate the continuation of maternity neglect. To give pregnant patients the best treatment possible that is suited for them, medical practitioners must take time to provide unique, tailored care that supports every single individual.

During the critical times of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum, it is imperative to protect mothers and babies’ health and safety.

How we can help

For when you need support in your healthcare journey, we have created an advocacy support pack, made of downloadable resources that can be handed directly to your healthcare professional, letting you highlight and record the poor quality of care you believe you have received.

If you believe you’ve 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 041 5869, or contact us online.

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