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Services / Medical Negligence / Birth Injury and Pregnancy

Birth Injury and Pregnancy

For the majority of women in the UK, pregnancy and childbirth is a happy and positive experience. However, pregnancy and birth are far from risk-free and things can go wrong for both mother and baby. Our team of birth injury solicitors can help you in these situations.

During pregnancy, mums-to-be are primarily cared for by their GP and midwife, and generally attend hospital only for scans and tests. Complications can arise during pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. These should be easily detected through regular midwife appointments. NICE guidelines outline the process for screening for foetal abnormalities, infections and other clinical conditions, as well as what steps to take if foetal growth is outside normal ranges. When these procedures are ignored or done badly, it is possible both mother and baby can suffer irreparable damage.

Birth injuries occur when medical experts either fail to follow the correct procedures or they carry them out in a substandard manner. If there is poor care during the delivery of a baby, the consequences can be devastating and, in severe cases, result in a child with cerebral palsy or even death.

Brain Injury Compensation

We have acted for several children who have sustained brain injuries at birth because of the mismanagement of the labour and/or delivery. In those cases, the settlements have been for seven-figure sums, which is mainly due to the significant amount of care the child will require throughout its lifetime.

Birth injury claims are one of only a few areas of law where Legal Aid is available to fund claims for compensation, although stringent criteria apply.

Neonatal Death

In rare cases, a child may die as a result of medical negligence during childbirth. This can occur for a wide variety of reasons.

Our team handles cases of neonatal death with sympathy and understanding, helping you seek the compensation to which you may be entitled.

Legal Aid Funding for Compensation Claims

If you believe you or your child suffered an injury during pregnancy or childbirth, we can assist with a claim for compensation and the practical issues that arise when someone has sustained serious injuries.

You may be entitled to Legal Aid if a claim concerns clinical negligence involving children who have suffered severe disability due to a neurological injury sustained during the mother's pregnancy, the child's birth or the first eight weeks of the child's life.

Don’t worry if Legal Aid isn’t available for your case; we will happily explore the funding options available to you.

Read more: Hatch Brenner Solicitors secures a legal aid contract for medical negligence in Norfolk

Our experienced team includes former Morgan Jones Pett specialist clinical negligence lawyers Sara Westwood and Simon Bransby.

Examples of birth injury and pregnancy claims:

  • Neonatal death
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Failed sterilisation
  • Shoulder-dystocia delivery
  • Failed abortion
  • Screening negligence
  • Mismanaged delivery
  • Forceps delivery negligence
  • Stillbirth negligence and neonatal death
  • Perineal tears - third and fourth-degree
  • Mismanaged pre-eclampsia
  • Damage to organs during a caesarean

Birth Injury Medical Negligence Case Studies

Baby suffered brain damage during childbirth

Mrs X was admitted to hospital in labour with her first baby just after midnight. She was 10 days past her expected delivery date. A belt was placed on her abdomen so the baby’s heart rate could be monitored. The results showed the baby’s heart rate to be persistently fast. In these circumstances, the monitoring should have been continued. It was, however, discontinued. Further monitoring took place between 04.12 and 05.12 and the results were, again, concerning. At this point, a foetal blood sample should have been taken. This would have shown whether the baby was receiving sufficient oxygen. No such sample was taken. Later, the mother’s waters were broken and meconium (faeces of the baby) was seen. This can be evidence of a distressed baby. By 06.25 the baby’s heart rate was so concerning action should have been taken. The decision to deliver by caesarean section was taken too late and, when born, the baby was found to have suffered a prolonged period without sufficient oxygen. This caused brain damage, resulting in physical and cognitive disabilities.

The claim was settled for a seven-figure sum and annual payments to ensure the child receives the care and support required for the rest of their life.

Delay in delivery resulting in the death of a baby

The Claimant was admitted to hospital, in labour, just over 33 weeks into her third pregnancy. This was considered to be a high-risk pregnancy. She had been discharged only a few hours earlier having been admitted three days previously as her waters had broken. Monitoring of the baby’s heart had commenced very quickly following admission and less than 30 minutes later the heart trace indicated the baby was struggling. A decision to perform a caesarean wasn’t made until about 22 minutes later; it was a further 82 minutes before the baby was delivered. Sadly he was born in a very poor condition requiring nearly 15 minutes of resuscitation and significant intensive care. He passed away at only 10 months of age. He was struggling due to a serious infection which had developed in the placenta as a result of the premature breaking of the Claimant’s waters. Unfortunately, she hadn’t been given antibiotics, which may have avoided, or at least reduced the effects of, the infection.

The claim was eventually settled through mediation resulting in £40,000 compensation.

Failure to perform an episiotomy during childbirth

The client suffered a fourth-degree tear during the birth of her first baby.

The doctor delivering the baby should have performed an episiotomy (surgical cut) given that he was using forceps and it was likely to be a difficult delivery because the baby was coming down the birth canal facing up rather than down. There was also a failure to control the baby’s head, which came out suddenly. It was argued the fourth-degree tear could have been avoided had an episiotomy been performed and the head been properly controlled.

The baby was fine but the client suffered unpleasant and embarrassing symptoms as a result of the tear, which are likely to be permanent. Her case was settled as a result of mediation.

Inadequate anaesthetic during a caesarean section

Mrs C was admitted for a planned caesarean section. Unfortunately, due to medical negligence, the spinal anaesthetic given was inadequate and she suffered severe pain during the operation and the experience was so harrowing she developed a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The claim was settled for £11,350.

Oxygen deprivation during childbirth

Mrs X was around 29 weeks pregnant with her first child when she was admitted to hospital suffering pre-eclampsia (a condition where blood pressure is raised, protein can be found in the mother's urine, and headaches, blurred vision and lower leg swelling can occur). The mother was given medication, which failed to control the pre-eclampsia. Three days after admission to hospital, the monitoring of the baby’s heart should have given cause for concern; a scan showed an issue with the blood vessels to/from the baby, and the mother complained of the baby moving less. These factors should have prompted an urgent caesarean section but this didn’t occur until the fourth day after admission, by which time the baby had suffered oxygen deprivation causing brain damage resulting in physical and cognitive disabilities.

This claim was settled for a seven-figure sum with annual payments for life.

Tear during childbirth

Ms C suffered a fourth-degree tear during the delivery of her first child. It was argued the tear may not have been so severe if the baby’s head been properly controlled during the delivery and an episiotomy (surgical cut) performed. Her claim settled for the sum of £10,000.

Unnecessary laparoscopy for dye insufflation and bilateral salpingectomy

The Claimant was a young lady, struggling to become pregnant. She had a pre-planned laparoscopy for dye insufflation and bilateral salpingectomy. This would prevent her becoming pregnant other than with IVF. However, she was actually nine weeks pregnant at the time of surgery, unbeknown to anybody. The hospital should have carried out a pregnancy test and whilst they did not accept, they failed to do so, the success rate is so high that all the evidence pointed to them not having carried one out. In the circumstances the surgery was unnecessary but fortunately the Claimant was able to complete the pregnancy but would need IVF for future ones. A compromise settlement was reached which was satisfactory to the Claimant.

Deep vein thrombosis following caesarean delivery

Our client had a caesarean section for the delivery of her twins. Prior to the operation her risk of developing a post-operative blood clot was assessed, which is standard practice, however she was wrongly assessed to be at lower risk when in fact she should have been assessed as intermediate risk. Unfortunately, she went on to develop a deep vein thrombosis of the leg. Whilst the clot could be dispersed with treatment, it has left her with permanent discomfort in the leg and requiring repeat procedures to avoid the affected vein re-blocking. If she had been properly assessed as intermediate risk, she would have received a 10 day course of blood thinners which would have avoided the blood clot. In fact, she only received blood thinners for four days.

The claim was fully defended but eventually a full admission of liability was made when it was pointed out they had failed to follow guidelines in terms of assessment and treatment. The claim was settled in the sum of £50,000.00.

Baby death following failed forceps delivery

My client went into hospital for the birth of her first baby. Labour was progressing slowly and she was reviewed and examined by a junior doctor. He advised she be taken to theatre so the delivery of the baby could be assisted by forceps failing which she would have a caesarean section. Unfortunately, however the doctor had wrongly assessed her cervix to be almost fully dilated when in fact it was not. This meant he tried to deliver the baby too early with the outcome the baby became stuck. He tried different procedures to try to effect a delivery but it took too long with the outcome the baby was deprived of oxygen and died. Prior to an inquest, the hospital admitted liability and thereafter an out of court settlement was reached with the parents.

Please contact Sara Westwood to discuss your experience of birth injury medical negligence or pregnancy medical negligence at sarawestwood@hatchbrenner.co.uk or call 01603 660 811.

Please contact one of the team to discuss your specific requirements:

Morgan Jones Pett Solicitors

Morgan Jones Pett have joined the Hatch Brenner Solicitors team.

‘I wanted to write to thank you for all your help and efforts regarding my case. You know how emotional it has been for me …. and the family and I wanted to tell you how much it has meant knowing that you believed in the case.’

‘Now that everything has been completed, I wanted to share my gratitude for all your help and expertise across the last few years. You have done such a kind thing in looking after me … but more importantly you gave me a voice, one to be heard, in a room of … people. Thank you for giving me that strength and opportunity. You are a lovely person.’

‘Nothing could tell you how grateful we are for you – you gave us justice for Baby B and for that no words are enough.’

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