Birth Injury to mother or baby

Most expectant mothers fear labour to some degree.  Thanks to advances in maternity healthcare over the last 100 or so years, in most cases, both mother and child emerge from childbirth relatively unscathed.  Some women require a little more attention following birth such as stitches following an episiotomy or tear

However, in a small number of cases, a new mother suffers severe trauma in childbirth and is left with lifelong, debilitating injuries.

Life-changing trauma

Being left incontinent is one nightmare a minority of women face after giving birth.  This can be the result of suffering a fissure, or hole, between the rectal and vaginal passages, or nerve damage, meaning the brain can no longer register when the bladder and/or bowels need emptying[1].

Third or fourth-degree tears can sometimes require hundreds of stitches and be so painful that the only way for the victim to urinate without pain is to do so in the bath.

Search for the term ‘birth injuries’ on Mumsnet[2] and you will see multiple threads of women describing their pain, and tragedies; some tell how they can't bear to be touched, let alone have sex, a year and more on from the birth. Yet more tell of how they wouldn't – couldn't – contemplate a second child, so terrible was the physical fallout from the first.

The cause of birth injuries

Birth injuries to a mother can be physical and/or mental.  Examples of things going wrong include: abnormal uterine bleeding, broken bones or bruising, peripartum haemorrhage, fissures, infection, eclampsia, uterine hyper-stimulation, vaginal tears or lacerations, or wrongful death of the mother[3].

It is however the emotional damage that can do the most harm to both mother and child.  Some women who have experienced a traumatic birth can suffer postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Symptoms include hyper-vigilance, intrusive memories, flashbacks, severe emotional distress, irritability, trouble sleeping and nightmares[4].

Often PTSD is confused with post-natal depression leading to a prescription of medication which does little or nothing to alleviate the symptoms.  Or worse, the victim is ignored and told to ‘move on’ with their life and enjoy their baby[5].

The causes of birth injuries in mothers

The impact modern medicine has had on reducing mother and infant mortality rates across the developed world make it easy to forget just how dangerous childbirth is, and how quickly problems can develop.  Mothers can be injured in a number of ways, especially if they are birthing a large baby, suffering from a condition such as pre-eclampsia or the baby becomes distressed and has to be delivered very quickly.

The use of birthing tools such as forceps can cause injuries such as tearing and subsequent pelvic organ prolapse.  Caesarean deliveries can result in blood loss and wound infections.

Claiming compensation

It must be emphasised that in most cases where medical intervention is used during labour, it is to save the infant and/or mother from injury or death and usually there are no ongoing complications for either patient.  However, in a very small number of cases, medical intervention and treatment is given unnecessarily or negligently.  In these cases, a claim for compensation can be brought.

At IBB Claims, our personal injury team, led by Malcolm Underhill, has the expertise and knowledge to advise and represent you if you wish to make a claim for maternal birth injury or any other medical negligence incident. To talk about how we might be able to help, please phone us on 0333 123 9099, email us at or fill in our contact form.  Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence.