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CDC Report: 60% of pregnancy-related deaths in U.S. are Preventable

According to a new CDC analysis, three in five pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. could be prevented. About a third of pregnancy-related deaths occur up to a year after a woman gives birth, 31% occur during pregnancy, and 36% of deaths happen during delivery or in the week after birth.

The CDC’s report compiled national data between 2011 and 2015, as well as data from state maternal mortality review committees. Statistics showed the leading causes of death were infections, severe bleeding, heart disease, and stroke. However, a mother’s wrongful death may also occur from complications such as surgical malpractice during a C-section, HELLP syndrome, preeclampsia, pulmonary embolism and amniotic fluid embolism.

Maternal mortality can affect women of every race, ethnicity, education, and income level. However, according to the analysis, women in the United States who identified as black, American Indian or Alaska native were at a three time’s greater risk of maternal death than white women.

Regardless of race or ethnicity, most deaths were preventable—largely due to access to care, missed or delayed diagnoses, and failure to recognize warning signs. Robert R. Redfield, Director of the CDC, said that ensuring quality care for mothers throughout pregnancy and postpartum “should be among our Nation’s highest priorities.” Improved access to prenatal and post-partum care and educating women about warning signs is critical, the CDC notes.

Since the CDC began monitoring pregnancy mortality, the number of reported pregnancy-related deaths in the United States has increased from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987, to 18 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014. This ranks the United States as having the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world.

Just as healthcare providers must work to prevent maternal mortality, the CDC urges women to learn about the warning signs of complications, and mention any recent pregnancies each time they receive medical care in the year after delivery.

Of the 700 pregnancy-related deaths that occur in the U.S. each year, over 400 could have been prevented. The CDC defines pregnancy-related deaths as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 1 year of the end of a pregnancy–regardless of the outcome, duration or site of the pregnancy–from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management…” If you believe your loved one died due to medical negligence during her pregnancy, labor, childbirth or the postpartum period, please contact us at 877-262-9767.

Exploring Spastic, Ataxic, and Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

What is Spastic Cerebral Palsy?

Spastic cerebral palsy is a type of cerebral palsy characterized by jerky movements, muscle tightness and joint stiffness. Often caused by brain damage before, during, or shortly after birth, spastic cerebral palsy affects the normal development of motor function, as the damaged part of the brain sends the wrong neurological messages. Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form of the condition, affecting as many as 80% of children with cerebral palsy.

There are three types of spastic cerebral palsy: spastic quadriplegia, spastic diplegia, and spastic hemiplegia. Spastic quadriplegia causes difficulty controlling movements in the arms, legs, torso, and face. Spastic diplegia is characterized by a tightness or stiffness, mostly in the lower extremities, while spastic hemiplegia usually affects one side of the body

The most noticeable spastic cerebral palsy symptoms are developmental delays in movement, including difficulties rolling over, sitting up, crawling, standing, and walking. People with the condition also may have stiff muscles (hypertonia) and exaggerated movements. Other symptoms of cerebral palsy may include abnormal gait and/or involuntary movements.

Spasticity is due to damage to the motor cortex of the brain, which can happen before, during, or after birth. Often, this is a result of medical negligence. Cerebral palsy is one of the most serious birth injuries that may occur as a result of medical malpractice.

Fortunately, spastic cerebral palsy is not a progressive condition, meaning the condition will not get worse over time. However, symptoms and pain may change with severity, so prompt cerebral palsy diagnosis is important.

What Is Ataxic Cerebral Palsy?

Ataxic cerebral palsy affects between 5-10% of people with cerebral palsy. Individuals with ataxia struggle with their sense of balance and depth perception, causing unsteady, shaky movements and difficulties maintaining balance. Ataxic cerebral palsy symptoms also include speech and oral problems, such as “scanning speech” and difficulty swallowing.

The condition is caused by damage to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls motor function. Damage to the cerebellum may be caused by infections in the womb, loss of oxygen at birth, head trauma during or after birth, or fetal stroke.

What is Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy?

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy (also called athetoid cerebral palsy) is characterized by slow writhing movements (athetosis), twisting movements (dystonia), or irregular/unpredictable movements (chorea). These movement are particularly noticeable when a person with the condition attempts to move. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy affects only about 6% of people with the condition. When present in only one part of the body, the condition is called focal dystonia. When symptoms are affect the whole body, it is known as generalized dystonia.

This form of cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the basal ganglia, the brain’s “switchboard” for regulating messages relaying voluntary movements. The basal ganglia also regulates emotion, mood and behavior.

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy causes include neonatal strokes, untreated jaundice and hyperbilirubinemia, maternal medical complications, and injury during delivery.

Is There a Cure of Cerebral Palsy?

Presently, no cure exists for cerebral palsy; however many types of treatments are available for people with the condition. Medication and physical, speech, or occupational therapies are the most common treatments. Early intervention is important to help with developmental and social skills, which may improve quality of life.

Are There Any Assistive Devices for Cerebral Palsy?

Equipment for children with cerebral palsy can help to improve mobility, independence, and quality of life. Mobility devices for cerebral palsy include orthotic devices, crutches and canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. For individuals who struggle with communication, speech generating devices help to connect them with family, friends, and their environment. High tech communication devices also allow individuals to translate skills they have, such as eye gaze, into language. These devices can be used to help children with cerebral palsy in school, in social situations, and in everyday life.

How Do I Know if My Child has Cerebral Palsy Because of a Birth Injury?

A birth injury lawyer can help you determine if you have a birth injury claim, so please call us at 877-262-9767 for a free consultation. You may be entitled to compensation, which may help to cover medical bills to get your child the treatment he or she needs.

Telethon Features Student Guest Anchors with Disabilities

The annual Meeting Street Telethon took place on January 26, 2019, to raise money for children—many with special needs—in the Rhode Island and Massachusetts areas. The telethon was attended by hundreds, viewed by tens of thousands, and raised money for children who receive outpatient rehabilitation services at Meeting Street’s campuses. This year, students and children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy and cortical blindness were featured as telethon anchors. Last year, the telethon raised over $1 million.

A Deeper Dive into the Rise in Maternal Death—When Hospitals Blame Mothers

Last summer, USA Today unveiled results of an investigation into the shockingly high rates of maternal mortality and injury in the U.S. The investigation revealed that more than 50,000 mothers are severely injured during the labor and delivery process, and up to 700 mothers die each year due to childbirth complications. Dubbed “the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth,” the U.S. has fallen far behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to maternal care. Perhaps most eye-opening, however, is that half of these adverse outcomes could have been prevented. Hypertension and hemorrhaging were among the top causes of preventable maternal death reported in the investigation.

This year, USA Today delved into another aspect of maternal death, analyzing billing data from 7 million births from 13 states and finding that complication rates were at least double the norm in one out of every eight hospitals. According to the analysis, hospitals have historically blamed the increase in maternal deaths and injuries on reasons out of their control—namely, due to poverty and pre-existing medical problems, placing blame on the mothers. However, data collected in USA Today’s database shows that delays in providing care, failures to follow proper safety measures, and misdiagnosis contribute heavily to America’s maternal death epidemic.

Where in the U.S. are Maternal Death and Injury Rates Highest?

In USA Today’s analysis, severe maternal morbidity (SMM) rates were studied in 13 states, with the highest rates seen in Louisiana. Other states with high SMM rates include California, New York, Texas, and Kentucky. In 120 hospitals—about one in eight of the hospitals studied—women experienced potentially deadly deliveries at least twice as often as at the typical hospital.

Particularly, this investigation showed that maternity complications occurred with high frequency at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans, compared to most hospitals. At Touro, a 21-year-old mother passed away following delayed care by medical staff after the premature birth of her son. Another expectant mother showing signs of infection after a stillbirth was given tests administered by trainee doctors—later determined to be of questionable merit—and ended up needing to have her hands and legs amputated. Another woman nearly bled to death after doctors in training performed a C-section. Touro is one of the 120 hospitals studied where mothers suffer severe complications at far higher rates.

Investigating the Causes—and Excuses—of Maternal Death

Touro, along with many other hospitals in the analysis, serves a predominately black community.

Nationally, black mothers suffer severe complications twice as often as white mothers, and are dying from childbirth at three to four times the rate of white mothers.  Touro, in a statement to USA Today, noted it serves a “medically vulnerable” patient population and that “[l]ifestyle diseases, the high cost of healthcare, delaying or non-compliance with medical treatment, limited care coordination, poor health, high rates of poverty and high rates of morbidity…” impact the community they serve.  Safety advocates find the hospital’s response troubling as it appears to place the blame on the mothers instead of the medical care provided by the hospital.

Comparing demographics from cities with high poverty rates and larger black communities, SMM rates were not always the same.  Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, a hospital surrounded by poverty whose patients share similar race and Medicaid status as Touro, has a 1.4% rate of childbirth complications, matching the norm across the U.S. Compared to Touro’s 2.8% rate of childbirth complications, it is evident that patient demographics such as race and poverty may not play as large a role in SMM rates as some hospitals purport.

Additionally, at Touro and the hospitals with the highest SMM rates, all mothers experienced life-threatening deliveries more often. At the outlier hospitals, complication rates were higher for mothers with health insurance, and white mothers had a three-time higher likelihood of experiencing potentially fatal complications at the same hospitals.

Out of the 120 hospitals studied, almost half are training sites for OB/GYN residency programs—and half of those hospitals have poor accreditation histories that include probations, warnings, or both. Just outside of New York City, Westchester Medical Center has a maternal complication rate double that of New York’s state average, and three times the median of all hospitals examined in the investigation. “Here, all are considered high-risk,” the communications director of the hospital said. Westchester Medical, like Touro, is primarily a teaching hospital where the majority of patients have underlying medical problems.  At University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, where the SMM rate is 6.9% (more than four times the median of hospitals studied), officials explained that its patients were uniquely complex.  It is time that hospitals are held accountable for their high SMM rates instead of blaming the mothers to which they provide care.

What Should I do if I lost a Loved one During Childbirth?

If you lost a loved one during the labor and delivery process, please call us at 877-262-9767. An experienced, caring birth injury attorney can discuss your potential claim with you. We offer free consultations.

What Is Neonatal Therapeutic Hypothermia?

Neonatal therapeutic hypothermia is a treatment where an infant’s body temperature is gradually reduced to decrease the chances of brain damage following oxygen deprivation at birth. Infants that experience a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain during the labor and delivery process may be at increased risk for a brain injury. This type of cooling therapy for newborns slows down the metabolic processes that cause cell death—thus, potentially reducing the severity of the brain damage.

What is Cooling Therapy for Newborns?

Cooling therapy for newborns is recognized as the standard of care to decrease brain injury in term infants with perinatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE. HIE is due to a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the baby’s brain and may cause brain damage. Since the 1960’s, physicians have determined that cooling a baby’s head or body (hypothermia) during the latent phase of the tissue injury could reduce the damage caused by hypoxic-ischemic injury.

When blood flow to the brain is disrupted, severe cellular damage may result. By lowering the body temperature, the demand for oxygen is also lowered. A reduction in brain temperature can slow down or stop the advancement of HIE—decreasing mortality rates and severe disabilities, as well as improving neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Brain hypothermia (HIE cooling) is achieved by placing a water-filled cooling cap fitted around the infant’s head. Total body cooling is achieved by placing fluid-filled blankets or cool packs around the newborn in order to reduce the baby’s body temperature to between 89.6 and 95 degrees and maintaining this temperature without interruption for 72 hours. When the baby’s temperature is brought back up, it is done so very slowly until normal body temperature is achieved.  Since some hospitals do not have the ability to provide therapeutic hypothermia, babies in need of the treatment should be typically quickly transferred to a hospital that can provide a higher level of care.

Understanding HIE Cooling

In order for HIE cooling to be most effective, the treatment should be applied within six hours of birth—this is part of the standard of care for cooling infants with moderate or severe HIE. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, however, suggests that cooling therapy applied within six to 24 hours after birth may also be effective. By lowering the infant’s body temperature, as discussed above, cells are able to recover, and further damage prevented, thereby decreasing injury severity and permanence of the brain damage. The entire cooling therapy process takes place over the course of three full days.

If a medical professional or hospital failed to provide head and body cooling therapy for an infant in need within the appropriate time, they may be held accountable for a birth injury or for causing an exacerbation of an existing birth injury that occurred as a result of failing to provide cooling. Call us today at 877-262-9767 to speak with a birth injury lawyer if you believe your child suffered a birth injury related to HIE cooling (neonatal therapeutic hypothermia).

The following reviews from our clients do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of another legal matter. The cases mentioned in the reviews are illustrative of some of the matters previously handled by Grant & Eisenhofer involving various areas of birth injury law. These reviews are endorsements.


The following reviews from our clients do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of another legal matter. The cases mentioned in the reviews are illustrative of some of the matters previously handled by Grant & Eisenhofer involving various areas of birth injury law. These reviews are endorsements.

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