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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).

Study: Diet High in Fish, Vegetables May Lower Risk of Preeclampsia

A new study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology suggests that a diet rich in fish and vegetables may lower the risk of developing gestational hypertension and preeclampsia during pregnancy.  The study analyzed responses given by over 55,000 pregnant women during interviews about their diet at 12 and 30 weeks gestation, as well as six and 18 months after birth. The results showed that women who ate ample fish and vegetables had a 14% decreased risk of developing gestational hypertension and a 21% decreased risk of developing preeclampsia. Conversely, women whose diet contained mostly potatoes, meat, white bread, and margarine had an 18% increased risk of developing gestational hypertension and a 40% increased risk of developing preeclampsia. “These latest findings are encouraging as it shows there are additional steps a woman can take to reduce her risk of these conditions by eating healthily,” noted Dr. Pat O’Brien of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

What is the Difference Between a Birth Defect and a Birth Injury?

Birth defects usually occur prior to birth, while birth injuries often occur during labor and delivery or shortly thereafter. Birth defects may result from genetics, chromosomal problems, medications the mother took during pregnancy, chemicals she was exposed to while pregnant, or infection. Birth injuries, on the other hand, may be caused by a failure of the physician to appropriately diagnose and/or respond to the condition of the mother or the baby. Birth injuries may also be caused by a failure of communication between doctors and other medical staff. In these cases, birth injuries may be preventable, and you may be able to hold those medical professionals responsible for the injury your child sustained.

What Are the Most Common Birth Injuries?

There are many different types of birth injuries, however some of the most common include cerebral palsy (caused by brain damage often occurring during the labor and delivery process),  hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) (a disorder characterized by a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain during labor or delivery), and brachial plexus injury (an injury to the nerves affecting the spinal cord, shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers). These injuries can be the result of negligence on part of the healthcare professionals delivering the baby, such as a delay in delivery or the improper use of vacuum or forceps.

How Do I Know if My Child has a Birth Injury or Birth Defect?

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.

Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage and is characterized as an impairment of the body’s ability to control movement and posture. Children affected by cerebral palsy may have trouble with motor coordination and cognition, ranging from moderate to acute, depending on the severity of the brain injury. While circumstances leading to the condition vary, a brain injury sustained at birth due to medical malpractice is a common cause of cerebral palsy.

Risk factors for the condition, however, are not causes or symptoms of cerebral palsy. Risk factors increase the likelihood that a child may develop cerebral palsy.

What are Some Risk Factors of Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy affects as many as 3 children per 1,000 in the U.S. and is one of the most common birth injuries. Medical conditions during pregnancy, for example, may increase the risk for cerebral palsy. Some common risk factors for cerebral palsy include:

  • Infant brain injury during the labor or delivery process (which may be caused by a healthcare professional)
  • Maternal infection or other medical conditions not monitored by the mother’s healthcare professional, such as high levels of protein in the urine (a sign of preeclampsia) or uterine rupture
  • Neonatal seizures (which may be caused by a lack of blood or oxygen to the brain)
  • Jaundice (a buildup of bilirubin in an infant’s body when, if left untreated, can lead to brain damage)
  • Premature birth (an infant born at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Low birth weight (babies born at less than 5.5 pounds, and especially infants weighing less than 3.5 pounds)
  • Multiples (delivering twins, triplets, or more)
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals during pregnancy

What can I do to Prevent Cerebral Palsy in my Child?

There are some steps you can take during pregnancy to prevent your child’s risk of developing cerebral palsy. Early (and regular) prenatal care is essential to a healthy pregnancy, as is attending all doctor appointments and voicing any concerns you have.

Sometimes, however, cerebral palsy occurs as a result of malpractice. This could be due to a failure to communicate among doctors and nurses, misuse of vacuum or forceps, failure of the physician to appropriately diagnose the condition of the mother or the baby, excessive dosage of a uterine stimulant drug such a Oxytocin/Pitocin, or other negligent actions on part of the medical staff that delivered your baby.

How do I Know if My Child Has Cerebral Palsy?

Some common signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy include difficulty feeding, reduced muscle tone, delay in reaching certain milestones such as rolling over or crawling, and walking on tip-toes. Making an appointment with your pediatrician to diagnose your child may help you get some clarity.

What Should I do if I Suspect my Child has Cerebral Palsy?

If you have noticed these symptoms in your child and you suspect he or she may have cerebral palsy as a result of malpractice, call us at 877-262-9767 to discuss your situation.

Woman with Cerebral Palsy Uses Lips to Type Online Literature

A 26-year old Chinese woman was diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to lack of oxygen at birth. While she cannot speak and is unable to move her limbs, she can move her head—which has enabled her to write online literature using only her lips to type on the computer. After several of her novels were published online, she became an online phenomenon and a public figure, winning several awards. Her works exceed 1.8 million Chinese characters, and she is now a contracted writer.

Maternal Deaths on the Rise, Black Women Face Higher Risk

According to the CDC, approximately 700 women in the U.S. die each year as a result of childbirth-related complications. More than half of those deaths could have been prevented. Perhaps equally as shocking is that the CDC cites the risk of pregnancy-related deaths for black women to be 3 to 4 times higher than those of white women.

With the rate of maternal deaths on the rise, maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs) have been established and legislation proposed to combat this devastating problem. State and local MMRCs assess maternal deaths and identify opportunities for prevention. Data collated from nine state MMRCs (Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Utah) estimated that over 60% of pregnancy-related deaths were preventable. Hemorrhage and cardiovascular and coronary conditions were the leading causes of death in the states studied.

If you lost a loved one during the labor and delivery process, please call us at 877-262-9767.

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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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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