Stillbirths are a devastating and heart-wrenching experience for any parent. Losing a baby before birth can be especially difficult, as parents often have not had the opportunity to bond with their child or prepare for their arrival. Unfortunately, in some cases, stillbirths are caused by medical negligence or malpractice.
According to ProPublica, “as many as one in four stillbirths are potentially preventable.” This means that some stillbirths occur because of negligence that could have been completely avoided, making these situations not only heartbreaking but also alarming. It is important that you understand what a stillbirth is, how malpractice can cause stillbirths, and what you may be able to do if it happens to you.
What is a stillbirth and how does it happen?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that a stillbirth is when a baby dies during or before being delivered. Most people may think that a stillbirth is the same as a miscarriage, but these two terms describe two different situations. A miscarriage typically happens before a woman is 20 weeks pregnant, and a stillbirth occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy. Over 20,000 babies are stillborn in the United States each year, meaning that stillbirth occurs in one in 175 births. Below, we will explain the different stages of a stillbirth.
- Early Stillbirth: Fetal death before the 27th week of pregnancy
- Late Stillbirth: Fetal death before the 36th week but after the 28th week of pregnancy
- Term Stillbirth: Fetal death after 37th week of pregnancy
There are certain risks that can increase your chances of having a stillborn baby. These often include the following:
- Blood pressure issues
- Umbilical cord issues
- Placental abruption
- Fetal distress
- Previous stillbirths
- Medical malpractice
- Birth defects
- Labor complications
- Pregnant with twins
- Over the age of 35
- Smoking, drinking, or doing drugs
Ways to prevent stillbirths
Every woman’s pregnancy and labor circumstances are different, but all medical professionals have been educated and trained on how to prevent stillbirths, no matter the type of pregnancy or labor a woman experiences. The following are a few simple methods that doctors utilize that could reduce the risk of a fetal death:
- Listen to the baby’s heartbeat at every single appointment to monitor it and ensure that it sounds normal and strong.
- Check the pregnant mother’s urine often to make sure there are no abnormalities or sicknesses that could hurt the baby.
- Use an electronic fetal non-stress test during the labor and birth. This test will allow the doctor to see the baby’s heartbeat, movement, and the pregnant mother’s contractions.
How is medical malpractice associated with stillbirths?
When risk factors are not addressed and a baby dies, medical negligence may have occurred. Stillbirths can sometimes be claimed as medical malpractice because the factors should have been promptly noticed and taken into account when treating the pregnant mother or her unborn child. Most of the time, medical professionals are found negligent if any complications were identified before labor began, but no actions were taken to take care of them.
Is there a way to tell what caused a stillbirth?
There are certain tests that can be performed to find out why your stillbirth occurred, including:
- Infection tests
- Blood tests
- Genetic tests
- Umbilical cord examinations
- Placenta and membrane examinations
Two key factors to prove a stillbirth was caused by medical malpractice
You may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit if you can prove that your stillbirth was due to negligence. There are two different ways that you may be able to successfully prove this, which include the following:
- The doctor or medical professional failed to utilize the proper knowledge, skills, or care expected when dealing with a pregnant woman and her unborn child.
- This failure of action caused the stillbirth.
If you believe that you do have a strong case for medical malpractice, you most likely will be asked to provide witness testimony to show that the level of care you received was below the normal standard of care that other patients receive in your situation. This means that if you have a witness that can state that you received below average care while pregnant, in labor, or while giving birth, your claim will most likely be valid. Our attorneys can help.
How our Mississippi medical malpractice attorneys can help
If your stillbirth was caused by medical malpractice, you may be dealing with a lot of emotional and physical trauma. Even though you have a lot on your plate already, it is common to want to seek justice in these types of cases. Therefore, you may be pleased to learn that you may be able to hold the individuals responsible for your stillbirth accountable for their actions.
The team at Merkel & Cocke, P.A. understand that you will never get over the loss of your child, but you may be able to receive financial compensation to help you get through the recovery process. We believe that it is very important to hold the healthcare professionals who caused your preventable stillbirth liable for their negligent actions, in hopes that it will not happen to other pregnant women and their unborn babies in the future.
If you have experienced a stillbirth and believe that it was the result of medical malpractice, the Mississippi attorneys at Merkel & Cocke, P.A. are glad to assist you. We will investigate, collect evidence, and build a strong case against the defendant. When it comes to these types of issues, our team works hard to ensure that justice is served, and that the healthcare professional cannot put other individuals through the same hardships that you are going through. Please visit our firm locations in Jackson, Clarksdale, Greenville, and Oxford. Call our office, or submit our contact form today, and we will help you schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our medical malpractice team.
Charles M. Merkel, III attended the University of Mississippi for his undergraduate and law degrees, graduating with honors from both. Upon graduation, he received the coveted position as a judicial law clerk for US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Jackson Division. Mr. Merkel joined Merkel & Cocke, P.A. in 2002, where he works with clients who have sustained serious injuries because of negligence, medical malpractice and defective products. He has received many honors, included being cited by Super Lawyers, National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys, and Best Lawyers in America. Learn more about Charles M. Merkel, III.