Go Home and Relax? Hospital Misdiagnoses of Early Labor Pains

by annbailey on September 10, 2013

The late stages of pregnancy are filled with uncertainty about when the baby will arrive. Labor may occur much sooner than the standard nine months; Amilla Taylor famously arrived into the world a mere 21 weeks and six days after conception. When it comes to identifying false labor pains, real labor pains, and the signs that one is having an emergency, most mothers defer to their physicians and other medical professionals. But when doctors and nurses fail to recognize the signs of early labor or of an emergency, the consequences can be severe.

Early Labor Pain v. False Pains v. Emergencies

Normal early labor pains manifest themselves as contractions, which feel different from woman to woman. It is generally described as a strong feeling of menstrual cramps or dull aches in the lower back and abdomen. These aches appear and disappear steadily and consistently, appearing and disappearing irrespective of the mother’s position or activities. Over time, these contractions will slowly become stronger and more frequent.

False labor pains, otherwise known as Braxton Hicks contractions, are also relatively common. Unlike normal labor pains, Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular in duration and severity. Unlike a true contraction, the time intervals do not become steadily closer, but fluctuate depending upon the mother’s position and her activities. If contractions mysteriously disappear when walking or resting, it is unlikely that the mother is truly in labor.

Warning signs that something may be wrong include sudden bouts of pain that persist beyond the duration of a contraction, pain in unusual areas, and blood appearing when the mother’s water breaks. These are all strong indicators that something is amiss and the mother should seek medical attention immediately. Other warning signs include a history of complications during pregnancy, which often recur during subsequent pregnancies.

Misidentification and the Consequences

While the pain may be intense and emotions may be running high, it is vital that pregnant mothers accurately relay the physical sensations that they experience and communicate clearly with medical personnel. Sensations should be described accurately; mothers must neither embellish nor minimize the extent to which they are feeling any certain sensation. Competent nurses and physicians should ask a variety of questions to discern the nature of these pains and any abnormal responses should be identified and taken seriously.

This does not always occur, however. In some cases, according to one NY birth injury lawyer, hospitals dismiss patient concerns as being benign or exaggerated. In other cases, overworked doctors and nurses at understaffed medical facilities simply lack the time necessary to provide an adequate level of patient care. Regardless of why it occurs, significant problems can occur if signs of labor or serious complications are dismissed as false labor pains.

These problems can include brain damage to the infant, internal bleeding inside the mother, stillbirth, and even the death of the mother. Recently, a 22 year old woman with a history including multiple miscarriages was rebuffed twice at a New York hospital after complaining of abdominal pains and pressure while 29-weeks pregnant. She eventually underwent a caesarean section days after her initial complaint; her internal membrane had ruptured and her child was born with cerebral palsy and brain damage, among other disorders.

Recourse for Injured Victims and Parents of Victims

The consequences of complications which arise as a result of early labor pains being dismissed by medical professionals can be devastating. If the child suffers a developmental disability, the parents’ lives will be complicated greatly; a severely developmentally disabled person may require assistance for the duration of his or her natural life. If the child dies, the parents will be left with a void that nothing could ever possibly fill. If the mother incurs a serious infection, she may be left permanently disabled.

Suing for medical malpractice will allow parents to pay for any special needs care that their child will require as well as any medical bills incurred. While monetary compensation is little consolation to parents placed in such a position through gross negligence, it allows them to begin building their new life. If you or someone you know has suffered an injury as a result of a medical professional failing to recognize labor, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.

Ann Bailey posts these tips for parents who’ve suffered when medical professionals breach their duties of care. With the help of a NY birth injury lawyer, such as The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., or an attorney local to where they live, parents may seek compensation for their injuries and for the injuries of their children in court.

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