Increasingly, medical experts and public health officials are noting that serious complications arising from childbirth are as frequently visited upon birth mothers as they are on newborns with severe birth injuries.
Although safety programs aimed at bettering birth-related outcomes have typically focused on infants in past years, health care advocates are now saying that a greater emphasis is beginning to be placed on assisting mothers during pregnancy. The goal is to take more purposeful and proactive steps to guard against delivery and post-birth complications such as hemorrhaging, kidney failure, cardiac arrest and respiratory distress.
"There is a clarion call now to address the problem of maternal complications," says the lead author of a recent CDC study on childbirth complications.
The reason for that is well established by findings central to the CDC study that indicate this: In recent years, emergencies during delivery have increased sharply across the country. Government researchers say that about 1,000 women suffer severe complications during delivery every week of the year.
That in turn leads to personal injury claims and medical malpractice lawsuits that both strain facilities' resources and undermine their credibility. It is estimated that, on average, more than one quarter of a hospital's annual payments made to resolve negligence claims are in response to pregnancy-related issues. A number of recent malpractice damage awards for injuries to mothers during childbirth have exceeded $20 million.
Hospital administrators are well aware of this, obviously, and many facilities are now participating in safety programs geared toward reducing adverse pregnancy outcomes. Those programs typically emphasize safety protocols and checklists to follow when an emergency arises during childbirth.
Hospitals participating in one national program have reportedly reduced their rate of liability claims by nearly 40 percent.
Source: Wall Street Journal, "Steep rise of complications in childbirth spurs action," Laura Landro, Dec. 10, 2012
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