It doesn’t matter if it’s your first grandchild or your 15th: finding out your daughter is expecting is an exciting time for any grandparent. That’s what makes complications and tragedies in childbirth all the more troubling. When your daughter faces major health concerns - especially concerns like cardiac arrest - in her labor and delivery, it’s only natural for you to want to understand what happened. In tragic cases where your daughter has died in labor or in cases where she’s survived but suffered severe neurologic injury unnecessarily, the first thing you need to look into is the anesthesia. Bottom line, any time a mother dies during the course of delivery, you should call into question the anesthesia process.
Types of Anesthesia
Understanding your daughter’s situation starts with understanding how anesthesia works in labor and delivery. Today, it’s usually regional anesthesia that’s being used - either an epidural or a spinal or a combined spinal/epidural (CSE). The epidural gets inserted between the bony spiny column and the dura, which covers the spinal fluid. The spinal gets inserted into the spinal column where the fluid is; this does the same thing as an epidural, but more directly. Generally speaking, these treatments are safe, with none of the medication reaching the baby, and the mother being able to stay cognitively and physically aware of what’s going on. Yet in some cases, there are complications that can lead to problems, even major ones.
How Things Can Go Wrong
One of the potential downsides of regional anesthesia is that, with overly numbed muscles, the mother might not be able to push as well. This leads doctors to use things like forceps or vacuums to help the labor progression and to deliver it. In some cases, it may lead to Caesarean sections. Another problem is what’s called a wet tap: When the epidural is getting administered, the medical professionals can’t find the space to insert the needle and they end up putting it into the dura, right where the fluid is, causing the fluid to leak out. This is a problem because it can cause severe headaches until that leak is closed or enough fluid is given to offset the loss.
But the problem that relates to cardiac arrest is the high spinal. This happens when, in the course of trying to do an epidural or epidural/spinal combination, the inserted medication doesn’t go down to the muscles of the pelvis and the uterus but rather travels up to parts of the body that make it hard for the mother to breathe. She may have what’s called a vascular collapse, or she may have a cardio-respiratory arrest, which in rare cases can be fatal. Any time this occurs, it’s a problem and something worth looking into.
If you feel your daughter’s or other loved one’s labor and delivery involved some sort of medical malpractice, talk to an attorney who specializes in these types of cases such as those at Ross Feller Casey.