Every year, around one in ten American babies are born prematurely. These infants, often called “preemies,” can face many challenges both immediately after birth and as they grow up. Fortunately, preterm labor can sometimes be prevented or delayed with proper prenatal care.
Preterm labor is when a woman’s body prepares to give birth between the 20th and 37th week of pregnancy. During this process, regular contractions and thinning and dilation of the cervix usually occur. Women may feel these contractions as more of a tightening or cramping sensation and not necessarily painful. Sometimes the woman’s water will break, and there may be a change in the type or volume of vaginal discharge. Preterm labor can sometimes be predicted, and there are things doctors can do to mitigate these risks. In addition, going into preterm labor doesn’t automatically mean that a woman will have a preterm birth, so proper prenatal care and immediate medical intervention when preterm labor begins are essential for a baby’s survival.
When preterm labor leads to preterm birth, the infant’s gestational age determines how likely the baby is to survive outside the womb. Babies born at 25 weeks are considered “micro-preemies” and have a 75-85 percent chance of survival. They often require long stays in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Because their organs aren’t fully developed, they often require respiratory support and may be on a ventilator if their lungs have not developed well enough to breathe on their own. If their digestive system is too immature to absorb nutrition, they will be fed intravenously before being upgraded to a feeding tube. These micro-preemies have difficulty regulating their blood pressure, body temperature, and blood sugar levels, so hospital staff often have to carefully balance these levels for them.
In the short term, micro-preemies are prone to several potential complications that can be catastrophic if not managed appropriately. Babies born at 25 weeks can develop intraventricular hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) because the blood vessels in their brains are very fragile and can rupture easily. Another condition, called necrotizing enterocolitis, can happen when the baby’s immature digestive system becomes infected and begins to die. Micro-preemies can also have a heart condition called patent ductus arteriosus, which can affect how blood flows through the baby’s lungs. Micro-preemies’ eyes can also be damaged as their bodies attempt to compensate for their early birth by growing too quickly, causing damage to their retinas.
While many micro-preemies go on to live completely normal and healthy lives, some infants live with permanent health issues. Cerebral palsy, chronic lung disease, developmental delays, digestive problems, and vision or hearing loss are all possible when a baby is born at 25 weeks.
When it comes to preterm labor, proper prenatal care is essential. Many factors are associated with an increased risk of preterm labor, such as:
The pregnancy must be monitored closely when one or more of the risk factors are present. Sometimes, treatment is provided to reduce the odds of preterm labor or to increase the infant’s survival if preterm birth occurs:
Preterm labor, particularly at 25 weeks, can be catastrophic if not managed properly. If you experienced signs of preterm labor that your doctor dismissed or ignored, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Suppose your doctor did not follow proper protocols for dealing with your high-risk pregnancy or did not provide recommended medications to delay your labor or reduce the risks of preterm birth. In that case, your doctor’s negligence may have contributed to any complications resulting from their inaction.
Because treatments aren’t necessarily appropriate in all situations, it’s essential to consult a specialist to determine whether another competent doctor following current medical recommendations would have provided a different outcome for you and your baby. If you believe that your preterm labor was avoidable or that your baby's complications could have been prevented with proper prenatal care from a different physician, then look for an attorney specializing in medical malpractice and birth injuries.
Ross Feller Casey and its leading birth injury lawyers are here for you when catastrophe strikes. Our team knows how to get results in medical malpractice cases and has the track record to prove it. We’ve recovered over $3 billion for our clients, including hundreds of multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements. We have Ivy League-trained doctor-lawyers on staff, so we understand the intricacies of preterm labor lawsuits. We’ve taken on major corporations, leading hospitals, and top insurance companies, and we’re ready to do it again for you. Contact us today for your free consultation.
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