« Return to News

The 4 Main Types of Obstetrics Claims (Part 1)

While there are a number of different potential areas of liability in birth injury claims, there are four that we see most often. Over the next four weeks we will be posting a series of blog posts about the most common obstetrics claims.

Oxygen deprivation during labour and delivery

Much of what is done in the labour and delivery process is to ensure that the baby is not suffering from oxygen deprivation through a slowing or complete stoppage of blood flow, which can cause a permanent brain injury called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). HIE is one cause of cerebral palsy. HIE may occur through a variety of mechanisms including a pinching of the umbilical cord during the delivery process or separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus, which reduces the blood flow to the baby.

Many years ago, it was discovered that a fetus would show, through its heart rate, that it was suffering from oxygen deprivation in the womb. As time went by, it became standard to monitor the fetal heart rate during the labour and delivery process in order to ensure that the baby was not suffering from oxygen deprivation. Now, the standard in most hospitals is continuous electronic fetal heart monitoring.

Electronic fetal heart monitoring is real-time information about how the baby is doing. It is expected that doctors and nurses pay close attention to the fetal heart rate and its patterns, and if the baby’s heart rate is not as expected and does not respond to other interventions, to move towards delivery, even proceeding by caesarean section if required to relieve the oxygen deprivation. If the baby shows a concerning heart rate pattern that is not relieved by other interventions, and the doctors and nurses do not move quickly towards delivery, then liability can arise.

The AT-B v Mah case which was successfully prosecuted by Weir Bowen is an example of oxygen deprivation in labour.




By Shelagh McGregor