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The Trauma Parents Experience When Their Children are Injured at Birth

Complications during childbirth are traumatic for all involved— especially the parents. Physical trauma can happen to both the mother and the child. The family is often left with emotional pain and a financial burden when either the mother or the child is injured during birth. Precautions can be taken to ensure a safe pregnancy, but when caretakers fail to provide the proper care, complications occur that threaten the baby’s development and the mother’s well-being.

Complications with the Umbilical Cord

A nuchal cord is the term used when the umbilical cord wraps around a baby’s neck and nuchal cords are seen in about twenty-five percent of pregnancies. It rarely causes problems and fetal monitoring can detect abnormalities in the baby’s heart rate. If an abnormality is detected, doctors are able to keep a closer watch on the baby and determine whether or not the problem is cause for concern. If the umbilical cord is wrapped too tightly it can decrease the amount of oxygen the baby receives and brain damage can result.

Monitoring and Detecting Problems

Abnormalities such as a nuchal cord can be detected through an ultrasound. However, some issues cannot be detected this way and it is not until delivery that problems with the umbilical cord are discovered. A Doppler ultrasound is more accurate than a grey ultrasound and has a sensitivity of over 90 percent. If a Doppler ultrasound is ordered and it detects a problem, doctors can monitor the baby more closely.

If the problem is not detected until delivery, caretakers will need to work quickly and carefully in an effort to minimize the damage done to the child. If necessary, the mother will be asked to stop pushing while the baby’s neck is being freed from the cord— which can take a few minutes. If the umbilical cord is too tight, the attending physician will clamp and then sever the umbilical cord to unwrap it from the baby’s neck.

The Link between Complications at Birth and Cerebral Palsy

The lack of oxygen to the fetus is a major contributing factor to the development of cerebral palsy. When the umbilical cord wraps around the baby’s neck too tightly, it decreases the amount of oxygen the baby receives to the brain. If the brain is unable to receive oxygen, cells begin to die off and cerebral palsy may result. An example of improper response to a nuchal cord can be found in the delayed action taken by staff members at St. Michael’s Hospital, located in the United Kingdom, in the city of Bristol.

Physicians failed to take proper action after the discovery that a newborn was suffering from an extreme nuchal cord. The cord had wrapped itself around the baby’s neck twice and the child was unconscious due to lack of oxygen. It took health care providers about twenty minutes to resuscitate the newborn. The hospital has apologized for the incident that involved Ollie Lewis, the child of Neil Lewis and Charmaine Malcolm.

Neil and Charmaine have endured immense psychological trauma because of the lack of attention their baby was given during delivery. Doctors informed the couple that their son may only have a few months to live. Ms. Malcolm has explained to reporters just how traumatic it is to wake up every day wondering if this will be the last day she will spend with her baby. The couple has needed put their lives on hold in order to care for Ollie, creating a financial burden on the family because they are unable to work.

Mr. Lewis still wonders just what happened during the delivery and why more could not be done to prevent his son’s cerebral palsy. The University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust is working with the couple to find out what went wrong. They will be performing a full investigation of the incident and will share their findings with Mr. Lewis and Ms. Malcolm.  Meanwhile, the couple plans to seek compensation and the NHS Trust has agreed to support them fully.

Resources concerning nuchal cords, oxygen deprivation and cerebral palsy:

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