A doctor's failure to properly manage a mother's health throughout pregnancy can lead to serious complications, both during delivery and once a baby is born.

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Michigan Prenatal Injury Attorneys

No two pregnancies are the same. A wide range of bodily changes occur; sometimes, an unremarkable condition in one person can be dangerous for another. Although it’s impossible to prevent every adverse outcome, many problems can be prevented if a mother’s care team accurately identifies, monitors, and treats potential issues during pregnancy.

Failure to provide proper prenatal care can harm the mother and put the baby at risk for developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, seizures, or even infant death. If a Michigan medical team is negligent in identifying or treating prenatal problems, they may be liable for the resulting injuries.

Prenatal Care Is Important for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth

Regular checkups with an obstetrician or family practice doctor are essential to monitor the baby’s development and the mother’s health. Medical professionals are responsible for conducting appropriate tests during each stage of development. Common prenatal tests include ultrasound, chorionic villus sampling, and amniocentesis. Obstetricians may recommend specialized testing for high-risk pregnancies.

Prenatal care visits should generally occur every month or so until 32 weeks. Most patients attend one or two additional prenatal care visits per month, depending on their circumstances and issues. Pregnancies deemed at risk for complications may require more frequent doctor visits.

Prenatal care should begin in the first trimester (twelve weeks) of pregnancy. However, pregnant women sometimes encounter barriers to timely prenatal care. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, 5.3 percent of Michigan live births in 2019 occurred with late or no prenatal care; in Detroit, the rate was 10.4 percent. Over 37 percent of mothers who started prenatal care after the first trimester but wanted to begin sooner reported that they could not get a timely prenatal care appointment.

Proper prenatal care is essential for mitigating the many risks of pregnancy. It allows doctors to identify any medical conditions or genetic defects that could harm the mother or the child. Without prenatal testing, serious problems can go undiagnosed and untreated. 

Types of Prenatal Issues

Routine screenings can help prevent complications during pregnancy and help doctors avoid dangerous situations before or during childbirth. Some common types of prenatal issues during pregnancy are:

  • Blood pressure problems.
  • Gestational diabetes.
  • Decreased blood flow to the baby.
  • Maternal infections.
  • Blood type incompatibility.

Along with monitoring the baby, the mother’s prenatal care team should address any concerns the mother has about her health. High-risk mothers should be referred to a specialist for additional care. 

A pregnancy may be considered high-risk for many reasons, including advanced maternal age, underlying health conditions, or a history of premature births. Failure to provide proper prenatal care for high-risk pregnancies may be considered medical negligence.

Blood Pressure Problems

Some mothers have high blood pressure, or hypertension, during pregnancy. Maternal hypertension can potentially harm the baby’s development and viability. The mother is at risk of suffering seizures if her condition worsens, or the baby may be born prematurely.

Hypertension can be either:

  • Chronic or long-term (starting before the pregnancy).
  • Gestational (beginning after the 20th week of pregnancy).

When high blood pressure problems are not properly diagnosed and treated, they can increase the risk of neonatal brain injury and infant death. A mother’s medical team should identify blood pressure problems and ensure appropriate treatment. An obstetrician might check the mother’s blood pressure more frequently, prescribe drugs to lower blood pressure or decide to deliver the baby before term.

Failure to control high blood pressure presents a risk of complications during and after delivery. Potentially life-threatening conditions related to high blood pressure include:

  • Preeclampsia: Gestational hypertension that involves a high protein level in the urine. 
  • Eclampsia: A condition that causes the mother to develop grand mal seizures.

A baby must sometimes be delivered immediately, regardless of how far the pregnancy has progressed, to protect a mother suffering from preeclampsia or eclampsia. Preeclampsia occurs in one in 25 pregnancies. 

Gestational Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that involves high levels of blood sugar or blood glucose. Diabetes that occurs during pregnancy in mothers who don’t already have the condition is called gestational diabetes. This condition affects up to 10 percent of pregnancies annually in the United States. When an obstetrician fails to manage the condition properly, it can cause complications and threaten the health of both mother and baby.

Unmanaged gestational diabetes can allow too much blood glucose to pass from the mother, causing the developing baby’s pancreas to produce extra insulin. This can lead to macrosomia (excessive fetal weight and size). Macrosomia can induce premature labor, accompanied by respiratory distress and breathing difficulties.

Gestational diabetes is associated with an increased risk of fetal death. The condition can also lead to ongoing health concerns for the mother, including postpartum type 2 diabetes and organ damage.

Decreased Blood Flow to the Baby

The umbilical cord connects a developing fetus to its mother’s bloodstream, delivering oxygen and nutrients necessary for brain development. When blood flow to the fetal brain is compromised for an extended period, known as ischemia, there is a risk of permanent damage. Lack of blood flow from mother to baby can occur due to:

  • Separation of the placental from the uterine wall (placental abruption).
  • Preeclampsia and eclampsia.
  • Abnormally rapid contractions.
  • Compressed umbilical cord.
  • Infections.

Lack of sufficient blood flow can lead to serious conditions, including hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (partial oxygen deprivation) or anoxic ischemic encephalopathy (total oxygen deprivation). When blood is diverted from other developing organs, like the liver and kidneys, to compensate for the lack of blood and oxygen to the fetal brain, permanent organ damage can occur.


Mothers with bacterial and viral infections during pregnancy risk transmitting those infections to the baby via the placenta. An infant may be infected before birth or by direct contact during labor and delivery. Infections can cause miscarriage, congenital disabilities, or neonatal complications. 

  • Group B streptococcus is a bacterial infection. An estimated one in every 2,000 babies in the United States is affected, although not every baby born to a mother who tests positive for the condition will become ill.
  • Genital herpes is a viral infection. Even if herpes is dormant in the mother, it may be transmitted during labor and delivery. This occurs in approximately one of every 3,200 deliveries, causing an estimated 1,500 cases of neonatal infections each year. The impact of the disease can be devastating.
  • Other common infections include salmonellosis, cytomegalovirus, varicella (chickenpox), erythema infectiosum (fifth disease), listeriosis, and toxoplasmosis.

Blood Type Incompatibility

In some pregnancies, a mother’s blood type differs from the baby’s. Rh incompatibility is identified via a test administered in the beginning stages of pregnancy.

Rh incompatibility can be dangerous because antibodies in the mother’s blood can attack the baby’s red blood cells and Rh antigens. If the antibodies enter the placenta, they can cause a wide range of problems, including:

  • Anemia.
  • Jaundice.
  • Fatigue.
  • Elevated bilirubin levels.
  • Low muscle tone.
  • Brain damage.
  • Heart failure.
  • Stillbirth or infant death.

Negligent Prenatal Care

Every mother hopes for a smooth pregnancy that ends with a healthy birth. No one wants to think about the possibility of a trusted doctor or medical professional failing to fulfill their duty. However, medical professionals can make mistakes, miscommunicate, or unintentionally harm patients through neglect.

Competent prenatal care is essential to safe pregnancy. Improper or inadequate care can lead to devastating consequences. Examples of prenatal care errors that can cause harm include:

  • Not ordering necessary tests.
  • Ignoring concerning symptoms.
  • Failing to refer a high-risk pregnancy to a specialist.
  • Inadequately monitoring the baby’s size and weight.
  • Missing signs of a serious condition, such as maternal hypertension.
  • Providing improper treatment.
  • Failing to screen for genetic defects or abnormalities.
  • Not conducting timely sonograms.
  • Misdiagnosing a health problem.

Contact Sommers Schwartz, P.C.’s Experienced Prenatal Injury Attorneys Today

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it also has significant risks. When a mother or baby suffers serious harm due to inadequate or negligent prenatal care, they may be able to pursue compensation through a medical malpractice claim. Such a claim can be filed against a hospital, birth center, clinic, doctor, nurse, or other medical professional.

If medical errors have jeopardized your health or your baby’s well-being, consult a Michigan prenatal injury attorney with deep experience in birth injury cases. For more than 30 years, Sommers Schwartz has obtained significant verdicts and settlements in complex birth injury cases. Our lawyers are ready to help you and your family.

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