When we think about childbirth, it’s the health of the newborn we focus on most. But a new study suggests that the mother’s health may be jeopardized depending on the time of day the child is delivered and the type of hospital in which it occurs.

The risk of a birth-related injury or complication during labor and delivery is ever-present, and when physicians, nurses, and medical staff make mistakes, those errors can put the health of the mother and child in serious jeopardy, giving rise to a medical malpractice claim.


Research Shows the When and Where of Maternal Risks

A clinical study published in Risk Analysis sheds light on two significant factors that can increase the risk of a delivery complication for the mother – the time of day, and whether the hospital is a teaching hospital.

As reported in the New York Times (sub. req’d), researchers analyzed approximately two million births in Texas from 2005 to 2010, focusing on maternal complications that a hospital’s staff is reasonably expected to control:

  • Severe perineal laceration
  • Ruptured uterus
  • Unplanned hysterectomy
  • Admission to the intensive care unit
  • Unplanned surgical procedures following delivery

These complications occurred in more than 21,000 cases, with some surprising correlations. Compared to deliveries during the day on weekdays, the risk was 21 percent higher during night shifts, 9 percent higher on weekends, and 29 percent higher on holidays. At these times, hospitals are generally understaffed and less experienced doctors are on duty. The study also showed that complications in teaching hospitals were 28 percent higher in July when new residents typically begin their training.

The Experience of the Physician Is Critical

The data led researchers to conclude that having experienced doctors on duty when complications arise dramatically reduces the threat of harm to the mother and that, conversely, having inexperienced physicians on duty increases the risk of harm. They blamed scheduling for much of the problem, finding that assembling more competent teams offers a solution. For example, in a situation where two skilled physicians are assigned to a day shift and two “underskilled” physicians are posted to a night shift, substituting one skilled doctor for one underskilled doctor across shifts may equalize the overall complication rate. Having more capable teams could produce measurable improvement.

Consult with Accomplished Birth Injury Lawyers

Quality of care should not be determined by factors outside a delivering mother’s control, such as the time at which she gives birth. Healthcare providers have a responsibility to provide reasonable care to patients under the circumstances — when hospitals overwork and improperly coordinate their staffs, they breach that duty and expose patients to an excessive risk of harm.

If you, your child, or a loved one has been harmed due to a serious birth-related complication, you may be entitled to damages. Medical malpractice claims can be complex, so it’s essential that you consult with attorneys who are well-versed in medical issues and with a track record of successful results for their clients – like the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Birth Injury Litigation Group. Please contact us now to schedule a free and confidential consultation.