Pressured Into A C-Section And Suffering Complications? What Are Your Legal Options?

If you've recently given birth, you may still be basking in frequent drop-in visits from friends and gift deliveries to herald your new arrival. You're likely also taking any free time you can to grab a quick shower, a bite to eat, or even a solo walk around the block while your bundle of joy is being entertained by others. Unfortunately, some new mothers have a much harder time adjusting to life back home, particularly those who have experienced birth trauma following an unscheduled cesarean section that may have been performed without proper consent or even a valid medical reason. Read on to learn more about the factors that can cause doctors to encourage C-sections, as well as what you should do if you've suffered birth trauma at the hands of a C-section-happy obstetrician.

Why do physicians often encourage C-sections?

Once reserved only for situations in which the mother (or child's) life was in imminent danger, C-sections are becoming more popular among many physicians -- which is some cause for concern among birth experts, who often point to unscheduled vaginal deliveries as safest for both mother and child in most cases. A C-section rate of around 19 percent of all births worldwide seems to be the ideal, but the C-section rate in the U.S. is more than 10 percent higher than this standard, with only two of every three births taking place vaginally.

Many doctors encourage patients to have scheduled C-sections if they're concerned about the health of the baby (for example, if the mother is of advanced maternal age or has diabetes or another chronic health problem), or if the mother has previously had one or more C-sections. Although vaginal birth after a C-section (VBAC) is possible and safe in most cases, there is some risk of uterine rupture, which can cause malpractice-conscious physicians to shy away from recommending a less interventionist birth. Because a C-section is considered the last resort of birth medicine, doctors who seek C-sections on their patients are less likely to find themselves defending against a malpractice lawsuit as it is often assumed they did everything possible to ensure a good outcome.

Other physicians may point you toward an unscheduled C-section at the last minute if you've been induced and your baby is failing to progress down the birth canal, or if his or her heart rate is dropping and your doctor is concerned about continuing to labor naturally. And in some traumatic cases, you may be pressured into undergoing a C-section against your wishes without any good medical or physical reason for doing so.

What complications may you face if you've had an unscheduled C-section?

While an unplanned C-section may be a lifesaving necessity in emergency situations, it's not always ideal. Recovering from a C-section can be tough for both you and your baby, as you'll be limited from lifting heavy objects (sometimes even including your baby) for the first few weeks, while your child may be dealing with respiratory distress that could have been prevented by having his or her lungs squeezed while exiting the birth canal. You may develop an infection at the incision site, or even find yourself dealing with a section of skin or muscle that has popped back open after the sutures or staples are removed.

Having a C-section may also limit the number of children you'll be able to bear. Having one's uterus cut open on multiple occasions can lead to a buildup of scar tissue, putting you at a greater risk of uterine rupture with each subsequent pregnancy. Women who have undergone four or more C-sections have a risk of emergency hysterectomy that is nearly 2.5 times higher than those who have undergone four or more vaginal deliveries.

What are your legal options if you've suffered complications from an unwanted or unnecessary C-section?

If you feel you've been pressured into a C-section against your will, you'll want to consult an attorney. Even if your baby turned out to be perfectly healthy, you may be dealing with short- or long-term complications that can necessitate ongoing treatment. Seeking insurance funds to help you pay for the treatment you need and other costs you may have incurred while recovering (such as a cleaning service, meals out, or other minor conveniences) can give you some much-needed breathing room in your new budget while holding the doctor accountable for his or her error.

Fortunately, attitudes toward the use of unscheduled C-sections for non-emergency births may be shifting already -- and one proposal for a nationwide injury compensation fund could help many physicians feel more comfortable recommending or assisting with a VBAC without increasing their risk of a malpractice claim. As more women who have suffered C-section-related birth trauma go public with the mistreatment they've experienced and shed light on these issues, more women may feel comfortable speaking up before going under the knife.

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