Sometimes, women may go into labor before the 40th week of their pregnancies. Since babies are often not fully developed until that point, premature births may result in serious short-term and long-term complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that preterm-related causes played a part in 35 percent of all infant deaths in 2010 alone. In order to avoid potentially serious health problems for the infant, it is important that their health care providers take proper steps and precautions to ensure mothers reach full term. Failure to do so could be considered medical malpractice.
There are a number of factors, which may result in premature births. Among the most common include maternal infections, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and maternal anorexia or maternal obesity. Some preterm births may be avoided, however, if physicians diagnose, treat and monitor these, and other, maternal conditions.
Infants may suffer a range of short-term complications due to being preterm. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the most common include the following:
- Hypotension, patent ductus arteriosus, and other heart problems
- Bleeding in the brain
- Necrotizing enterocolitis, and other gastrointestinal problems
- Blood problems, such as infant jaundice and anemia
- Respiratory distress syndrome, and other breathing problems
Additionally, premature babies may have a greater risk for developing infections due to underdeveloped immune systems. Since they do not have the same stored body fat as full-term infants, preterm babies may also have temperature control problems. This can lead to hypothermia.
While some of the birth injuries that may result due to premature deliveries resolve or heal with time, others may have lasting implications. According to the Mayo Clinic, preterm babies may suffer from impaired cognitive skills, as well as vision and hearing problems. In some cases, premature births may also contribute to the development of cerebral palsy. Furthermore, children who experienced preterm births may also be more likely to have behavior or psychological problems, and to suffer chronic health issues.
Depending on the severity of their birth injuries, children who are born prematurely may require extensive, and potentially ongoing, medical treatment. If their injuries could have been prevented if their births had been delayed, the health care professionals involved could be held liable. As such, those whose children suffered birth injuries following a preterm birth may benefit from consulting with an attorney.