A: 5 WAYS TO KNOW YOUR BABY MIGHT BE VICTIM OF MEDICAL MALPRACTICE 1. Your doctor fails to recognize that your baby is in distress during labor Most pregnant women who arrive at a hospital are attached to monitoring devices. These devices, also known as tocolytic monitors, are for the benefit of the doctors and nurses to monitor the baby's heartbeat and the mother's contractions. The electronic wave forms that are typically seen on these devices and the hard-copy printout, are commonly referred to as "fetal monitoring strips." These strips provide crucial information to your doctor about how the baby is doing in the uterus, and how the baby reacts to the stresses of contractions. When the contractions cause stress to the baby, the baby can react by showing an increase in heartrate. When the stresses to the baby are significant, or when insufficient oxygen is getting to the baby, there are certain signs that become evident on these fetal monitoring strips, that a physician and/or a nurse should be able to recognize and act upon. Decreased fetal movement, abnormal baseline heartrate, incomplete return of the baby's heartrate to baseline, inconsistent and abnormal reaction to contractions are just some of the warning signs that should trigger action in your doctor and nurse. One common scenario is when the labor floor gets busy and neither the nurses nor the doctors are present to see that the baby may be in distress. When fetal distress occurs, the baby is deprived of life-giving oxygen. If prolonged, the baby may suffer irreversible brain damage with permanent life-long disability. 2. Your doctor has to perform an emergency c-section The only reason a doctor will perform an emergency c-section is when the baby is in extreme distress, and the baby needs to be removed immediately. The question becomes: Why is the baby in so much distress? This is not an easy question to answer. There could be many reasons for fetal distress. In some cases it may be from failure to recognize the distress. In other cases, it may be the the uterus is tearing apart and the baby is not getting enough oxygen. There might be a tight cord around the baby's neck causing a decreased heartrate. The important thing to remember is that when you have an emergency c-section, make sure you or your spouse ask why. The response will typically be that the baby is having a problem and needs to come out now. Then ask what the problem is and whether it was present before. Your attorney will need to go through your medical records and your baby's records carefully to see what problems you may have been experiencing during your labor. The records will also have be thoroughly reviewed by a qualified and board certified obstetrician to see if there was evidence of malpractice and whether that malpractice (otherwise known as a departure from good and accepted medical care) was a substantial factor in causing and producing your baby's injuries. 3. Your baby is not crying when born There may be different reasons for why the baby is not crying at the time of birth. Typically, a normally healthy child cries at the time of delivery. This accomplishes two important things: (1) The baby's lungs expand, and (2) It allows the baby to breathe on its' own immediately at birth. When there is no cry at birth, the baby's cry reflex may be stifled, diminished, or absent. This may be from a brain injury from lack of oxygen, or some other condition that needs immediate and emergent medical intervention. A failure to cry at birth could signify an airway obstruction, a brain injury, lack of oxygen or a host of other medical problems- each one needing immediate attention. Hopefully, with a little aggressive rubbing and stimulation, the baby's cry reflex kicks into action and the baby "pinks up" and looks healthy. 4. Your baby isn't moving one of its' arms at birth The failure of your baby to move one of its' arms at birth could indicate that the nerve that controls arm movement may have been traumatized or injured. This nerve is commonly known as the brachial plexus nerve. Damage to this nerve during a delivery can result in a condition known as "Erb's palsy" or "Klumpke's palsy." An injury to the baby's arm could be transient, meaning that it's a temporary thing, or it could be more significant and have permanent repercussions. This type of injury can occur with a condition known as "shoulder dystocia." This is a term doctors use to describe the baby's shoulders becoming stuck in the birth canal. When that happens, there are specific obstetrical maneuvers the doctors should use to help the baby out, without having to pull on the stuck arm or shoulder. Sometimes, when the maneuvers are not done properly, or not done at all, injury to the baby's arm can result in significant permanent damage. 5. Your baby has breathing difficulties Breathing difficulties can result from prematurity, where your baby is born too early. It can also result from insufficient oxygen during birth. The exact cause of why your baby may have breathing problems requires intensive investigation. These tips are provided to make you a better and more informed consumer of your own health and your family's health. As always, any questions concerning the possibility that you might be a victim of improper medical care should be investigated with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer immediately.