Potential Issues Raised by New Birthing Center

In February, an Illinois licensing board granted an operating permit to PCC South Family Health Center, enabling it to open the state’s first free-standing birthing center in the town of Berwyn, following a prolonged campaign by midwives and a pilot program authorized in 2007.

The birthing center will be staffed by certified nurse midwives, licensed birth assistants, and doulas (also known as “labor coaches”). Clinic physicians should be available as backup resources in an emergency, and patients will presumably be transferred to nearby medical centers if a critical care situation arises.

Expectant Illinois mothers will now have an option for birthing care that previously was unavailable to them, but the new center will likely bring with it new legal questions about the standard of care expected for such a facility, what kinds of professional conduct or omissions will constitute a breach of that standard, and what kinds of damages might be suffered as a direct and proximate result of any delay or mistake in emergency transfers to full-service hospitals.

No matter where an expectant mother gets her care, she needs to have available to her qualified professionals who can recognize and promptly react to the many kinds of complications that can arise at any point in the pregnancy or birthing process.

While no comprehensive list of risks can be feasibly presented in a blog post, it would be wise for all birthing centers to be prepared to deal with:

  1. Preterm labor and premature delivery, which can be dangerous to a baby whose lungs, intestines or other organs have not yet fully developed.
  2. Prolonged labor, which occurs in a small percentage of women, increasing complication risks, including risk of infection when birth does not follow soon after the amniotic sac ruptures.
  3. Abnormal presentation, which occurs when the baby is not properly positioned for a “head first” delivery, which can result in tearing of the birth canal, uterine damage to the mother, and injuries to the child.
  4. Umbilical cord issues, such as entanglement with the child or protrusion through the cervix or vagina, which can be critically dangerous.
  5. Embolisms in the mother from amniotic fluid or other factors, which can result in rapid or irregular heart rhythms, shock, cardiac arrest or death.
  6. Preeclampsia, which is a complication that results in high blood pressure and, potentially, consequent injuries to the mother or baby.
  7. Excessive uterine bleeding as a result of abnormal labor or delivery.
  8. Placental issues, which are common in pregnancies that go beyond the expected term and can result in the baby not getting sufficient or proper nutrition late in the pregnancy.
  9. Sudden or significant onset of gestational diabetes, which occurs in more than two percent of pregnancies, and can result in stillbirth, preeclampsia, and other complications, including death.

The bottom line for birthing centers and their patients is that professional standards of care will need to be observed, and the processes and staffing at the centers should be designed to insure that mothers and their babies are provided with safe and effective medical care, no matter what kind of scenario arises.

If you or your child has suffered an injury related to the care you received during or after pregnancy, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to speak with a qualified personal injury attorney who can help you determine if and how you might have been harmed, and what you can do about it. You can also check out our Website for more information about our law firm, Cogan & Power, P.C.