When Should You File a Lawsuit for Insufficient Prenatal Care?
Insufficient prenatal care can pose significant risks to an unborn child. Proper prenatal care is one of the most crucial factors in ensuring that a mother can give birth to a healthy baby. Inadequate care by doctors in Elko, and throughout the state, may result from issues such as poor communication, organizational problems, fatigue, patient overload, and human error.
However, families have the right to seek compensation to address the financial and other damages they may have suffered because of poor prenatal care.
Overview of Prenatal Care in Nevada
Prenatal care is the medical assistance one receives during pregnancy. As soon as you find out that you are pregnant, contact your provider and schedule your first prenatal care checkup. During each visit, your healthcare provider will monitor you and your baby’s growth. It is essential to attend all prenatal care checkups, even if you feel fine.
Early and consistent prenatal care can aid in having a healthy pregnancy and a full-term baby. A full-term baby is born between 39 weeks (one week before your due date) and 40 weeks, 6 days (one week after your due date). A full-term birth allows your baby to have the necessary time in the womb to grow and develop properly.
There are various healthcare professionals who provide prenatal care. These include:
- Obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) – a physician who is trained in taking care of pregnant women and delivering babies.
- Family practice doctor or family physician – a physician who can attend to the healthcare needs of every member of your family. This doctor can provide care to you before, during, and after pregnancy.
- Maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist – an OB/GYN with education and training in caring for women with high-risk pregnancies. If you have health conditions that may cause problems during pregnancy, your provider may refer you to an MFM specialist.
- Certified nurse-midwife (CNM) – a nurse with education and training in caring for women of all ages, including pregnant women.
- Family nurse practitioner (FNP) or women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP) – a nurse with education and training in caring for every member of your family, including pregnant women.
The frequency of prenatal care you receive depends on your stage of pregnancy and the likelihood of complications. Generally, if you are between 18–35 years old and healthy, the prenatal care recommendations are check-ups once per month between weeks 4 and 28, twice per month between weeks 28 and 36, and once per week between weeks 36 and 40 of pregnancy.
If you have a high-risk pregnancy or experience complications, your healthcare provider may need to schedule more frequent checkups.
Prenatal Care for a Healthy Pregnancy
Getting proper prenatal care is crucial for maintaining good health during pregnancy. Your doctor, nurse, or midwife will keep an eye on your baby’s growth. He or she will also carry out routine testing to identify and prevent potential issues.
During your initial prenatal appointment, your doctor will inquire about your health history and your family’s health history. He or she will also conduct a physical exam, pelvic exam, pap test, and breast exam, as well as test your blood and urine, check your blood pressure, breathing, pulse, height, and weight, and calculate your due date.
During subsequent prenatal visits, your doctor will monitor your blood pressure, measure your weight gain, and evaluate your baby’s growth and heart rate. He or she will perform any necessary tests to ensure everything is on track.
If mothers do not receive prenatal care, their babies are five times more likely to die and three times more likely to have a lower birth weight than babies whose mothers receive adequate care.
Definition of Insufficient Prenatal Care
Inadequate or insufficient prenatal care is defined as care that starts after the fourth month of pregnancy or care that includes less than 50% of the recommended number of visits. Therefore, if you are between weeks 4 and 28 of your pregnancy, and you are going for checkups less than every two months, or if you are between weeks 28 and 36 and are going for check-ups less than once a month, or if you are between weeks 36 and 41 and are going for check-ups less than every two weeks, then you are not getting enough prenatal care.
Signs and Symptoms of Insufficient Prenatal Care
Healthcare providers have a responsibility to actively monitor and treat prenatal patients. Failure to do so can have severe consequences for both mothers and infants, including permanent injuries and death.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Negligence in Prenatal Care
Sometimes, healthcare providers may fail to provide adequate prenatal care, leading to instances of negligence. Some examples of negligent care include failing to run appropriate tests to diagnose medical conditions in the mother, and failing to diagnose ectopic pregnancy where the fetus develops outside the fallopian tube, contributing to birth defects in the baby. The healthcare provider may fail to diagnose or adequately manage contagious diseases, and prescribe selective serotonin inhibitors during pregnancy. While they help with these conditions, they may increase the risk of birth defects. There can even be a miscalculation of fetus size. If there is a problem with the baby that goes unnoticed, or if the mother has an underlying condition that requires medical attention but is not correctly diagnosed, it could harm the child.
Inadequate prenatal care can lead to adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth and low birth weight.
Legal Requirements for Filing a Lawsuit in Nevada
Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against a healthcare provider due to insufficient prenatal care is similar to filing any other medical malpractice lawsuit. Healthcare providers are expected to adhere to a certain standard of professional care, and their actions are compared to the standard of care for their profession. To prove medical malpractice, the victim must establish the following:
- The healthcare provider owed the patient, i.e., the mother and baby, a certain duty of care
- The healthcare provider breached the duty of care by deviating from the accepted professional standards
- The breach of duty caused an injury to either the mother or the baby
- The injury to the mother or baby resulted in monetary damages
In a malpractice case involving insufficient prenatal care, the duty of care is typically based on the medically accepted standards of a healthcare provider, given similar training and experience, under comparable circumstances. If the healthcare provider did something that another healthcare provider would consider outside the standard of care, reckless, careless, or medically unnecessary, that may constitute a breach of duty.
Steps to Take if You Suspect Insufficient Prenatal Care
If you suspect that you or your child has suffered harm due to negligent prenatal care, you can take several steps to seek compensation.
Document Any Issues or Concerns Regarding Prenatal Care
If you suspect that you’re receiving inadequate prenatal care, maintaining a journal can be beneficial when filing a claim. Write down the type of care you’re receiving, your symptoms, how the medical mistake has affected your daily life and activities, and the physical and emotional pain you’re experiencing on a regular basis.
Keep a well-organized record of the names of healthcare professionals you’ve interacted with during your medical treatment. For instance, this includes doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and lab technicians. Also, record everything you can recall about your conversations with them. Create a timeline of events as well, including dates of your hospital stay, appointments, treatments, and any other relevant times or dates you can remember.
Consider Hiring an Attorney Specializing in Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice claims are often complex cases that require the expertise of multiple witnesses, documentation, and evidence. A birth injury lawyer can help investigate the medical error and assist you in building a strong case. He or she will help gather evidence and provide support and guidance as you navigate the process of holding a medical provider accountable for any negligence. Your lawyer can also keep you aware of how long you can wait after a birth injury to sue.
Gather Evidence to Support Your Case
When building a medical malpractice claim, it is crucial to gather evidence. Therefore, it is recommended to start compiling information and documents as early as possible. Keep detailed records of your experience, which should include the names of all medical providers you consulted and their advice. Also, keep copies of all documents provided to you by your medical providers.
In addition to the compensation for physical damage or injury resulting from insufficient prenatal care in Nevada, a considerable part of your medical malpractice claim may be the financial losses you experience due to the medical mistake. Therefore, it is vital to keep copies of receipts, bills, invoices, and other evidence of payments for expenses related to medical malpractice. These expenses may include loss of income, personal care, medications, medical equipment, help with household chores, travel expenses, required modifications to your home, and costs of medical care.