Understanding Birth Injuries and Malpractice in South Carolina

Infant birth injuries and death rates in South Carolina have been compared to those in third-world countries, to the astonishment of expectant mothers. While pregnancy and childbirth are often healthy and unfold without incident, the statistics for infant and maternal deaths in this state remain alarming, and new data suggest these numbers are not improving. As a parent-to-be, you’ve likely prepared for your little one’s arrival by purchasing supplies, setting up the nursery, practicing breathing techniques, and drafting a birth plan. But a birth injury can still occur despite these preparations, and transform what should have been a joyous natural event into a catastrophe.

Though it is difficult to prepare for the moment you learn a trusted member of your care team has made a harmful birthing error, understanding how to handle such injuries, including where to turn for help following a medical mistake, can make a big difference in your family’s recovery.

Birth Injury and Infant Mortality Rates in South Carolina

Even the most capable, trusted doctors in South Carolina can be at fault for birth injury malpractice. Before a little one’s arrival, families should take note of the alarming picture state and federal agencies are painting of birth injuries and mortality rates. Expectant mothers who ignore the possibility of catastrophic malpractice during their labor or delivery should consider the latest statistics for South Carolina:

  • The March of Dimes Report Card for South Carolina gave the state a grade of F based on several maternal and infant health indicators. 
  • In 2021, the third-highest leading causes of infant deaths in South Carolina were related to maternal complications of pregnancy. 
  • The state’s mortality report indicated a 12% rise in the infant mortality rate from 2020 to 2021. 
  • South Carolina reports 7.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, one of the nation’s highest infant mortality rates.  
  • Asphyxia, hypoxia, and respiratory distress were some of the leading causes of infant deaths in South Carolina.

Though medical errors do not cause all of these negative outcomes, birth injuries are contributing factors to high—and rising—infant and maternal mortality rates in South Carolina.

Types of Birth Injuries

About 30,000 birth injuries occur each year, the most common among them minor head injuries that usually do not have lasting effects on the infant. But for some families, complications during gestation, labor, or delivery can lead to serious harm. If the mother’s birthing physician made a medical error in letting a condition go untreated or undiagnosed, or used inadequate delivery methods, the practitioner may be at fault for malpractice under South Carolina law. Some of the more common types of serious birth injuries resulting from negligence or mistakes include:

  • Brain damage
  • Cerebral palsy 
  • Skeletal injuries and bone fractures
  • Spinal cord trauma
  • Facial, peripheral, and cranial nerve damage
  • Cephalohematoma (rupture of blood vessels, usually due to force)
  • Perinatal asphyxia (lack of blood flow or oxygen)
  • Hemorrhage (excessive bleeding, usually on the brain)

Birth Injuries to Mothers

Families should also understand that birth injuries affect the mother as well as the baby. March of Dimes reports that nearly 45% of new moms across the nation say they experienced some type of birth trauma during or after birth. When childbirth isn’t what the mother had imagined, it can lead to emotional distress, and when labor is complicated, physical injuries may occur.

Labor that does not progress, premature water breaking, and excessive bleeding are complications that can put the mother’s life in danger. If the medical team does not adequately monitor and intervene in these situations, the resulting harm may qualify as birth injury malpractice in South Carolina. Birth injuries to mothers that occur during delivery can include vaginal tearing, a ruptured uterus, and postpartum hemorrhage, but moms-to-be are more often affected by negligent prenatal care, a common catalyst for birth injury malpractice. Failure to monitor or treat preexisting medical conditions or maternal infections, and missed signals in high-risk deliveries may be plausible medical malpractice cases in South Carolina.

Causes of Birthing Medical Errors

Investigating a birth injury can help determine whether malpractice has occurred. This may involve reviewing medical records from early in the pregnancy, analyzing the patient’s chart, or examining test results after the birth. While you want to get to the bottom of the issue, doing so can be difficult without a legal advocate on your side. Our law firm understands how to review medical errors of omission and commission for signs of malpractice, which might include:

  • Missed fetal complications, such as a twisted umbilical cord or breech positioning
  • Misdiagnosed or untreated material health conditions (e.g., gestational diabetes or infections)
  • Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors
  • Forceful delivery methods that lead to dystocia or other bone injuries
  • Delayed intervention or C-Section order
  • Inappropriate use of labor-inducing medications or tools

What Qualifies as Birth Injury Malpractice in South Carolina?

For a birth injury to qualify as medical malpractice in South Carolina, it must be proven that the medical professional’s actions did not meet the standard of care before, during, or after delivery, and that the care provider’s failure led to harm. Common birth injuries can result from improper use of a medical device, incorrect force, or failures to monitor the mother or baby’s well-being during labor.

To know whether a situation during labor, delivery, or pre- or postnatal care qualifies as malpractice, you’ll want to consult a legal advocate who understands the state laws. With the right legal team, you can file a malpractice lawsuit to speak up on behalf of your newborn and prevent other children and families from experiencing the same outcome.