A new study shows that only half of eligible women in low- and middle-income countries at risk for preterm births receive an inexpensive group of drugs, called antenatal corticosteroids, to prevent complications and death in premature babies.
The research, which was published online on August 13, 2014 in The Lancet, looked at the use of prenatal steroid injection use prior to the birth of more than 300,000 babies. Results from the study found that only 52 percent of women eligible to receive the medication actually were given it, even though corticosteroids given before birth have been shown to significantly reduce a preterm infant’s risk of death, breathing problems, heart problems, and bleeding in the brain, as well as other long-term complications such as poor motor coordination, cerebral palsy, cognitive delays, vision and hearing problems, behavioral problems, or other chronic health issues.
Preterm Birth Risk Factors
In humans, a full term pregnancy is considered to be 40 weeks, which is the amount of time it generally takes for a baby to grow and fully develop. Births that occur at least three weeks before a baby’s due date (or at less than 37 weeks) are considered to be preterm (or premature) births.
The earlier a preterm birth occurs, the less likely a baby is to survive because the infant’s organs (particularly the lungs) need to be developed enough to allow the baby to live.
Technology is improving all of the time, thus giving premature infants a greater chance at surviving, but currently, infants with 22 completed weeks of gestation at birth have a 0-10 percent chance of survival. A baby’s chances for survival increase 3-4 percent per day between week 23 and week 24 and 2-3 percent per day between week 24 and week 26. After week 26 the rate of survival increases at a slower rate because the survival rate is already high.
Premature babies usually receive medical care in the NICU, which stands for neonatal intensive care unit. This is a nursery in a hospital that provides around-the-clock care to sick or premature babies. While treatment needs vary from baby to baby, NICU care tends to be very expensive because of the intense amount of care and services provided to help the infant survive. Private health insurance may cover some of the costs of a premature baby’s care. However, sometimes it is necessary for parents of premature infants to apply for Medicaid or other financial assistance programs help to pay for NICU and other health-related costs.
Medical Malpractice And Preterm Labor
Researchers have identified some risk factors for premature births. A woman is more likely to deliver preterm if she:
– Had a previous premature delivery;
– Is pregnant with more than one baby;
– Suffers from diabetes, hypertension, or other chronic illness;
– Was very overweight or underweight before pregnancy;
– Smokes cigarettes or other drugs;
– Is under 17 or over 35 years old;
– Has experienced chronic stress or anxiety during pregnancy;
– Has had certain vaginal infections or STDs during pregnancy;
– Has certain cervical or uterine abnormalities;
– Has experienced domestic violence during pregnancy; or
– Is African-American.
Knowing these risk factors, doctors must provide reasonably competent care for pregnant women and their babies, both during the pregnancy and birth process. Unfortunately, this does not always happen and sometimes a doctor may not provide the level of care called for in a particular situation. In fact,clinical judgment errors were cited in more than 77 percent of more than 800 clinically coded obstetric malpractice cases analyzed by one insurer. Other prevalent areas of causation were miscommunication, technical error, inadequate documentation, administrative failures, and ineffective supervision.
To learn more about your rights to compensation in a premature delivery malpractice case, contact the Tallahassee premature delivery attorneys at Fasig& Brooks at (850) 222-3232 or through our online contact form.