The delivery of a child is not necessarily a routine medical procedure. Complications can arise, and medical professionals deal with these complications when they show up. Sometimes, a labor will be prolonged, and this can lead to complications for a mother and child. However, can a doctor be held liable for prolonged labor?

What is Considered a “Long” Labor?

Labor, in general, is not an easy process for a mother or a child. However, there are some labors that are considered longer than normal. For a first-time mother, a labor will be considered prolonged if it lasts longer than 18 hours or if the baby has not delivered within three hours after the cervix becomes fully dilated. For mothers who have gone through previous pregnancies, a labor will be considered prolonged if she fails to deliver the child within two hours after cervical dilation.

A prolonged labor can lead to serious health concerns for a mother and a child. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Intrauterine infection
  • Fetal distress
  • Irregular fetal heart rate
  • Postpartum hemorrhage ING
  • Intracranial hemorrhaging
  • Fetal asphyxia, hypoxemia, or ischemia

Causes of Prolonged Labor

There are various reasons why a labor may be prolonged. Often, this includes the malpresentation of the child, including the baby being in a breech position (i.e., coming out any way other than head first).

There is a condition called cephalopelvic disproportion, which is characterized by a fetal head that is larger than the birth canal that can also cause prolonged delivery. Other common causes of a prolonged delivery could include weak contractions or inadequate contractions necessary to deliver the child.

Can a Doctor be Responsible for Prolonged Labor?

A doctor or other medical professional could be held responsible for a prolonged delivery if they failed to act appropriately during the delivery process. It is crucial to properly diagnose and take appropriate steps after a prolonged delivery is realized.

The medical team responsible for the delivery process should be able to identify when a baby or mother are in distress, and they should act quickly in these situations. Often, an emergency C-section is the solution to a prolonged labor. The delivering physician should always be prepared to perform a C-section after the delivery becomes dangerous for the mother or child. 

In some cases, a physician could determine that a C-section is not necessary and opt to use various birthing tools to help with a prolonged labor. However, some of these tools, including forceps or vacuum suction devices, could injure a child if they are used incorrectly.

There are various elements that need to be in place in order to determine whether or not a doctor could be held responsible for a prolonged delivery injury to a mother or child. This includes:

  1. Establishing that there was a doctor-patient relationship between the health care provider and the mother and child
  2. Determining whether or not the health care provider breached their duty to the mother and child
  3. Determining whether or not the breach of duty caused harm to the plaintiff
  4. Establishing whether or not there were monetary damages associated with the breach of duty and the injuries

We strongly encourage individuals to work with a skilled birth injury attorney in Los Angeles who can examine every aspect of their case and move forward in the right direction on their behalf.