When it's time for mom to have a baby, she feels excitement about meeting her new little person. However, that excitement can quickly turn to fear if her birthing plans change and she ends up needing a C-section.
One in three women in the United States deliver their children through surgical birth, but just because the number is high doesn't mean C-sections are risk-free. A C-section is a major surgery with side effects even when everything goes as planned. However, there are definitely times where the plans go awry, and some of those occur when doctors make major mistakes during the C-section.
While women sign a form acknowledging the possible negative outcomes before they undergo surgery, most aren't prepared when something goes wrong. There are even times when the outcomes are so bad due to a doctor's mistake or negligence that parents find themselves suing.
Though C-sections are sometimes unavoidable, there are situations where mom chooses one for her own reasons. That's her right, but knowing the possible negative outcomes, including those that have been blamed on the doctor, is important before making a final decision on how to bring the baby into the world.
Some of these mistakes make further surgeries necessary, and some can be fatal for mom, baby, or both. Surgeries are never without risks, but adding in the possibility of medical errors means it's not a good idea to choose a C-section without good reason, and there are plenty of reasons mom might have to. Going in knowing the most common errors doctors make will prepare mom to talk to her doctor before the surgery occurs.
13 Lacerating The Bowels
For better or worse, the uterus is close to other major organs, including the bowels. That's one reason patients should be made aware that during surgery they may experience lacerations in organs besides their uterus.
Obviously, this isn't supposed to happen, and it's not good news for mom when it does. If the a doctor realizes they have cut the bowels before mom is sewn up, the problem can usually be corrected immediately, though mom's recovery from surgery may be worse and she may still have some complications.
However, there are times when a doctor doesn't realize he has cut a woman's bowels, so he sews her up and sends her home. The bowels, which are now open due to the cut, can leak into other parts of the body causing pain and infection that often lead mom back to the hospital.
Situations such as these have led to women needing regular surgeries continually to deal with the problem, and they have also led to large payments to patients due to medical malpractice.
12 Breaking Bones
Surgeries may require delicate movements to ensure the safety of the patient, but that doesn't mean they are gentle. C-sections are performed quickly so mom doesn't take extra risk being on anesthesia for too long, so doctors use deliberate but forceful moves to remove the baby. Sometimes this can result in broken bones.
While vaginal deliveries present the most risks for an infant when it comes to having bones broken, C-sections can result in injuries for mom. Though having a bone broken during a C-section is rare, it is possible. There are times when one or both doctors performing the C-section will need to lean on mom's upper body to move the baby down and out of the uterus. If they use too much pressure, mom's bones can suffer.
Again, this is a slight risk but a real one. Mom may not even know it has happened since she will be numb for a while after the surgery is over.
11 Cutting The Baby
It's not something moms often think about, but because a C-section requires the use of sharp instruments to cut into the uterus and retrieve the baby, it's possible for a child to be injured. Children can have surgical instruments dropped on their heads or other parts of their bodies, or they can be nicked by the scalpel as it enters the uterus.
Though some of these scars are superficial, they all open babies up to the risk of infection. Some are also so deep that they brand a child for life. Studies are inconsistent, but they show that anywhere between two and six percent of infants experience lacerations each year, and that number is expected to go up since C-section rates are continuing to climb.
Certain factors increase the risk of lacerations to the baby, including an emergency C-section or a woman being in active labor before her C-section.
10 Performing A C-section Too Late
While women don’t want to be bullied into C-sections before the doctor is absolutely certain they need one, there are times that doctors have waited too long to perform them, endangering both baby and mom.
When certain situations make it impossible for a baby to exit mom's womb using the traditional route, such as the position or size of the baby, the size of mom's hips, or an obstruction that is stalling labor, the decision to perform a C-section needs to be made quickly. If a doctor waits too long when it's obvious there is a problem, the baby may suffer from an injury.
One of the worst outcomes is when the baby is deprived oxygen, which can happen if the decision to perform a C-section isn't made in time. A baby who is too large or in a bad position can experience pressure on the umbilical cord that is fierce. In these cases, a child can suffer long-term brain injuries or even death.
9 Performing A C-section Too Early
On the flip side of waiting too long is performing a C-section too early. In fact, this was once such a problem that doctors are now encouraged to wait until the 39 week mark unless there is a very good reason not to.
Before 39 weeks, and even after, a baby's lungs are still developing. In fact, much of a child's development will still take place outside of the womb, but leaving them in long enough for the essentials to be complete is important. Infants can end up in the neonatal intensive care unit(NICU) because a doctor chose to remove them from the womb too early.
There is also the issue of giving mom enough time to labor. Researchers say that it's now obvious that women who enter the hospital to give birth are under pressure and racing the clock. Doctors will put a time limit on mom, and if the baby hasn't arrived, many doctors are comfortable steering her towards a C-section, even if the baby is fine and mom still feels she can keep going.
This can lead to a baby missing some of the benefits of vaginal birth, such as the squeeze they receive on the way out to clear their lungs and the attachment hormones they are exposed to.
It's a thin line between too early and too late, and mom needs a doctor she trusts to help guide her.
8 Injuring The Bladder
Just like the bowels, the bladder is a prime target for injury during a C-section. If the cut is caught before mom is sewn back up, the OB can fix it or call in a urologist to help. However, if mom makes it home with her bladder lacerated, the complications increase.
Urinary tract infections and pain are common if mom is put back together before a doctor notices the damage. Mom may leak urine uncontrollably until another surgery is performed to fix the damage.
Catheters are also used during C-sections, and though they are common tools that nurses and doctors are familiar with, if they are inserted or removed improperly, they can cause damage to mom. Mom may not notice the injury if it occurs when the catheter is inserted since she will be numb at that point.
However, if she continues to hurt when the catheter is removed and she has regained feeling, she needs to talk to her doctor.
7 Sewing Objects Into Mom's Body
Imagine coming home from having a C-section only to find a large mass below the skin that wasn't there before. That's what happened to one woman when her doctor made a very serious error while sewing up her incision.
Mom Judy Mays experienced pain and swelling after her C-section for months, but most women expect that after surgery. However, a CT scan showed that what happened to Mays was anything but typical. Her doctor, who blamed the nurses, sewed a surgical sponge into her abdomen during her C-section.
Not only did this require further surgery to fix, but the situation was much worse when the doctor opened Mays up to remove the sponge. Her intestines were wrapped around the sponge causing perforations, and Mays then had to take care of her children while recovering from another surgery.
This is a possibility with any surgery, and it's said that 33% of families are affected by serious medical mistakes, including leaving the wrong materials behind.
6 Causing The Need For More Surgery
One risk of a C-section is that a doctor will make a mistake that requires another surgery. The time after a child is born is precious, and if mom has to go back under the knife days or weeks after having a child, it puts a strain on her body and on her emotions.
Time away from a child so problems that never should have occurred can be fixed is hard to deal with, and mom may feel some of her bonding time with her infant was stolen.
Bladder and bowel lacerations that are not caught during the C-section often have to be repaired with follow-up surgeries. Mom may also find herself back in the hospital dealing with treating blood clots or receiving blood transfusions if she was allowed to lose too much blood.
A doctor who negligently sews medical equipment into mom's body will have to go back in surgically to retrieve it. The extra time under the knife adds even more risks to mom.
5 Allowing Mom To Lose Too Much Blood
Women who deliver vaginally lose about two cups of blood. Women who have C-sections lose twice that much, which is a lot of blood loss during one surgery. If a doctor makes a mistake or fails to notice a problem, mom may lose even more blood which puts her at extreme risk.
A postpartum hemorrhage can occur for many reasons, such as vessels not being stitched up the right way or incisions being made inappropriately. A woman's uterus also may fail to contract after the baby is delivered, something that is necessary so the bleeding a woman is experiencing due to the removal of the placenta will stop.
If a doctor does not catch this problem in time, a woman will likely experience a postpartum hemorrhage, and in some cases she will need a blood transfusion.
Women may also need extra iron or other supplements to help them recover from this massive loss of blood.
4 Blood Clots From Lack Of Movement
Women who go through C-sections are at a higher risk of blood clots in their legs than women who deliver vaginally. That's why women are encouraged to walk soon after they are released from the OR, usually the day after the birth.
Women are also usually given items to wrap around their legs after surgery that will squeeze their legs and move blood until they can walk on their own.
If a doctor or nurse fails to provide these or doesn't help mom out of bed promptly enough and encourage her to walk, they may be responsible for her developing blood clots. It's imperative that doctors and nurses remove the catheter and the epidural as well as the IV so mom can move easily, and they need to explain the importance of working through the pain of movement to avoid blood clots.
To a patient who has just undergone major surgery, this does not seem intuitive, and doctors who ignore getting mom moving may be held responsible if she develops blood clots.
3 Causing Infection
Almost any one of the mistakes on this list can put a woman at risk for major infections. A lacerated bowel and bladder, sponges left in the intestines, and a plethora of other errors compromise mom's body. An infection after a C-section makes recovery and taking care of an infant much more complicated.
Risks of infections are higher when a C-section is performed anyway. When a doctor makes a mistake, those risks sky rocket, and when other surgeries are then necessary to fix the damage, mom takes on the added infection risk of all following surgeries. One mistake during a C-section can cause a domino effect, leading mom in and out of hospitals for months or years.
Most infections take place at the incision site or inside the womb, but if a doctor fails to properly execute the surgery, they can occur anywhere. Women should look for the signs of fever, pain, and swelling and contact a doctor immediately if they suspect infection.
2 Extremely Low Blood Pressure
A woman who has a C-section will need anesthesia since feeling the full pain of an unmedicated surgery is too much. However, anesthesia is another part of this procedure that can lead to complications and mistakes if it is not administered and monitored properly.
When a woman receives anesthesia for a C-section, besides losing feeling in her lower body she will also likely have a decrease in her blood pressure. While this is normal, it can make some women feel nauseous or disoriented, and the anesthesiologist and doctor need to watch mom to make sure her blood pressure doesn't fall and stay too low.
When blood pressure stays too low, mom is more likely to be at risk of falling when trying to walk, and she may also feel depressed. Mom may also have trouble focusing and continue to feel sick to her stomach. A doctor does not need to release a mom with an infant to go home if her blood pressure is too low, as this can lead to her fainting and causing injury to herself or the baby.
1 Feeling The Pain
While it's necessary to monitor anesthesia to make sure mom's body isn't negatively affected by too much, it's also necessary to make sure she receives enough. The pain of a C-section is very real, and woman have reported passing out from the agony of it when the anesthesia failed.
One reason doctors try to waste no time during the surgery is that they don't want to take the chance of anesthesia wearing off too soon. However, if mistakes are made and mom's organs are lacerated or major bleeding takes place that has to be stopped, the surgery can go long and mom may start to feel what is happening to her.
In most cases, mom should be able to tell a doctor what she is feeling so they can administer more anesthesia. However, some women find the pain hits them and leaves them unable to speak before they are unconscious from it.
Resources: Dailymail.co.uk, Healthline.com, Mayoclinic.org