What are the Stages of Labor and Delivery?
When it comes time to deliver, labor typically moves through three distinct stages. And while the body knows what to do to be ready for delivery, sometimes things do not go as planned. While labor and delivery seem like an orderly process, it is not always without challenges. Handling those challenges with the aptitude, knowledge, and forethought needed to protect the health and well-being of the mother and baby is the responsibility of doctors, nurses, and other trusted healthcare providers. It is when they fail to play their integral role in the labor and delivery process when both the woman and her child are put at risk. Undoubtedly, negligence by medical professionals is responsible for far too many serious maternal, fetal, and newborn injuries.
First Portion of Labor
Error can happen along any of the birth stages. The first portion of labor, known as the latent stage, is for dilating the cervix. In preparation for the fetus’s trip down the birth canal, the cervix softens to enable it to dilate, allowing the fetus to eventually pass through. Uterine contractions help the cervix to open or efface, which can take an extended period of time, possibly hours or days. At first, contractions may be irregular, but after the cervix dilates to 4 centimeters, the contractions are more even and productive. At 10 centimeters, the baby is ready to be born. In the time before reaching full dilation, the birthing team may be checking on labor progress by vaginal examinations and monitoring the heart rate of the fetus with a heart rate monitor.
When labor slows, meaning contractions do not come regularly or are not helping the cervix to dilate, the doctor may rupture the membranes that hold the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby or administer oxytocin, a drug that helps produce stronger contractions. Pain relief medication, such as an epidural may be offered if the contractions are too uncomfortable. However, epidurals are sometimes responsible for slowing labor, especially if administered before the cervix is dilated to 4 centimeters.
Second Stage of Labor
At 10 centimeters, the pushing or active phase begins and the second stage of labor, which ends when the baby is delivered. While the first stage of labor can take on average up to 12 hours for a first labor, the second stage takes up to three hours for a first-time delivery. At this stage, the feelings of wanting to to push may be strong, but once the crown of the baby’s head appears at the vaginal entry, the doctor or other medical professional may instruct the laboring mother to stop pushing so that the head can be eased out in the period necessary to expand the vaginal to anal region. In some cases, an episiotomy or perineum cut may be recommended to enlarge the opening for the head to exit and prevent uneven or excessive tearing.
In the third stage of labor, the transition stage, the womb contracts to deliver the placenta after the baby is born and the umbilical cord that attaches the baby to the placenta is cut. The placenta can be delivered with oxytocin injections to initiate the process or naturally by the body’s contractions, which may take up to an hour after the birth of the baby. With medication, it can occur more promptly but this must be weighed against the fact that contractions may be more painful. Another key factor to consider is that postpartum bleeding may be less when medication is administered to facilitate the third stage.
What if a Doctor Mishandles any Stage or Labor and Delivery?
If you or someone you love was placed in harm’s way due to improper management or care during pregnancy, childbirth, or in the time that followed, you may have grounds to pursue compensation for the injuries incurred. Since the successful treatment and management of all pregnancy and birth related conditions and risks depends upon a doctor’s careful decisions every step of the pregnancy and delivery, a medical expert must weigh in on your circumstances to give an opinion as to whether your doctor did what other doctors would have done in their shoes, meaning the doctor did or did not follow the appropriate standard practice required of them under the circumstances. Expert opinion is essential when you wish to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. This is where it is key to have an experienced lawyer who can ascertain if negligence occurred during your labor and help to identify the best expert to examine and attest to the merits of your case.
Our team of highly skilled birth injury attorneys is thoroughly prepared to assist you with the process of evaluating a possible lawsuit’s viability and aggressively seeking the top available damages amount for your actual costs and the emotional and mental toll that such trauma caused you. Contact us today at 866-708-8617 if you would like to speak with a seasoned lawyer about taking action against negligent providers during any of the stages of labor, before, and beyond.