VBAC Injuries: Injury to a Baby When the Mother's Uterus Ruptures

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VBAC means Vaginal Birth After Cesarean. It is usually safe, but there is one key question every family must ask before agreeing to try VBAC at a particular hospital. If you don't know the answer to this question, and the uterus ruptures, your child can suffer a terrible injury.

If you've had a Cesarean section once, you don't necessarily want to go through a C-section again the next time you're having a baby. Trying to have a baby the "natural" way after a previous Cesarean is called Vaginal Birth After Cesarean: VBAC for short. VBAC can be fine for both mother and baby, but it does pose a risk that families need to know about so they can go in with wide-open eyes
to the labor and delivery unit at the hospital.

That risk is rupture of the uterus, with consequent castrophic injury to the baby. If the risks are not appreciated, that can be medical malpractice.

The risk of rupture of the uterus is less than one in 100 VBAC attempts. That does not sound like a lot, until you understand what happens when the uterus ruptures. The baby’s lifeline is cut off, and brain damage begins in around 17 to 18 minutes, according to the best studies.

That means that if rupture happens, the baby must be delivered immediately. There is no time to call in a surgical team from outside the hospital.

Parents must ask this critical question if they're thinking about VBAC:

Does your hospital have 24-hour staffing with obstetricians, anesthetists and the rest of the surgical team?

Because if not, it's not safe to try VBAC at that hospital.

Recent news articles about changes in the guidelines for VBAC featured doctors and hospital executives trying to blame parents for the decline in the popularity of VBAC. And they said if hospitals don't have the staff to have 24-hour coverage, parents should just "accept the risk." But the news articles didn't spell out that risk. That prompted Patrick Malone to write a letter to the editor, which the New York Times printed as its lead letter. Mr. Malone described the consequences to families from failed VBAC's and said it wasn't fair to blame the families for the medical industry's staffing failures.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick Malone
Patrick Malone is a leading advocate for victims of serious personal injuries. He has won a long string of exceptional verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients. Malone is co-author of Rules of the Road: A Plaintiff’ Lawyer’s Guide to Proving Liability, and he recently wrote The Life You Save: Nine Steps to Finding the Best Medical Care – and Avoiding the Worst. Malone was an award-winning investigative journalist before attending Yale Law School. He speaks publicly to groups of patients and health care providers about improving the safety of our health care system.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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