What Is a Traumatic Childbirth?

Birth Injury

Though childbirth is often a joy, it is not uncommon for childbirth to have traumatic effects on both mother and child, even if no physical harm ultimately comes to either. According to several recent studies, between 25 and 34 of women experience what is known as traumatic childbirth, meaning that for them the birthing process was characterized by a genuine fear for their own or their child’s wellbeing. Following such an experience, mothers may experience various psychological and emotional symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress, including but not limited to:

  • Intrusive memories of the event, potentially in the form of nightmares and/or flashbacks
  • Detachment from personal relationships
  • Depression and/or anxiety about the future
  • Difficulty concentrating and sleeping
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritability
  • Exaggerated responses when startled

To some extent, these feelings are normal because childbirth is inherently a physically grueling and emotionally exhausting process. However, if these symptoms are numerous or persist for longer than a month, they may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD/PSD).

Can Traumatic Childbirth Serve as Grounds for a Malpractice Claim?

In the state of New York, the standard of care expected of healthcare professionals requires them to ensure patients do not suffer unreasonable harm. When it comes to helping a mother through childbirth, meeting this standard is especially crucial, as more than one life may be at risk if a doctor does not act with the utmost care and expertise.

Accordingly, a physician may bear civil liability for any harm suffered by a mother or child because of ignored or misdiagnosed symptoms, including the failure to properly use medical tools and implements, or any other unreasonable error that a doctor with similar skills would not have made under similar circumstances. This includes not only immediately apparent injuries, but also any physical, mental, or developmental disability a child experiences as a direct result of a doctor’s negligence.

However, a lawsuit for medical malpractice typically must be based on a specific physical injury in order to be valid. While filing suit based only on emotional damages is not impossible, it is generally very difficult to manage, even with assistance from a qualified malpractice attorney.

In order to successfully file a lawsuit based on traumatic childbirth, a mother must be able to demonstrate negligence based on the following criteria:

  • An explicit doctor-patient relationship existed between her and the defendant doctor
  • The defendant doctor violated a reasonable standard of care based on their personal expertise, expectations for their field of medicine, and the particular circumstances under which they provided care
  • The defendant doctor’s failure to provide reasonable care proximately caused her to suffer harm

If there was no physical injury associated with her traumatic childbirth experience, the mother must present evidence of significant emotional distress and prove that her psychological condition stemmed from her doctor’s negligence rather than any other source. If the birth of your child left you permanently and unreasonably harmed, call an attorney today to learn about your legal options.