Understanding the Consequences and Legalities of Premature Birth

premature baby in pod with bilirubin light

A premature birth occurs when a baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy. There are several catergories of premature birth, including late pre-term, moderately pre-term, very pre-term, and extremely pre-term. Babies born prematurely may need extensive medical care and have permanent impairments.

Families often experience significant emotional distress and financial losses after a premature birth. When a premature birth occurs due to prenatal care errors by a healthcare provider, families can seek accountability and justice for their harm. The medical malpractice lawyers with Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. have helped many Pennsylvania families achieve the financial relief they deserve after premature births.

We have a strong track record of results in medical malpractice cases. Our results include a $15 million verdict for a child who suffered kidney damage and an $11.2 million verdict against a hospital that failed to diagnose a brain tumor.

When medical providers are liable for a child’s premature birth, families deserve financial resources to provide the child with treatment, rehabilitation, and long-term support. A birth injury attorney with Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. can help you pursue compensation from medical providers whose careless or reckless treatment caused your child’s premature birth.

Medical Consequences of Premature Birth

Not all premature births result in medical complications. Yet, the earlier in pregnancy that a birth occurs, the higher the risk of health consequences. Some complications arise soon after birth, while others may not appear until a child reaches developmental milestones.

Some of the more immediate complications of a premature birth include:

  • Respiratory Issues – Premature babies may have difficulty breathing if their lungs haven’t fully developed. Premature babies may also develop a lung disorder called bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Babies with respiratory issues may need supplemental oxygen for several weeks or months.
  • Cardiac Issues – Premature babies may have heart problems such as low blood pressure or patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). PDA occurs when an opening between the aorta and pulmonary artery hasn’t closed. This can cause a premature baby’s heart to have difficulty pumping blood. Babies with low blood pressure may need IV fluids, medications to raise blood pressure, or blood transfusions.
  • Brain Injuries – Premature babies are at risk of brain hemorrhages. Severe hemorrhages can cause permanent damage that leads to cognitive or physical disabilities.
  • Body Temperature Issues – Premature babies have less body fat than full-term babies, so they lose body heat more quickly. Premature babies cannot regenerate lost body heat quickly enough. As a result, premature babies will usually spend the first several weeks of their lives in an incubator that provides extra heat.
  • Digestive Problems – Underdeveloped digestive systems can lead to health complications like necrotizing enterocolitis. This occurs when premature babies begin feeding with something other than breast milk. Babies may digest food less efficiently, leading to low blood sugar levels.
  • Blood Conditions – Premature babies may suffer from various blood conditions like anemia (low red blood cell count) or jaundice (buildup of bilirubin from the liver).
  • Infections – Premature babies may have underdeveloped immune systems, increasing the risk of infections.

Initial health complications from premature birth can lead to longer-term consequences, such as:

  • Cerebral palsy caused by brain injuries that occur during the birthing process
  • Learning disabilities
  • Behavior disabilities or other mental health problems
  • Vision loss caused by retinopathy, an overgrowth of blood vessels in the retina that create scar tissue, or retinal detachment
  • Hearing loss
  • Dental problems, including defects in tooth enamel
  • Higher risk for chronic health conditions such as asthma or digestive difficulties

The Link Between Medical Malpractice and Premature Birth

A premature birth may occur due to negligent care rendered by a mother’s obstetrician or other members of her healthcare team. In Pennsylvania, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider renders treatment that fails to meet the applicable standard of care in the patient’s case. Although the standard of care may vary, it is generally defined as the treatment decisions and actions that other healthcare providers would undertake in similar circumstances.

Some negligent mistakes can lead to a premature birth. Common examples of negligent treatment that causes premature births include:

  • Inadequate prenatal care, including failing to recognize risk factors for premature birth, such as a short period since the mother’s last pregnancy, prior premature births/miscarriages/abortions, chronic health problems like hypertension or diabetes, infections of the amniotic fluid or lower genital tract, or issues with the uterus, cervix, or placenta
  • Failure to advise mothers to change lifestyle choices that increase the risk of premature birth, including smoking/drinking/drug use, poor diet, being underweight/overweight before pregnancy, or suffering from significant stress
  • Medication errors, including prescribing contraindicated medications or miscalculating dosage
  • Failure to diagnose and treat cervical issues that can lead to premature delivery
  • Failing to respond to signs or symptoms of premature delivery
  • Failing to prepare treatment for a prematurely born baby

Seeking Legal Assistance After a Premature Birth

A family with a premature baby should speak to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can determine whether the premature birth occurred due to negligent healthcare and identify legal options. An attorney can help families seek justice and financial relief from careless medical providers by:

  • Investigating prenatal care for evidence of substandard treatment decisions by healthcare providers
  • Obtaining medical expert testimony needed to support a birth injury claim
  • Identifying the parties who may bear liability for the complications caused by a premature birth
  • Documenting the child’s and family’s ongoing and future expenses and personal losses
  • Aggressively pursuing maximum compensation through a trial

If your child has suffered complications following a premature birth due to hospital negligence, you have rights. Contact Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. today. For life’s toughest trials, you can count on our experienced trial attorneys. Our firm has been recognized by respected organizations, such as Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America. We also hold Martindale-Hubbell’s highest AV Preeminent rating for our commitment to excellence.

Contact us today for a free case review with an experienced and highly qualified Pennsylvania medical negligence attorney.