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Written on 12th December 2022 by Ben Ireland

Boyes Turner’s medical negligence claims lawyers have secured compensation from a hospital for a mother who suffered uterine rupture and psychological injuries including PTSD during the VBAC delivery of her stillborn baby.

Risk of uterine rupture from VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean section)

Our client was pregnant with her fourth child and was booked for consultant-led antenatal care at the hospital. She had a high BMI and her previous child had been small for gestational age and was born at the same hospital by emergency caesarean section after she had suffered a placental abruption. The placental abruption was not recorded in the birth summary records and our client was not aware that she’d had a previous placental abruption.  In early pregnancy, during a telephone discussion, she indicated a preference for VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) birth. The midwife noted that she was aware of the risks and benefits of VBAC, but the information in the records was factually inaccurate. Our client received no written information about the risks of VBAC and believed it was simply a matter of preference.

Failure to monitor growth of unborn baby who was small for gestational age

By 32 weeks of pregnancy, the fetal (unborn baby’s) growth scans showed a significant drop in the baby’s estimated weight. A rescan was requested for two weeks later and the mother referred to the antenatal day unit (ADU) for assessment. She was seen at 33 weeks, doppler tests were normal, and further scans showed the baby was growing but still very small for dates. Our client attended the hospital for a further growth scan at 36 weeks, but left as she didn’t feel safe waiting in the busy waiting room during the pandemic. This was not a routine scan, but had been requested to monitor fetal growth owing to medical concerns about the drop in the baby’s estimated weight. When the scan was missed, it should have been mandatory for the hospital to reschedule and perform the scan by 37 weeks or as soon as possible. If the scan had taken place before 37 weeks of pregnancy, the baby’s intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) would have been detected. This would have led to delivery of the live baby within a few days, either by induced vaginal delivery or by caesarean section.

Instead, the pregnancy was at just under 38 weeks when the mother was next seen by a midwife. The missed scan and her preference for VBAC delivery was noted, and a consultant appointment planned. Before that appointment could take place her waters broke. She attended the labour and delivery ward, but monitoring by pinnard stethoscope, sonicaid, CTG and a scan all failed to find a fetal heartbeat. A doctor told her that they couldn’t confirm for sure whether her baby had died without a specialist scan, and she was left for many hours to go through labour without knowing.

Signs of uterine rupture ignored during labour

Signs of uterine rupture were ignored during labour, including her complaints of pain which was not eased by epidural top ups and Entonox, a tense uterus, ineffective pushing and her contractions stopping. Instead of halting the trial of labour and carrying out an emergency caesarean section, our client was given increasing doses of oxytocin (Syntocinon) to stimulate the uterus. When this failed to progress the birth, a doctor finally suspected uterine rupture and ordered a caesarean section. During the operation,  the uterus was found to have ruptured completely. The baby was outside the uterus in the mother’s abdominal cavity and had suffered intrauterine death.

We served a letter of claim on the hospital, which admitted responsibility (liability) for causing the baby’s intrauterine death (stillbirth) and the mother’s severe physical and psychological injuries. We were then able to negotiate an out-of-court settlement for our client.

If you have suffered serious injury or the loss of a loved one as a result of negligent maternity care, or have been contacted by NHS Resolution, HSIB or MNSI after the birth of your baby, you can talk to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, for advice, by contacting us here.