What is Prenatal Care?
Prenatal care is an essential part of monitoring both the mother and baby during every stage of pregnancy — and critical to the delivery of a healthy baby. Prenatal care involves regular checkups and testing by your doctor, nurse, or midwife to ensure you and your baby are appropriately progressing.
Prenatal care is very important for the mother and fetus to ensure that the fetus is growing well, the placenta is properly positioned and functioning, that the fluids which support the fetus are proper, and Mom is healthy, without signs or symptoms of pregnancy related diseases such as diabetes or preeclampsia. Prenatal care protocols have been developed over decades and, if carefully followed by the health care providers, the risk of injury to the mother and fetus can be greatly reduced. Here’s what you need to know.
What are the Types of Prenatal Care?
Prenatal care is more than just eating healthy and taking prenatal vitamins — it involves routine checkups, lab tests, and other examinations to spot any issues and to keep you and your baby healthy. Here are some standard prenatal care protocols that you can expect:
Routine Medical Checkups
During your pregnancy, your doctor may want to see you during the following milestones:
- Once a month from weeks 4 through 28.
- Twice a month for weeks 28 through 36.
- Weekly for weeks 36 up until birth.
If your pregnancy is considered high-risk, your doctor may recommend more visits to keep an eye on your progression and potential problems.
Exams and Testing
A full physical exam should be conducted on your first visit to calculate your estimated due date. Your doctor may also give you the following tests or exams:
- Breast exam
- Pelvic exam (to check your uterus)
- Cervical exam
- Pap test
After your initial visit, your doctor will routinely check the following on subsequent visits:
- Blood pressure
- Blood tests, including blood sugar levels
- Baby’s heart rate
- Abdomen measurements (to check the growth of your baby)
Other routine tests may be necessary to rule out the following common pregnancy complications:
- Gestational diabetes
Your doctor may also order testing for the Rh Factor. Read on to learn more about the risks involved in failing to identify the Rh factor relation between the mother and fetus.
What is Considered Negligent Prenatal Care?
Doctors have an obligation to patients to practice a duty of care and treatment with competence. Unfortunately, negligent prenatal care does happen.
Negligent prenatal care occurs when doctors and other medical professionals fail to detect and diagnose medical conditions and illnesses that could have otherwise been treated and prevented.
Many complications can arise during pregnancy and delivery. If there is a lack of proper prenatal care, a baby can suffer birth injuries due to the following most common types of negligent prenatal care:
- Failing to diagnose a birth defect - A birth defect can happen at any stage of pregnancy; however, they are most likely to develop during the first trimester. Some birth defects are genetic, but other factors can impact the development of a birth defect. For example, if a physician prescribes a pregnant mother medication and does not give adequate warning about the risk of defects, or knowingly prescribes drugs that can cause a defect. In this case, this could be considered negligent prenatal care.
- Failing to diagnose preeclampsia - Preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy complication that can be brought on by a mother’s high blood pressure — and should be closely monitored and treated immediately. When left untreated, it can lead to cerebral palsy and other birth defects, and cause life-threatening complications to the mother and baby.
- Failing to identify fetal distress - Fetal distress happens when a baby has an insufficient oxygen supply, also known as hypoxia. When fetal distress is not recognized, it can lead to permanent brain damage, developmental delays, seizures, or cerebral palsy.
- Failing to recommend a necessary C-section - A C-section may be needed when a baby is in fetal distress, has an irregular heartbeat, or umbilical cord entanglement. When doctors fail to perform a timely and necessary C-section, it can put the baby at risk of death or a severe birth injury.
- Failing to diagnose medical conditions - Leaving medical conditions untreated during pregnancy can pose long-term health complications for the mother and baby, such as hypertension and gestational diabetes. Improper monitoring of health conditions in the mother or failing to order health screenings and other tests could lead to serious health problems such as surgeries, long-term health issues for the baby or mother, developmental delays, nerve damage to the baby, and other birth injuries.
- Failing to identify an ectopic pregnancy - An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus in a fallopian tube. If the fertilized egg continues to grow in the fallopian tube, it can cause the tube to rupture and bleed in the abdomen. If an ectopic pregnancy is left untreated, it can lead to severe, life-threatening bleeding.
The Consequences of Not Detecting the “Rh Factor”
What is the Rh Factor?
The Rh factor (rhesus) is a protein found on the surface of red blood cells, and if your blood is found to have these proteins, you are considered to be Rh-positive. If your blood does not have this protein, you are Rh-negative. Complications can arise if you are Rh-negative, and your baby is Rh-positive.
What Happens if the Rh Factor Goes Undetected?
When there are Rh compatibility problems between the mother and baby, treatments can be used to avoid complications. However, if a doctor fails to perform testing for the Rh factor and it goes undetected, the following process happens:
The blood of an Rh-positive fetus will make its way into the bloodstream of the Rh-negative mother. The mother’s body will then recognize that the Rh-positive blood is not hers, and her body will try to get rid of it by making anti-Rh antibodies. As a result, the antibodies can get through the placenta and attack the baby's blood cells. This can lead to stillbirth or death after birth as well as other serious long-term health problems, such as:
- Brain damage
- Heart failure
Typically, firstborn babies aren’t affected by the Rh factor, but if it’s left untreated, Rh disease can cause problems in later pregnancies.
A woman can make Rh antibodies even if she hasn’t carried a baby to full-term. For example, if a woman has had a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or induced abortion and has not received treatment, her future fetus could be at risk if it is Rh-positive.
Did Your Child Suffer a Birth Injury? We Can Help.
Prenatal care is essential for the prevention of birth injuries. When medical professionals fail to properly care for mother and child as they go throughout the pregnancy and birthing process, birth injuries can result. Our team of attorneys understands how a lack of prenatal care can impact the growth of the fetus and the labor and delivery process.
At The Beasley Firm, LLC, our managing partner, Jim Beasley, Jr., graduated from Temple University with a major in the Honors molecular biology program and went to the University of Pennsylvania to study medicine. His extensive knowledge of how such medical cases, along with his vast experience of how medical malpractice works under personal injury law, can help clients feel confident they are in good hands.
We want to help you and your family through this difficult time. Contact The Beasley Firm, LLCtoday at (215) 866-2424 to schedule a free consultation.