I read yet another medical malpractice case that made me cringe. The baby was dying in plain view as seen on the fetal monitor but no intervened until it was too late. The patient had even requested a C. Section because she was exhausted but was encouraged to continue laboring. She eventually delivered vaginally, but also buried her newborn who suffered severe brain injury.

During the case review, the healthcare provider used the Enron excuse and blamed the nursing staff for the poor outcome, alleging that he was never informed there was a problem with the fetal tracing. He was also responsible for several other deliveries that had occurred during the same night. While that may be true, the patient was still under HIS professional care. Most hospitals have central fetal monitoring systems where the tracing can be visualized in several places including the nurses’ lounge and the providers’ on-call room. I have said this in the past and will continue to emphasize the importance of the fetal heart tracing. It is equally important for your healthcare provider to know exactly what is going on with your labor. So, here are a few tips to improve your chances of delivering a healthy baby:

  1. Ask whether your provider will be in the hospital while you are in labor. If not, could she or her representative give you and your family an hourly update on the status of your fetal tracing.
  2. When you are admitted to the labor room, ask how many other patients of your provider are admitted as well. If more than three, ask whether there is someone else that could be consulted regarding such as a hospitalist or your provider’s partner in the event he is busy.
  3. According to the new standards of fetal monitoring established by the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD), if your fetal tracing isn’t “reassuring,” then someone needs to give you a report about the tracing every 15 minutes. If the tracing suggests repeated problems then your baby needs to be delivered as soon as possible.

Please be empowered. Please be pro-active. A healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.