New Mexico’s “Maternal Health Desert” – How Inaccessible Health Care Can Cause Birth Injuries
Bringing a new life into the world is typically a joyful and momentous event. Millions across the U.S. are fortunate enough to give birth to happy and healthy children. Most parents find themselves filled with hope and excitement for their baby’s future. However, that happiness can quickly turn to fear when faced with a birth injury. Parents and families of children with birth injuries can suddenly find themselves caring for a child with a lifelong disability requiring long-term medical care. This realization can be devastating, especially when the birth injury is a result of direct action (or inaction) by a negligent healthcare provider during pregnancy, labor, and/or delivery. Though parents may not be responsible for harming their baby, far too often, families of children with birth injuries are the ones left footing the bill for their treatment. This is unacceptable. A birth injury attorney can help hold the negligent party responsible and obtain compensation for your child’s care.
In this blog, we will explore the factors contributing to birth injuries in Albuquerque and throughout New Mexico. We’ll also discuss the importance of obtaining legal representation for New Mexico birth injuries and how our team can help.
Understanding Birth Injuries
Birth injuries can occur during pregnancy, during labor, or shortly after giving birth. While some birth injuries are caused by existing genetic factors, others can be caused by medical negligence, improper monitoring, or the misuse of medical equipment, such as forceps or vacuum extractors. These injuries can range from minor bruises and cuts to lifelong disabilities, such as cerebral palsy or brain damage.
While birth injuries across the country have steadily declined in the last decade, negligent birth injuries are still a concern. The decline has been credited in part due to medical advancements and less use of instruments during the birthing process, however they do still seem to occur. According to one study published by the National Library of Medicine, a birth injury (or birth trauma) caused by an external factor occurs in 1.9 out of 1000 births in the United States. Considered in this number are birth injuries caused by factors other than genetic birth defects and malformations.
When considering maternal injuries (those affecting the mother before, during, and after labor), the statistics are even more staggering. According to the National Institutes of Health, in the U.S. alone, roughly 700 women die each year from complications during pregnancy or labor. Nearly 50% of these deaths are and would have been preventable with proper medical care or intervention.
New Mexico’s Maternal Healthcare Shortcomings
New Mexico is no exception to the nation’s negative maternal healthcare trends. Across the state, obstetric care options for families have dwindled in recent years, leaving expecting mothers without access to preventative care.
NM Political Report has provided research that breaks down the severity of the types of situations many New Mexico mothers are facing. Within the article, it was stated that the outbreak of Covid-19 caused several maternity wards throughout the state to close. Furthermore, any facilities that didn’t close were forced to redirect resources toward fighting the pandemic. Though Covid-19 numbers eventually declined and allowed some of those resources to be reallocated elsewhere, a lot of the maternity units never returned to normal operations. In 2022, two additional maternity wards closed, leaving expecting mothers without the resources for adequate obstetric care, neither prenatal nor post-birth. With only three hospitals in the state equipped to handle high-risk births, healthcare providers continue to be overwhelmed and understaffed, leaving many families with few prenatal or maternal healthcare options.
The inadequate resources available to expectant mothers can have significant consequences for their children. Prenatal care can determine potential health risks before labor and limit complications in both the mother and child. However, 1 in 3 mothers in New Mexico went without prenatal care during the first trimester. The first trimester of care is incredibly important, as most of the baby’s organs begin developing during the first 12 weeks, including the brain. This critical state of child development should be closely monitored by obstetricians or healthcare professionals as it can provide valuable insight into whether a birth will go smoothly. It can also determine if intervention will be needed to deliver a child safely. New Mexico’s current infrastructure for prenatal healthcare simply cannot keep up with demand, and the consequences for infants and mothers can be deadly.
Additionally, 1 out of every 3 counties in New Mexico is considered a “maternal health desert”. This means expectant mothers have limited medical resources available to them in their geographic location. For those in rural areas of New Mexico, traveling for consistent checkups with a healthcare provider can be an overwhelming obstacle. This is a significant concern for those who live at or below the poverty line or lack a means of transportation to one of the state’s few facilities. This disparity may be a contributing factor to the climbing rate of maternal injuries in the state. Between 2018 and 2020, the rate of severe maternal morbidity increased from 76.12 to 97.75 per 10,000 births.
It’s clear that New Mexico has a staggering problem regarding maternal, neonatal, and infant care. Finding a solution can help limit the harm caused to both mothers and their babies. However, with no clear end in sight to the issue, birth injuries are likely to be a persistent concern.
Signs of Negligent Birth Injuries
Sometimes, a birth injury can be recognized soon after delivery. However, other birth injuries can take months or even years to diagnose. For example, infants born with Erb’s palsy often present with muscle weakness or paralysis shortly after birth. Children with cerebral palsy, on the other hand, may not begin showing symptoms until later in life. The range of injuries caused by negligence can be significant. Regardless of the injury or who caused it, there are several circumstances that could occur during the pregnancy and birth that could result in a birth injury:
- Oxygen deprivation – if a newborn is unable to breathe for a period of time due to complications in labor, or incorrect positioning of the fetus during pregnancy, it can cause brain damage and other serious health problems.
- Complicated delivery – this includes delayed C-sections, breech births, labor that lasts longer than usual, or other signs that labor did not go as intended.
- Negligent health care providers – doctors, nurses, or healthcare facilities may be found negligent if you showed symptoms prior to or during delivery and did not receive adequate medical care.
Birth injuries can be difficult to spot, both during the processes and in the child later in life. Labor can quickly become hectic, and birth plans may go awry, , so it may be hard to notice any negligent actions by a health care professional. Getting regular checkups for your child is critical to ensure any injuries are diagnosed as quickly as possible. An early diagnosis can improve your child’s prognosis and prevent further complications.
The Lifelong Impact
One of the most devastating aspects of birth injuries is their potential to cause lifelong disabilities, or even worse, the preventable death of your child. Birth injuries profoundly impact a child’s life, sometimes causing permanent damage and requiring extensive medical care. These injuries can affect a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional well-being. Providing specialized medical care, therapy, and assistive devices throughout the child’s life can be daunting, and it places a significant financial and time-consuming burden on families. Some children may only need a few physical therapy sessions a week, while others may need around the clock care and supervision. Regardless, the negligence of the health care provider can turn into a very expensive obligation for parents – one that you shouldn’t be responsible for paying for. Hiring an experienced Albuquerque birth injury attorney is highly advised and may be necessary to help your child obtain the compensation for the care they need.
Call 898-Bell Today
Navigating the legal complexities of a birth injury case can be overwhelming for families, especially when they are already faced with handling the emotional and financial challenges of caring for an injured child. Our team of legal professionals at Ron Bell Injury Lawyers is here to help. Our birth injury lawyers in Albuquerque, NM are passionate about obtaining the financial means to accommodate your child’s short-term and long-term care. We can determine which doctors, nurses, or medical facilities in New Mexico were responsible for causing the harm. We will also consult with experts and obtain relevant medical records to begin building the strongest case possible for your child. Above all else, we’ll work diligently for your family to ensure your child has the compensation they deserve – and give you peace of mind.
New Mexico has specific statutes of limitations that restrict the time within which a birth injury claim can be filed. Seeking legal advice as soon as possible is essential. Our team at Ron Bell Injury Lawyers offers 24/7 free, no obligation consultations for families impacted by a birth injury. We’ll evaluate the details of your situation and see what legal recourse may be available. Call us today at 898-BELL to speak with a caring and compassionate member of our team.