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Failing to screen for fetal abnormalities leads to litigation

Victor Lewin - Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pregnant women often undergo routine tests during their pregnancy to determine both maternal and fetal health. Some of the most common include:

  • Pap smear
  • Urinalysis
  • Blood tests
  • Ultrasound
  • Screening for Streptococcus B and gestational diabetes.

Sometimes obstetricians order special tests to screen for abnormalities of the fetus. This may be when one or both parents is a known carrier of genetic markers for diseases like thalassemia, cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia. Positive test results for genetic disorders can lead to referrals to genetic counsellors.

When doctors fail to conduct the proper screening tests, babies can be exposed in utero to potentially life-threatening toxins. Something as common as exposure to Group B streptococcus can cause birth defects or even death.

When obstetricians test expectant mothers in weeks 35-37 of their pregnancy, a simple course of antibiotics can be given at the onset of labour.

Diagnostic tests can determine whether the fetus is developing according to schedule or if a problem is apparent. For example, during amniocentesis, the fluid can pinpoint conditions like spina bifida and Down's syndrome.

An echocardiogram can be performed on a fetus at 18 weeks to diagnose abnormalities of the heart. When these defects are detected early, plans can be put in place for immediate medical intervention after the birth that can greatly improve the infant's survival chances.

Non-stress tests and biophysical profiles done later in the pregnancy can alert doctors to signs of fetal or maternal distress and prevent loss of life or serious birth complications.

When obstetricians ignore warning signs of complications or fail to screen for conditions that can cause serious birth defects or result in stillbirths, they may be committing medical malpractice.

Our attorneys are adept at litigating birth injury cases and can offer compassionate support to parents. To learn more about your rights in such circumstances, contact us for a confidential consultation.

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