Is COVID-19 Contributing to Birth Injuries?

Tiny Newborn Baby's feet inside female Heart Shaped hands closeup with caption that says, "Is COVID-19 contributing to Birth Injuries?"

Written By: Brenda Agnew, Client Liaison

As we navigate our way through the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, we see the number of daily cases reaching new heights and a vaccine that is still months away. In this blog post, I will examine some interesting trends on expectant mothers' during the lockdown. Has COVID-19 contributed to a rise in birth injury cases during the lockdown? Why is there a decrease in premature births?

The vulnerable fetus

This health crisis is not a blip on the radar. COVID-19 is going to be in our lives for some time. This virus presents a danger to the vulnerable, such as people with heart problems or pre-existing conditions. Pregnant women carry responsibility for two lives. Their health is tied to that of their baby. It can be harmful to the fetus, for example, if a pregnant mother takes medication when they are ill. I consider them to be in a high-risk group regardless of how healthy they are, and their care during the pandemic must be assured.

Birth injuries happen at the best of times

It is not surprising that we are experiencing an increase in these cases at a time when the medical system is overloaded, overworked and, frankly, not accessible. It is not a stretch to say the current healthcare landscape could increase birth injuries. In a lockdown with overworked and stretched thin medical providers operating in an overwhelmed system, errors are more likely to occur. An overwhelmed system raises patients' possibility of being misdiagnosed, sent home from the hospital prematurely, or even dying on stretchers.

Is a COVID-19 diagnosis contributing to birth injuries?

It seems unlikely unless you find cases documenting pregnant women who had respiratory issues from COVID-19. There was a direct correlation to decreased oxygen levels in their babies that resulted in a brain injury. Or if we were able to determine that certain aspects of the infection could have adverse effects on a fetus. It would be too early right now to establish those correlations, but we may see research done in the future that might show that a mother with a COVID-19 diagnosis could adversely affect her unborn baby. There are also psychological aspects at play that could factor into traumatic childbirth. According to ABC News in Australia, giving birth with COVID-19 precautions in place at hospitals can be a challenging experience. Before the pandemic, women would routinely seek advice from their healthcare professional during their pregnancy, even for the slightest concern. However, with the possibility of contracting the virus, perhaps the last place a pregnant woman wants to be is in a doctor's office or a hospital setting. One woman told the news agency that she needed an emergency Cesarean. When she sought reassurance from the medical team, comfort was difficult to find behind their personal protective equipment. "So while people's eyes can be expressive, you're missing a lot of the social cues that you would usually get from having people's full face," she told ABC News. "So it was tough to tell what they were thinking, which, when things started not going to plan … there was a lot of extra confusion and uncertainty for me because I couldn't see people looking back at me reassuringly." My Midwives managing director Liz Wilkes told ABC News that expectant mothers are experiencing less control in their birthing environments due to pandemic restrictions. "That's obviously to some degree unavoidable, but it does contribute markedly to increasing those levels of anxiety … which then is leading on to an increase in psychological birth trauma," she said. "At times, you've got people approaching you looking like they're in hazmat suits, and that has an impact on the woman's experience." Wilkes went on to say international researchers are studying the birth space concerning the coronavirus. "We're starting to see just the tip of the iceberg," she told ABC News. "Early research [is finding] really high levels of distress and distress tends to obviously lead to birth trauma."

Premature births declining during lockdown

Interestingly, it appears there was a decline in the number of premature babies during the lockdown, with some experts suggesting it is because pregnant women were less stressed, not having to commute to and from work, eating better and resting more. If you are locked down, you are less likely to go out, and you are off your feet. Perhaps you are also monitoring your health more closely or managing stressors in better ways. However, I can imagine that given concerns about the pandemic, there are some women who have not gone to their healthcare provider when something has transpired. By the time they do, there’s a possibility that the baby is in a bit of distress.

A shift in our healthcare system

We have experienced many shifts in healthcare during the past nine months. If we continue to be in a situation where a return to a lockdown is unavoidable, we must ensure the availability of effective virtual care for women who are pregnant. We should strive to use technology in different ways, perhaps giving mothers the equipment to self-monitor at home. It's always a good idea for expectant mothers to keep a pregnancy journal, request copies of doctor's notes, find alternative ways to stay in touch with your healthcare provider and ask questions when in doubt.

Trusted expertise - birth injury lawyers

At Gluckstein Lawyers, we are always in tune with how patients are being cared for, and we monitor trends in the healthcare field. We know hospitals were extremely busy when COVID-19 first struck and could be more so during the second wave. We know that staff were spread thin. We know that in some situations, hospitals might work with a skeleton staff. Representing those who are victims of medical malpractice has become a passion of our firm. Over the years, we have developed an expertise in birth injury cases, led by Richard Halpern, one of the most experienced lawyers in his field in Canada. These are difficult cases and emotional cases. We invest heavily in these proceedings, but they can be so rewarding because the settlements awarded will make a considerable difference in the lives of the families we represent. Doctors and hospitals are heavily protected against medical negligence claims, and the reality is a family is not going to have the resources required to fight that kind of legal battle. It would help if you had a birth injury law firm with all the right assets to prevail in these complicated cases ­– a birth injury law firm with in-house expertise, a successful track record and access to the experts to prove your claim. We have made a conscientious decision to develop and enhance our expertise in the field. I can honestly say our personal injury law firm is one of the top firms dealing with birth injury cases. And we are committed to full-circle care. Established in 1962, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers take care of all aspects during your claims process, work with insurance companies on your behalf, and secure sufficient compensation for your pain and suffering. Contact us for a free consultation.

As a former client, Brenda acts as Gluckstein Lawyers Client Liaison to support and advise our clients and their families throughout their Medical Malpractice and Birth Injury case. She tirelessly advocates for better systems and programs for children with special needs.

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