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How a uterine rupture can tear your life apart

As an expectant mother, you already have a lot on your mind. Preparing for the arrival of your bundle of joy is exciting, to be sure, but it can also be stressful and exhausting, which is only one of the reasons you rely on your health care provider to keep both you and your littlest family member safe and healthy. OB-GYNs are specially trained to recognize and treat complications that arise during pregnancy, labor and delivery, so you trust them for all issues medical-related.

What happens, though, when that trust is misplaced? What happens when dangerous complications arise, but the doctor or nurse is too careless to notice or fails to take appropriate measures to address the issue? Sadly, in these types of situations, such as the rare but frequently life-threatening case of a uterine rupture, the life of both you and your child are at stake. So what, exactly, is a uterine rupture, and just how large of a threat does it pose to you and your baby?

Uterine rupture

A uterine rupture is a tear in the wall of the uterus. Most ruptures occur during the labor process but may also happen even before the start of labor. Ruptures are rare but, when they do occur, are often catastrophic and life-threatening, with a high rate of fatality for both mother and baby. In cases of a complete rupture, the tear extends down through all layers of the uterine wall, and for the baby, may result in:

  • Hypoxia or anoxia
  • Acidosis
  • Fetal or neonatal death

For mothers, the results may include:

  • Severe blood loss or anemia
  • Hypovolemic shock
  • Bladder injury
  • Need for hysterectomy
  • Death

With such catastrophic consequences, uterine ruptures are clearly a serious threat to the health of both baby and mom. So what are some of the risk factors for which your OB-GYN should prepare?

Risk factors

Uterine ruptures occur most often in women with a history of C-sections, but there are a number of other contributing factors as well for which OB-GYNs should be on the lookout. These include:

  • Prior uterine surgeries, including fibroid removal
  • Having five or more children
  • Previous uterine injuries, such as from a car accident
  • A distended uterus from carrying multiple babies or having too much amniotic fluid
  • Contractions that are too close together or too strong, sometimes due to oxytocin or Pitocin
  • A prolonged labor with a large baby
  • A previous difficult forceps delivery that resulted in uterine trauma

It can be essential for the attendant health care staff to be on the watch because as soon as symptoms of a uterine rupture begin, doctors have only 10 to 37 minutes to safely deliver your baby before your infant's – or your own -- serious injury or death becomes highly likely.

Medical negligence?

Not all uterine ruptures are the result of medical negligence, as tears can potentially occur unexpectedly. However, a doctor's failure to warn a pregnant mother of her chances of uterine rupture, or the failure of attendant health care staff to properly monitor the mother for signs and symptoms of a uterine rupture, are. With the proper care, this catastrophic event does not have to claim the life of mother or child, but sadly, sometimes careless medical providers fail to sufficiently do their jobs, and innocent patients pay the price.

If you or your child suffered serious injury or worse due to a uterine rupture and you believe an OB-GYN's or nurse's negligence was a contributing factor, you should know that you don't have to suffer alone. There are local Illinois resources, including skilled legal professionals in the Chicago area, who can offer guidance and support.

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