When a doctor negligently fails to diagnose or properly manage gestational diabetes during pregnancy, it can have a very damaging impact on the health of the baby and result and very serious birth injuries. Our birth injury lawyers handle medical malpractice cases involving the misdiagnosis of gestational diabetes.
About Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy when a mother’s blood sugar, or blood glucose, is higher than it should be. It is basically high blood sugar that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. High blood sugar can cause problems for mother and baby.
Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use and store sugar. During pregnancy, the placenta makes other hormones that make it hard for insulin to control blood sugar. Gestational diabetes develops when your body can’t make enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in a safe range.
In the United States, gestational diabetes occurs in approximately 2% to 10% of pregnancies, but a recent study found that gestational diabetes and/or pre-gestational diabetes negatively impacts around 18% of pregnancies.
Gestational diabetes can cause serious risks and complications during childbirth. The biggest risk associated with gestational diabetes is that the baby will grow excessively large (fetal macrosomia). This is a potentially dangerous condition because when the baby gets too big it can become stuck in the birth canal during a vaginal delivery, which often leads to loss of oxygen, brain damage, and other injuries such as Erb’s palsy. Gestational diabetes can also put the baby at risk of hypoglycemia and other neonatal conditions.
Despite the very serious risks presented by gestational diabetes, failure to diagnose and timely treat this condition is surprisingly common in prenatal medical care. Recently, there has been a focused effort within the obstetric medical community to improve diagnosis of gestational diabetes.
Diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes
Most women diagnosed with gestational diabetes don’t have any symptoms. That’s why your healthcare provider will offer you a screening test for gestational diabetes when you’re 24 to 28 weeks pregnant. If you have any risk factors, your provider may suggest doing the test earlier.
The most common test for gestational diabetes is the oral glucose screening test. This test measures how well your body produces insulin. On the day of the test, your provider will give you a sweet liquid to drink. An hour later, you’ll have a blood test to check your glucose levels.
If your screening test shows that your blood sugar is too high, you’ll have to take a longer test called the oral glucose tolerance test. For this test, you’ll need to fast for 8 hours before drinking a sweet liquid. Your blood will be tested several times: before the test, then one, two, and three hours after your drink the sugar. If two samples show your blood sugar is too high, you’ll be diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Both of these tests are safe for you and your baby and don’t have any major side effects. But the liquid may taste unpleasant or make you feel nauseated.
Treatment of Gestational Diabetes
The main goal of treatment is to keep the fetus from growing too large, which can harm both the mother and the baby. Patients will need to make changes in how they eat, and learn to monitor their own blood sugar levels. In some cases, a patient may need to self-administer insulin injections or take oral medication.
A change in diet often helps the most. A diet plan is working out with your medical team and may mean decreasing your calorie intake by as much as 20 to 30 percent.
Recommendations may also include:
- Avoiding high-sugar snacks and desserts, including soda, punch, candy, chips, cookies, cakes and full-fat ice cream
- Eating at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables
- Choosing whole grains: whole-wheat bread, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta
- Switching to fat-free or low-fat dairy products
- Eating only small amounts of red meat
Gestational diabetes usually goes away after delivery, and having it doesn’t mean you or your baby will definitely develop diabetes later in life.
Who is At Risk?
Certain women who become pregnant may have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. You may be at greater risk for gestational diabetes if you:
- Are obese
- Are over the age of 30
- Have a family history of diabetes
Gestational Diabetes Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Your prenatal care doctor is supposed to test for gestational diabetes, timely and accurately diagnose it and then properly treat, monitor and manage the condition. Failure to diagnose gestational diabetes unfortunately common, and it will almost always constitute medical malpractice.
Another type of medical negligence involving gestational diabetes is where the doctor diagnosis the condition, but fails to properly manage. Gestational diabetes can result in a baby that grows abnormally large during pregnancy. When the baby is too big, attempting a vaginal delivery can be very risky because oversized babies tend to get stuck in the birth canal.
Most birth injury lawsuits involving gestational diabetes are based on allegations that the doctor was negligent in failing to perform a planned C-section delivery instead of attempting a vaginal delivery. Whether the decision to attempt vaginal delivery amounts to medical negligence will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case.
Gestational Diabetes Malpractice Settlements and Verdicts
Below are summaries of recent birth injury malpractice cases involving gestational diabetes.
$30,000,000 Verdict (Georgia 2023): A 35-year-old mother with gestational diabetes was admitted for vaginal delivery. Complications arose during the delivery, including an amniotic fluid embolism, that went undiagnosed. The baby suffered prolonged oxygen deprivation that caused a brain injury resulting in permanent disability.
$6,500,000 Verdict (Connecticut 2023): Gestational diabetes during pregnancy caused the baby to grow abnormally large (fetal macrosomia). Despite the risks, the doctors attempted a vaginal delivery, but because of the size of the baby she became stuck in the birth canal. The baby suffered a neck fracture and died during delivery.
$16,000,000 Verdict (Pennsylvania 2023): In this case, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant midwife was negligent because she totally failed to diagnose the mother’s gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. The failure to diagnose ultimately resulted in a stillbirth caused by complication related to the gestational diabetes.
$900,000 Settlement (Virginia 2021): Mother was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and the doctor opted for a vaginal delivery. The baby was macrosomic from the gestational diabetes and shoulder dystocia was encountered during delivery. In the effort to pull the baby through the birth canal, the doctor damaged nerves resulting in a brachial plexus injury.
$850,000 Settlement (New York 2019): Lawsuit claimed that the doctor was negligent in failing to properly manage and treat the mother’s gestational diabetes, resulting in a baby that was too large and became stuck in the birth canal during delivery. The baby suffered Erb’s palsy injury during the effort to deliver him.
Contact Us About Gestational Diabetes Malpractice
Our birth injury lawyers handle gestational diabetes malpractice lawsuits across the country. If you think you have a medical malpractice case involving gestational diabetes, contact us today for free consultation. Call us at 800-553-8082 or contact us online.