During pregnancy, some women can develop a temporary form of diabetes known as gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes can present complications and risks to the health of the baby. Failing to timely diagnose and manage this condition can result in serious injuries. This page will look at birth injury malpractice lawsuits involving gestational diabetes.
About Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a particular type of diabetes that can sometimes develop in women during pregnancy. Insulin is a hormone that breaks down glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream and converts it into energy. During pregnancy, a woman’s body releases high levels of other hormones which facilitate fetal growth.
Pregnancy hormones make the mother’s body more resistant to the effects of insulin. Gestational diabetes occurs in some women when the fetal growth hormones released during pregnancy significantly block the effect of insulin to the point where they are unable to process glucose. Women who develop gestational diabetes become diabetic for the remainder of their pregnancy, causing excessively high blood sugar levels.
Gestational diabetes is a very common pregnancy complication. About 1 out of every 10 pregnancies will result in gestational diabetes. Regular diagnostic screening for gestational diabetes is an important part of routine prenatal care. Gestational diabetes is something that usually develops later in pregnancy. Most cases are diagnosed after the 28th week.
How is Gestational Diabetes Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of gestational diabetes is made through a glucose tolerance test. This test is typically performed at or shortly after the 24th week of pregnancy, although some OB/GYNs argue that it should be tested for earlier. The glucose tolerance test diagnostic method has an accuracy rate of around 80%.
Who Is at Risk for Gestational Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes occurs in roughly 10% of pregnancies. Unfortunately, there is no to known in advance what women will get gestational diabetes. There are, however, are number of well-known factors that greatly increase the likelihood of gestational diabetes occurring: History of diabetes; obesity; and advanced maternal age.
- Age: woman over 25 at the time of pregnancy are more likely to get gestational diabetes.
- Obesity: mothers who are overweight when they get pregnant or who gain too much weight after becoming pregnancy are at higher risk.
- Genetics: women who are genetically predisposed to diabetes (i.e., have diabetes in their family) are more likely to develop gestational diabetes when they are pregnant.
Management of Gestational Diabetes
When gestational diabetes is timely diagnosed, it can almost always be effectively managed with harm to mother or baby. The standard of care for gestational diabetes requires more frequent prenatal care visits in which the doctor will carefully monitor blood sugar levels. Insulin is also prescribed to help process the glucose in the blood stream. Lifestyle and dietary adjustments are also used to manage the condition. Women with gestational diabetes are advised to follow a pregnancy-safe, low impact exercise routine. Dietary management of gestational diabetes requires consumption of less fatty foods and more fruits, folic acid, vegetables and high fiber foods.
Failure to Diagnose Gestational Diabetes Can Lead to Birth Injuries
Gestational diabetes can cause serious problems and lead to birth injuries when it is not timely diagnosed or not properly managed or treated after diagnosis. Undiagnosed or mismanaged gestational diabetes can lead to the following problems and pregnancy complications, often with disastrous consequences:
- Preeclampsia: The most significant risk resulting from failure to diagnose or properly manage gestational diabetes is preeclampsia. Preeclampsia and a type of acute high blood pressure that occurs in the later stages of pregnancy. Preeclampsia can result in premature delivery and a host of other negative outcomes.
- Fetal Macrosomia: Fetal macrosomia is the medical term for a fetus that grows abnormally large during pregnancy (over 8.8 lbs). Gestational diabetes increases the risk of fetal macrosomia from 9% to 50%. Fetal macrosomia can be risky because it makes vaginal delivery much more difficult. Overly large babies are more likely to become stuck in the birth canal during labor.
- Premature Birth: Undiagnosed or mismanaged cases of gestational diabetes significantly increase the rate of premature delivery. Premature delivery comes with a host of very serious health risks to the baby.
All of these complications associated with gestational diabetes can make labor and delivery more difficult and increase the risk of a birth injury. Failure to timely diagnose and manage gestational diabetes can result in a number of other health conditions for your baby. These include, but are not limited to, jaundice, respiratory impairment, and congenital defects. Moreover, untreated gestational diabetes can result in blood sugar levels that are high enough to interfere with the functioning of the placenta and disrupt the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the baby. This is why proper screening for gestational diabetes is a critical component of good prenatal care.
Gestational Diabetes and Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice involving gestational diabetes comes in 3 general types. The first is negligent failure to timely diagnose gestational diabetes. Prenatal care should include proper screening for gestational diabetes. If a prenatal doctor fails to screen for it or fails to properly diagnose gestational diabetes when it occurs, they can be liable for medical negligence.
The second type of malpractice involving gestational diabetes involves negligently failing to treat or manage the condition. The third category of malpractice is failing to opt for a c-section after gestational diabetes is diagnosed.
Gestational Diabetes Verdicts and Settlements
Below are summaries of recent medical malpractice verdicts and reported settlements involving negligence related to gestational diabetes.
- $1,079,932 Verdict (Washington 2022): In this case, shoulder dystocia caused the baby to become stuck in the birth canal during vaginal delivery. The baby suffered a significant brachial plexus injury during the delivery as a result. The lawsuit alleged that the OB/GYN was negligent in failing to properly screen the mother for gestational diabetes, resulting in the baby becoming abnormally large and eventually becoming stuck during delivery.
- $956,504 Verdict (Utah 2020): The baby experienced shoulder dystocia during delivery and was diagnosed with brachial plexus palsy. The lawsuit alleged that the OB/GYN was negligent in attempting to deliver the baby vaginally when there were clear indications of gestational diabetes resulting in fetal macrosomia (the baby was 12 pounds at birth). The doctor claimed that the screening tests were not positive for gestational diabetes and there were not other risk indicators for an overly large baby.
- $3,500,000 Settlement (Pennsylvania 2019): Baby was born with severe brain damage due to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy resulting in spastic cerebral palsy, blindness, dystonia and hearing loss with the need for assistance with all activities of daily life, after being delivered by emergency C-Section. The lawsuit claimed that the OB/GYN was negligent in attempting a vaginal delivery instead of a pre-planned C-Section because the mother had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes which led to preeclampsia.
- $850,000 Settlement (New York 2019): The infant suffered Erb’s Palsy, a right brachial plexus nerve injury, a neurologic injury, and developmental, motor and speech delays during his birth. The lawsuit alleged that the doctor was negligent in failing to appreciate the findings of diabetes and/or gestational diabetes of his mother, failing to appreciate his mother’s weight gain, failing to appreciate the increased risk of shoulder dystocia, failing to diagnose fetal macrosomia, and failing to deliver him via a cesarean section.
- $500,000 Settlement (Illinois 2017): Infant was stillborn. Lawsuit claimed that the doctor negligently failed to adequately and completely test the mother for gestational diabetes, failed to properly and adequately record the mother’s increased risk of gestational diabetes, failed to properly, timely and adequately inform the mother of her risk of gestational diabetes, failed to properly and adequately evaluate and/or notice an abnormal urinary glucose level, and failed to properly and adequately perform a gestational diabetes mellitus screening.
- $950,000 Settlement (California 2016): In this case, the defendant OB/GYN actually diagnosed the mother with gestational diabetes, but for whatever reason he never told the mother about the diagnosis and never took any steps to treat or manage the condition. Fetal macrosomia developed and the baby was injured after becoming stuck in the birth canal during vaginal delivery.
Contact a Birth Injury Lawyer About Gestational Diabetes Negligence
If you believe your child was injured due a negligent failure to diagnose or properly treat gestational diabetes, contact the birth injury lawyers at Miller & Zois for a free consultation. Call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.