Errors in Obstetrics

Obstetrics is a specialization in medicine that involves the care of women through pregnancy and delivery of babies. The doctors who treat women during this time are known as obstetricians.

When a woman finds out she is pregnant, she is usually thrilled. One of the first things she does after telling all her friends and family is schedule an appointment with her obstetrician. When she gets to the doctor, they will take her vital signs, do a physical examination, and give her an estimate of her due date. They will give advice about needed changes in habits such as avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and they will also advise about how to be healthy during pregnancy.

What to Expect at Checkups

Each month, the mother to be will come back for a visit to the doctor. Each month, she will undergo the same examination. The doctor will routinely checked the mother's year in for protein and keep a close eye on blood pressure as well. Along the way, different tests will be performed to ensure the health of the mother and the baby during the pregnancy. At around week 18, the parents will get their first chance to see the growing baby when the doctor performs an ultrasound. At week 28, the doctor will perform some blood tests to make sure that blood sugar is normal to find out if the child has a neural tube defect.

Once the mother is in her third trimester, the doctor will require her to come in for a visit every two weeks. Ongoing attention will continue to focus on blood pressure and urine protein levels. At this stage, the doctor will advise the mother-to-be about Braxton Hicks contractions.

Close to Delivery

During the last two months of pregnancy, the doctor begins checking the cervix for preliminary signs of dilation. The last four weeks of pregnancy, the doctor will require the mother to begin coming in every week.

The Birth Day Arrives

When the time is right, the expectant mother will go to the hospital if that is where she chooses to deliver her baby. Some others choose to have their babies at home.

Once she gets to the hospital, she will change into a gown and get settled into her room. The nurse will then come in and set up IVs and check her vital signs. The nurse will also check to make sure that the mother is truly in labor. If she is not, she will be sent home.

Once labor has been established, the doctor will be notified by hospital staff. Nurses will periodically check the expectant mother to see how much progress has been made. Once it looks like the mother is close to delivery, the doctor will stay close by.

When the mother is ready to deliver her baby, the nurse and the doctor will come into the delivery room and help her through the process. If everything goes well, the mother will have her baby without any complications. She will then take her baby home.

Possible Complications

Obstetrics is a risky business for a doctor to get into. Bringing a baby into the world is not an easy thing for any mother to accomplish. In a fast-paced environment, errors are far more likely to happen.

Delivery is not the only place where errors happen to obstetricians or hospitals. Sometimes, a mother may be in early labor and sent home rather than being sent to the hospital. Early labor often requires hospitalization and specialized medications to avoid premature delivery. If it is not stopped in its earliest stages, the complication that results could be injury to the mother and the delivery of her premature baby.

Once a mother is in labor, she needs to be monitored very carefully. Unfortunately, many hospitals have a shortage of nurses. Nurses that are on staff in labor and delivery should only have 1 to 2 patients that they are responsible for at any given time. A nursing shortage forces some hospitals to have nurses managing three or more patients who are laboring at the same time. This could leave the mother alone at the most critical time, causing her to have a multitude of problems. This brings a high risk of infections, medication errors, and hemorrhaging.

Obstetricians and hospitals have begun investigating methods that can be used to reduce the risk of errors in obstetrics. Preliminary research indicates that having effective training methods for non-physician staff members decreases the likelihood of errors. Some hospitals are hiring a patient safety nurse to oversee processes and ensure that all patients are kept safe. Finally, communication provides staff members the best method to avoid errors.

A lot of progress is on the horizon to help doctors and hospitals reduce the potential of obstetrical errors to patients. Hopefully the day will come when advances in technology prevent all errors from taking place.