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Fetal monitor errors lead to unnecessary surgery

Are too many American women delivering their children via C-section when natural delivery is a viable option? A lot of researchers say that they are.

There’s been considerable debate among the scientific and medical communities about why C-section rates jumped for American women about 455 percent in the years between 1965 and 1987 alone. Some speculated that it was the fear of malpractice lawsuits driving doctors to take the supposedly “safer” route of surgery over the less-certain route of a natural delivery. Others blamed advancing maternal ages and a cultural desire for a “convenient,” scheduled delivery.

Now, however, researchers are saying that the real culprit behind the skyrocketing rate of C-sections in America is the faulty system used to monitor the unborn infants during labor. Overuse and misuse of electronic fetal monitoring devices have caused doctors to incorrectly diagnose fetal distress far too often.

Once that diagnosis is made, doctors and patients alike turn to C-sections as a way to ensure the safety of the unborn child. Unfortunately, the C-section is often unnecessary. That means that mothers are being put through major surgery and subjected to immense risk of complications for no good reason.

Fetal monitors are a staple in hospital delivery wards these days. For the last few decades, they’ve been credited with reducing infant mortality. However, new research indicates that developments in maternal and pediatric medicine have actually been behind the change. Too many obstetricians, however, continue to credit the fetal monitor for the changes — despite the fact that monitors regularly provide inaccurate results indicating that the unborn children are in distress.

Studies have found that fetal monitors don’t change the average outcomes of labor and delivery when compared to traditional methods of monitoring an unborn child’s condition except in one significant way: they substantially increase the number of C-sections that are performed. Fetal monitors are so inaccurate that they give false positives for hypoxia (a lack of oxygen to the baby) about 40 percent of the time.

Doctors who rely solely on fetal monitors to evaluate a baby’s condition are unnecessarily putting mothers at risk. C-sections are highly traumatic surgeries — and complications like infection, paralysis and hemorrhages are common.

If you’ve been the victim of a preventable birth injury that left you or your child with long-term medical problems, it’s important to consider all of your legal options.