Liability for Stillbirth – Is Medical Negligence to Blame?

Ava Lawson | May 9th, 2013

New York Medical Malpractice LawyerOne of the most tragic events for any expecting mother, a stillbirth is defined as the premature death and subsequent delivery of a developing infant after 20 weeks of gestation. It happens in one out of every 160 pregnancies, according to the National Stillbirth Society, and usually takes place well before labor. While some incidents of stillbirth occur without any signs or warnings, others – particularly those that happen when a woman is very close to full term or during the labor process – should be examined with more vigilance to establish if medical errors may be to blame for the baby’s early death. In instances of medical malpractice, a family may have the legal right to pursue a stillbirth lawsuit against the attending health care providers for their negligent actions.

Risk factors for stillbirths

There are numerous factors that can put a woman at greater risk of having a stillborn baby.

Risk factors include:

  • Age 35 years or older
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Insufficient prenatal care
  • Smoker and/ or alcohol and drug use
  • African-American ethnicity
  • Extreme malnutrition

Causes of stillbirth

Placental and umbilical cord problems that result in inadequate oxygen supply to the fetal brain may be one of the causes of stillbirth. Others include chromosomal disorders and birth defects, growth restriction within the uterus and prolonged oxygen deprivation, and bacterial infections in the womb. It’s estimated that in up to 40 percent of stillbirth cases, it’s impossible to pinpoint the exact reasons for fetal death.

With modern advances in prenatal care, the number of stillbirths has dropped significantly over the past few decades. Obstetricians and physicians now have at their disposal a range of fetal monitoring devices that help ensure the health and growth of the baby. Women who are considered “high-risk” pregnancies are carefully watched through a combination of fetal heart rate monitoring and regular ultrasounds. However, there may be times when negligent medical care, on the part of a nurse, midwife, OBGYN or other health care provider, results in birth injuries or stillbirth. When doctors deviate from the proper standard of care or ignore warning signs of early fetal distress, the consequences are nothing short of heartbreaking.

Medical errors before or during labor may lead to fetal death

Examples of negligent medical care that may cause a stillbirth include:

  • Dismissing a mother’s concerns regarding lack of fetal activity
  • Failing to monitor fetal heartbeat
  • Failing to perform routine check-ups
  • Allowing a prolonged labor
  • Failure to detect and address signs of fetal infection
  • Inducing labor with too much pitocin
  • Failing to induce labor after 41 weeks
  • Failing to identify umbilical cord complications
  • Failing to perform a timely Cesarean section

New York medical malpractice lawyer

The Sanders Firm understands the overwhelming feelings of grief and anger that come with the loss of a child, and are committed to helping families secure the justice they deserve by holding the responsible parties liable for their negligent actions. If you have lost your baby during late term pregnancy or during labor and suspect that the death may be attributed to doctor negligence, please contact our law offices today about filing a stillbirth lawsuit. We’ll explain your options for legal recourse and provide the support you need to get through this challenging time. Call today for a free consultation with a New York medical malpractice lawyer who will listen to your story and help your family move forward. Call today: 1.800.FAIR.PLAY


  1. National Institutes of Health, Stillbirth, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/stillbirth.html

  2. American Pregnancy Association, Stillbirth: Trying to Understand, http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyloss/sbtryingtounderstand.html