Assuming there are no medical conditions that would suggest a greater potential for problems, doctors will usually recommend first-time mothers give birth vaginally. After all, a cesarean section is a surgical procedure associated with longer recovery times and the risk of hemorrhaging, strokes and blood clots.

ninemonths1However, when things don’t go as planned (i.e., labor lasts longer than what’s considered safe, there is undue stress on the baby), doctors may initiate an emergency cesarean section. Fort Myers birth injury lawyers know when doctors don’t initiate the procedure fast enough, the result could be serious and permanent injury to the mother and/or child.

But here is where there has been much debate lately in Southwest Florida: VBACs, or vaginal births after cecareans. This is when a mother who has previously had a cesarean section wishes to subsequently have a vaginal birth. Although medical data nationwide on VBACS indicate they are 80 to 90 percent successful, there is still a 1 in 10 chance something is going to go wrong.

Many doctors consider odds like that far too high, and are refusing to comply, despite patient wishes. This is especially true if the patient has had more than one c-section. VBAC patients face potential complications that include uterine rupture, uncontrollable bleeding and, possibly death of both mother and child.

Still, given the potential dangerous of surgery, some mothers want to try to give birth vaginally, if it’s at all possible. But in Lee County, they’re having trouble finding doctors who will agree to help.

At Lee Memorial Health System, where the majority of births occur, only about 30 VBACs are conducted annually. Meanwhile, there are an average of 2,500 cesarean sections.

We have a higher rate of cesarean sections than nationally (38 percent, compared to 33 percent). In Collier, it was even higher, at 41 percent.

One of the few area doctors who specializes in VBACs has been on a long-term medical leave from his Cape Coral office, leaving women with still fewer choices.

That has prompted women’s advocacy groups to push the medical community to do more. Lee Memorial has responded by relaxing a rule requiring VBAC patient doctors be in the hospital throughout the entire course of a woman’s labor. That decision was based on updated guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Still, many doctors remain increasingly reluctant. They know that if they agree to oversee such a birth, they may be liable if something goes wrong.

On the other hand, patients need to realize that if they are fully and properly warned about the potential risks and they still press forward with this procedure, any subsequent litigation against the attending doctor arising from complications could be weakened. It’s going to depend on the exact circumstances of the case.

One dispute between a 29-year-old mother of three and her Port Charlotte doctor resulted in a federal lawsuit earlier this month. The mother, whose previous children were all born via c-section, is asking the court to step in to force the doctor’s office to help her deliver vaginally. Meanwhile, the doctor’s office has threatened to file a complaint with the Florida Department of Children and Families over the mother’s refusal to have a c-section. They say anything other than surgery, given her previous medical history, will be very risky for both mother and child.

Both a federal judge and the hospital ethics committee have sided with the physician.

Questions of ethics, assumed risk and liability are complicated where these cases are concerned. Mothers and children who have suffered as a result of birth-related injuries should consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to examine the full scope of options.

Fort Myers birth injury claims can be filed with the help of Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Mothers hoping to avoid c-sections often can’t find doctors, July 28, 2014, By Frank Gluck, The News-Press

More Blog Entries:

Gomez v. Sauerwein – Informed Consent in Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Misdiagnosis, July 7, 2014, Fort Myers Birth Injury Lawyer Blog