This article has been fact checked by an experienced birth injury attorney. Sources of information for the article are listed at the bottom.
For any content issues please Contact Us.
Uterine rupture and birth injury later can be serious for both the baby and mother, even fatal in rare cases. Contact a birth injury lawyer if your child suffered birth injuries because of a uterine rupture. They can investigate and determine if medical malpractice is to blame.
What Is a Uterine Rupture?
A uterine rupture is a complication of pregnancy and childbirth. It is a tearing in the uterus that may cause the baby to slide into the mother’s abdominal cavity. It is often catastrophic, with severe consequences for the baby and mother. Potential complications include lasting birth injuries, like cerebral palsy, or even death.
Facts About Uterine Ruptures
Get Matched with a Leading Birth Injury Attorney in Your AreaGet Help Now
- The overall incidence of uterine rupture is less than 1%, making it rare.
- The incidence increases for certain women, including those with scarring and prior Cesarean sections.
- In women who have had one C-section, the incidence of uterine rupture rises to as high as 1.5%.
- In women with two or more past C-sections, the incidence is nearly 4%.
- A uterine rupture can cause serious complications or birth injuries. It may even be fatal in some cases for the baby or the mother, or both.
- Uterine rupture can be caused by medical negligence. There are known risk factors that mothers and their doctors can manage.
Do Babies Survive Uterine Rupture?
Most babies survive this complication, but the fatality rate is still too high. The fatality rate can be as high as 6% when studies include mothers who did not make it to the hospital before the rupture occurred. Among women whose ruptures occur in the hospital, the fatality rate is less than 3%.
What Are the Signs of a Uterine Rupture?
The outcome may be better if medical staff carefully monitor mother and child and detect potential signs of a rupture:
- Fetal bradycardia, a slower than normal heart rate
- Variations in fetal heart rate
- Vaginal bleeding
- The fetus falling out of normal position, or station
- Maternal shock due to loss of blood and fluids (hypovolemia)
- Constant and severe abdominal pain
What Causes Uterine Ruptures?
There are many potential causes of a uterine rupture. Ultimately, the cause is a buildup of pressure as the baby moves into and through the birth canal. It Is more likely to tear around old scar lines, such as those left from previous Cesarean sections.
Certain factors may cause the pressure to build too high or put a woman at greater risk for a rupture during childbirth:
- Multiple fetuses
- Multiple past pregnancies and deliveries
- An excessive amount of amniotic fluid
- Malpresentation, when the fetus is in an unusual position
- Version, or turning of the fetus because of malpresentation
- Inappropriate use of instruments, such as forceps
- Congenital uterine abnormalities
- Excessive uterine stimulation with oxytocin or prostaglandin
Most of these are still unlikely to cause a rupture in a woman with an unscarred uterus. For those with a scar, any of these factors can significantly increase the risk or even trigger a rupture.
Can Medical Malpractice Cause a Uterine Rupture?
Yes, medical negligence may be an underlying cause of a uterine rupture. For instance, if a doctor failed to take precautions based on a mother’s past pregnancy history, it could lead to a rupture. Most women are warned against attempting vaginal birth after past C-sections.
Misuse of labor instruments or improperly turning the fetus from an unusual birth position could also increase the risk of a uterine rupture. If a doctor doesn’t monitor labor closely or fails to act when there are warning signs, this can also be negligence.
Medical malpractice can also be a factor in how a doctor responds to a rupture. Not all ruptures are preventable, but a doctor may not respond quickly enough or appropriately, resulting in more severe complications.
How Do Doctors Treat a Uterine Rupture?
A uterine rupture is an emergency complication, so doctors must act quickly to stabilize the mother and baby. Some estimates indicate that doctors must intervene within 10 to 37 minutes to save the baby.
How doctors respond depends on the situation, but generally, they will surgically remove the baby. They then stabilize the baby with oxygen and other types of critical care.
For the mother, doctors must stop bleeding. If it is severe, they may begin surgery immediately and may need to perform a hysterectomy. The mother may also receive a blood transfusion.
What Birth Injuries and Complications Can it Cause?
As long as the bleeding is managed for the mother, she is likely to survive and recover from a uterine rupture. The baby is more vulnerable to complications because of loss of oxygen to the brain after the rupture and until the medical team can provide supplemental oxygen.
Asphyxia, or loss of oxygen, to a baby can cause neurological damage and lasting birth injuries. One of the most common of these is cerebral palsy. Brain damage resulting from loss of oxygen can lead to permanent disabilities ranging from mild to severe.
Is a Uterine Rupture Preventable?
Good medical care can prevent most cases of uterine rupture. Not all cases can be predicted or prevented, but when doctors monitor mothers, and they follow their doctors’ guidance, the risks are much lower.
One of the most important ways to prevent uterine rupture is to perform a Cesarean section in women who have had previous C-sections or have scarring from other surgeries.
Doctors play the most critical role in preventing and reducing the complications of a uterine rupture. They have a responsibility to monitor the mother’s health throughout pregnancy and the vital signs of the mother and fetus during labor and delivery.
By knowing a mother’s risk factors paying attention to warning signs, physicians can prevent many cases of devastating uterine rupture.
Can I Sue My Doctor for a Uterine Rupture?
Uterine rupture can cause severe complications in the fetus, such as cerebral palsy. Contact a birth injury lawyer if you have any concerns about how your doctor or medical staff acted or failed to act during your pregnancy or delivery.
An experienced lawyer can look over your case and work with medical experts to determine if medical negligence played a role in your child’s birth injury. If it did, they will guide your next steps, helping you sue for damages if you choose to do so.
- Nahum, G.G. (2018, July 5). Uterine Rupture in Pregnancy. Medscape.
Retrieved from: https://reference.medscape.com/article/275854-overview#showall
- Toppenberg, K.S. and Block, W.A. (2002, September 1). Uterine Rupture: What Family Physicians Need to Know. Am. Fam. Physician. 66(5), 823-9.
Retrieved from: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0901/p823.html
- Moldenhauer, J.S. (2021, July). Uterine Rupture. Merck Manual.
Retrieved from: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/abnormalities-and-complications-of-labor-and-delivery/uterine-rupture