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Be Your Own Advocate During Pregnancy

By: Paola Pearson, Anapol Weiss Partner

All too often, expectant mothers’ health concerns are dismissed as “normal” pregnancy symptoms or paranoia. Sometimes the concerns are fleeting and don’t require further work-up. But sometimes they’re indicative of a serious pregnancy complication that requires urgent medical care. Without strong self-advocacy and provider communication during pregnancy, your health or the health of your baby may be at risk.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adverse pregnancy outcomes and maternal mortality rates are on the rise. For African American mothers, maternal mortality rates are disproportionately high due to racial disparities and implicit bias in healthcare. Common pregnancy complications such as gestational hypertension or gestational diabetes sometimes present with tell-tale symptoms that lead to prompt diagnosis and treatment.

But all too often, the symptoms are missed by healthcare providers who don’t take patient concerns seriously and fail to look at the big picture. In some cases, major complications such as umbilical cord prolapse or cord compression go unnoticed during labor and delivery leading to tragic outcomes.

As a medical malpractice attorney litigating birth injury cases, I see the consequences of inadequate prenatal care and negligent labor and delivery management every day. The impact on patients and their families is nothing short of heartbreaking. The worst part is that these outcomes were entirely preventable with prompt healthcare provider recognition and action.

Some patients voiced concerns to specialists about blurred vision or lack of fetal movement but were sent home with false reassurances instead of proper testing and diagnosis. For others, appropriate testing was done, but the patient’s midwife or doctor failed to act upon or communicate the findings of those tests.

Self-advocacy can help ensure the well-being of you and your child. It’s important that you feel respected and heard by your healthcare providers during this critical time. If something doesn’t feel right, question it, even if it leads to an uncomfortable conversation with your provider. If your doctor doesn’t take your concerns seriously, consider getting a second opinion from another provider or switching providers altogether. In the middle of a potentially stressful pregnancy, it can be easy to forget that your choice in healthcare providers isn’t set in stone. Just as you have a right to receive high-quality healthcare, you have a right to speak up. It might make all the difference in the world.

Paola Pearson is a partner at Anapol Weiss where she litigates medical malpractice birth injury cases on behalf of parents and their catastrophically injured children. Paola can be reached at 215-790-4554 or ppearson@anapolweiss.com.