The New York Times reported recently reported on a Risk Analysis study which showed that maternal delivery difficulties increase on weekends, at nights, and during the holidays. The study analyzed pregnancy complications in Texas, from 2005 to 2010. More than two million births occurred in that time period.
Per the Times, the study specifically reviews “complications that can reasonably be controlled by hospital staff,” including:
- A ruptured uterus
- The need for an unplanned hysterectomy
- Emergency medical procedures
- Admission to ICU
- Severe perineal lacerations
Researchers found that more than 21,000 women developed at least one of those complications.
The results of the clinical study
In an article in The Legal Examiner, partner Matthew Nace detailed the role time of day has on the risk of complication. Compared to a daytime delivery on a weekday, patients who gave birth at other times and on other days were much more vulnerable to risk of complications:
- During the nights – 21% increase
- On the weekends – 9% increase
- During holidays – 29% increase
An additional red flag was raised when teaching hospital data was analyzed. The study found that pregnancy complications rose at teaching hospitals each year in June by 28%. June is when new residents with low skills start their practice. By the following June, the statistical difference between maternity difficulties at teaching hospitals compared to those at non-teaching hospitals (daytime pregnancies) was minimal. The decrease in delivery complications, it is estimated, are largely due to the training and experienced the residents acquire during the year.
The study controlled other factors so that the focus could be on the time of day and the residency criteria. Controlled factors included education, race, congenital abnormalities, maternal age, and gestational age.
What can hospitals do to help pregnant women and newborns?
The study, according to one of its co-authors, raises significant concerns that hospitals need to consider schedule and experience changes so that the health of a mother or child is not placed in jeopardy because of the “bad luck” of going into delivery during off-hours. A better balance of experienced staff could help even out the risks of complications.
When medical malpractice during a birth does occur, the child and the child’s parents have a right to hold the birth doctors and hospital accountable for medical mistakes.