When a doctor realizes that a fetus in distress during childbirth, time is of the essence. Depriving oxygen to the brain during this crucial period can result in catastrophic consequences. In many cases these consequences can be avoided by performing a c-section in a timely manner.
A state medical board recently reprimanded one obstetrician following accusations of negligence related to a delayed c-section. In this case, the delay apparently led to a lack of oxygen to the baby's brain resulting in substantial developmental delays.
According to local news reports, the reprimanded doctor took over for another doctor during a shift switch. The mother had been pushing for about 30 minutes at that point. The woman was given an epidural at which point the fetal heart rate began slowing. When the mother began pushing the deceleration was again evident.
The obstetrician attempted three times to deliver the baby using a vacuum device. Even after the final vacuum delivery failed, it was about an hour before the infant was finally delivered. The doctor explained that she thought the decrease in the fetal heart rate was likely the result of cord compression and was not a major concern.
After this birth injury, the guidelines regarding turning delivering mothers over to an on-call physician have been changed. The reprimanded doctor informed the board that she had personally changed her procedure and will move more quickly to a c-section delivery if the vacuum procedure is not successful. The doctor also agreed to enroll in ongoing clinical training program.
Source: Mercury News "Dr. Adwoa Christy reprimanded by state: Baby deprived of oxygen during difficult delivery" JONDI GUMZ, Aug. 22, 2011