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Maternal Death and Other Pregnancy Error Malpractice

Our firm handles medical malpractice birth injury lawsuits not only in Maryland but nationwide.

But we also handle cases involving a much less discussed topic: medical negligence during pregnancy or childbirth that causes injury or death to the mom.

This page looks at the issue of maternal death and injury, explains the most common types of malpractice claims that cause maternal injuries, and looks at settlement amounts and jury payouts in these malpractice lawsuits.

If you believe you have a claim. If you believe you or a loved one was harmed by medical malpractice causing serious injury to you or your child, call us today at 800-553-8082 or get a free online malpractice consultation.

Maternal Death

Between 700 to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes every year in the United States. An estimated 65,000 develop complications that put their lives at risk. Childbearing is the sixth most common cause of death among women aged 20 to 34 in the United States.

Incredibly and tragically, among women of reproductive age in high-income countries, rates of death from avoidable causes, including pregnancy-related complications, are highest in the United States.

The risk is greatest among older mothers, women who live in rural areas, African Americans, and low-income women. Women with diabetes and preexisting cardiac conditions are also at increased risk. However, maternal death and complications during childbirth often do not discriminate. Every woman bearing a child faces danger.

The $3 trillion in health care each year is allowing us to keep up with other developed nations when it comes to maternal mortality rates. Incredibly, the problem is getting worse.

Indeed, many women die. There is not a malpractice case because there is nothing that could have been done. But many maternal death cases result in wrongful death malpractice lawsuits because the death was avoidable. How many? Incredibly, the CDC says that 80% of maternal deaths are preventable.

Malpractice lawyers have been preaching all of this for years. In 2024, awareness grew after a study found that the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth in the United States. Seriously? The United States? It is true.

What Causes Maternal Mortality?

What is happening during childbirth that causes maternal death? The leading causes of maternal mortality are heart disease, pulmonary embolism, sepsis, hemorrhage, pulmonary and pulmonary embolism.

One severe hemorrhage that puts the mother’s life at risk is caused by placenta accreta. Placenta accreta increases the risk of an unmanageable obstetric hemorrhage. What happens is that it invades and becomes inseparable from the uterine wall during pregnancy.

Women with a history of prior C-sections or placenta previa are thought to be at increased risk. What is scary is that there are no readily apparent symptoms of placenta accreta. The way to uncover the problem is through an ultrasound.

But this is not 100% accurate. Sometimes, doctors do not diagnose placenta accreta until delivery, when the placenta does not detach as it usually would from the uterine wall after the infant is delivered. (Interestingly, it was Kim Kardashian who brought a lot of recent attention to placenta accreta.)

Harm to Mother Short of Death

Missed diagnoses of medical conditions during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, hypoglycemia, preeclampsia, anemia, and Rh-incompatibility, among others, have grave consequences for the mother and her unborn child. Other outcomes leading to maternal death include stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy, hydatidiform mole (a disease of the placenta), miscarriage, and induced abortion. Unfortunately, in most cases, symptoms are not characteristic of any one given condition which complicates the diagnosis.

Further complicating diagnosis, some diseases do not have specific biomarkers that can be measured or have numerous ones that are not necessarily indicated by standard tests due to availability or high costs associated with the tests.

Attorneys looking at these cases have a great deal to sort through to pin down the science and the medical experts as to what likely was the cause of any injury to the child or the mother.

However, despite these limitations, the scientific community continues to research complications arising during pregnancy with the end goal of providing tools to aid in the health of the mother and unborn child and further enhance prenatal care.

Most Common Malpractice Cases

There are five primary reoccurring problems/issues that may arise during a woman’s pregnancy that doctors miss, or fail to deal appropriately with, which frequently lead to medical malpractice cases:

Blood Loss

Medical malpractice often occurs due to inadequate monitoring of blood loss during and after childbirth, delaying the recognition of hemorrhage. This can escalate quickly and become life-threatening.

Slow or inappropriate responses to bleeding, such as not performing timely surgical interventions like a hysterectomy or not administering blood transfusions promptly, can lead to significant blood loss, shock, or death. Hospitals and staff may lack appropriate protocols or adequate blood supplies for emergencies.


Inadequate sterilization procedures during childbirth or surgical interventions can introduce infections, leading to sepsis if not promptly diagnosed and treated. Medical malpractice, such as failing to recognize early signs of infection, such as fever, pain, and abnormal discharge, can result in worsening conditions. Our material death lawyers often see cases where the healthcare providers failed to administer appropriate antibiotics, especially prophylactic antibiotics before C-sections, which can wildly exacerbate infections.

Pre-Eclampsia and Eclampsia

Malpractice often involves the failure to regularly check blood pressure and proteinuria, missing early signs of pre-eclampsia.  We often see these pre-eclampsia lawsuits from inadequate or inappropriate management of high blood pressure, which can lead to severe complications like eclampsia, which involves seizures. Delayed treatment with antihypertensive medications or magnesium sulfate for seizure prevention can result in fatal outcomes.

This is a common origin of malpractice lawsuits.  Hypertensive diseases of pregnancy” remain a leading cause of direct maternal injury and deaths. Preeclamptic conditions represent one in three cases of severe obstetric morbidity.

Is malpractice a problem? One study is telling. In 46% of maternal deaths due to pre-eclampsia reported, different management would reasonably have expected to alter the outcome.

Anesthesia Complications

Administering the wrong dosage of anesthesia can cause severe complications, including respiratory issues or cardiac arrest. Inadequate monitoring of vital signs during and after anesthesia administration can fail to detect adverse reactions in time. Another common theme in maternal wrongful death lawsuits is the failure to screen for allergies or previous adverse reactions to anesthesia.

Pulmonary Embolism

Symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and rapid heart rate can be misdiagnosed or ignored, delaying critical treatment. The solution that gets missed is often not providing blood thinners to at-risk patients, such as those with a history of blood clots or prolonged immobility.  It is pretty easy to diagnose if you order timely diagnostic tests like D-dimer tests, ultrasounds, or CT pulmonary angiography.

Amniotic Fluid Embolism

Symptoms such as sudden shortness of breath, hypotension, and altered mental status can be misdiagnosed, delaying appropriate treatment. This is a symptom that has to be jumped on before things get to the point of no return.  Slow response to cardiovascular collapse can lead to fatal outcomes. Immediate resuscitation efforts and advanced cardiac life support are crucial.

Gestational Diabetes

Most gestational diabetes malpractice lawsuits involve birth injuries. But the mom is at risk, too.  Inadequate management of blood sugar levels can lead to complications for both the mother and baby, including preterm birth and respiratory distress.


Inadequate monitoring of blood glucose levels in newborns can lead to hypoglycemia, which, if untreated, can cause neurological damage.  Most hypoglycemia malpractice lawsuits we see involve a slow response in treating hypoglycemia that results in seizures and brain injury.


Inadequate screening for anemia during pregnancy can lead to severe maternal complications, including preterm birth and low birth weight. Failure to properly treat anemia with iron supplements or other interventions can result in poor maternal and fetal outcomes.


Failure to screen for Rh incompatibility can lead to hemolytic disease of the newborn, which can cause severe anemia and jaundice in the infant. Inadequate management, including failure to administer Rho(D) immune globulin to Rh-negative mothers, can result in serious complications for the baby.


Maternal Deaths in the US are on the Rise

What Damages May I Recover For My Injuries?

To recover damages in a pregnancy mismanagement/misdiagnosis case in Maryland, a woman must establish that (1) the healthcare provider was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury; (2) the healthcare provider breached that duty; (3) the plaintiff suffered actual injury or loss; and (4) the loss or injury proximately resulted from the breach of duty.

The medical error need not be the only cause of the harm that was done to you. Negligence will be deemed a “cause in fact” of injury when it was at least a “substantial factor” in bringing about the harm.

Maternal Death Settlements and Verdicts

Below are summaries of verdicts and reported settlements in medical malpractice cases involving maternal deaths during childbirth or pregnancy.

Understanding the range of possible settlement amounts in successful maternal death lawsuits can be a useful tool for estimating the settlement amounts these claims can receive. But it is important to remember that these example settlements and verdicts are only one piece of the puzzle of estimating settlement amounts.

Consulting a maternal death attorney can offer more personalized and detailed guidance that go far beyond any insight you can get here. Still, we think the following examples are useful to illustrate how different circumstances and legal arguments have influenced the compensation awarded in maternal death and medical malpractice pregnancy cases.

  • $1.5 Million Settlement (Massachusetts 2023): A 24-year-old woman delivered her child at 37 weeks gestation. After delivery, a visiting nurse recorded a severely elevated blood pressure of 160/100, which is crazy high. But the nurse talked to the obstetrician and they decided on medication and a follow-up check instead of an emergency room visit. The next day, the woman developed severe symptoms and suffered cardiac arrest, resulting in a fatal anoxic brain injury. She hired a wrongful death malpractice lawyer and filed a lawsuit contending that immediate emergency department intervention would have prevented her death.
  • $950,000 Settlement (South Carolina 2022):  The estate of a 35-year-old woman who died from hemorrhaging after childbirth settled a medical malpractice suit. Despite a complication-free pregnancy, labor, and delivery, the mother experienced severe postpartum bleeding. The attending obstetrician ordered exploratory surgery but failed to order blood promptly. In the operating room, the anesthesiologist also did not order emergency release blood. Emergency release blood is blood provided quickly in life-threatening situations before full compatibility testing is completed to ensure immediate availability and prevent delays in critical transfusions. By the time blood was administered, the mother had coded and, despite resuscitation, suffered a catastrophic brain injury, dying the next day. The defense argued that timely blood delivery would not have changed the outcome.  The settlement was $950,000, and, importantly, the hospital changed its blood order procedures.
  • $22,000,000 Verdict (Illinois 2022): A Cook County jury awarded $22 million to the family of a 34-year-old mother who died in childbirth allegedly because the labor and delivery room doctor and nurse at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, Illinois, failed to properly treat her acute high blood pressure. It was the biggest maternal death verdict in the history of Illinois.
  • $550,000 Settlement (South Carolina 2022): A 32-year-old woman died from postpartum hemorrhaging at Lexington Medical Center after delivering her baby. Despite delivering at 10 p.m., the woman experienced severe bleeding, leading to a critically high pulse and dangerously low blood pressure. She died four hours later. Her husband hired a material death lawyer and filed a lawsuit that alleged that while the medical staff took steps to control the bleeding, a 90-minute delay in administering a blood transfusion was crucial and ultimately fatal. The defense maintained that the blood was delivered timely and care was appropriate. The case settled for $550,000.
  • $4,000,000 Settlement (Massachusetts 2020): This wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the defendants’ failure to timely diagnose HELLP syndrome in a first-time mother with preeclampsia caused uncontrolled bleeding, cardiac arrest, and death shortly after the baby was delivered by emergency cesarean section.
  • $12,000,000 Settlement (Connecticut 2020): A first-time mother was admitted for labor. Despite the fact that she had preeclampsia, she was given Pitcon to induce labor. After 12 hours of labor, signs of fetal stress appeared on the fetal monitoring devices so the baby was delivered by C-section. The mother had lost 1000 ml of blood, and despite obvious signs of an obstetric hemorrhage, no immediate action was taken after the delivery. She eventually died from excessive blood loss. Her family hired a pregnancy error lawyer who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital.
  • $1,250,000 Verdict (North Carolina 2019): A mother in her late 30s died following a C-section delivery when the defendants allegedly failed to diagnose and treat obstetric complications in a timely manner. The defendants denied negligence and claimed that the woman had died from disseminated intravascular coagulation, unrelated to any conduct by the defendant. A jury in North Carolina returned a verdict in favor of the woman’s two surviving children for $1.25 million.
  • $10,850,000 Verdict (California 2019): A 36-year-old pregnant woman suffered severe uterine bleeding after a C-section delivery. She was transferred to the post-anesthesia care unit and then the ICU.  The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to order operative intervention much sooner in response to her post-delivery bleeding.

Free Malpractice Claim Consultation

We are based in the Baltimore-Washington area but handle these cases nationally.  If you believe your pregnancy was negligently managed by your doctor, causing serious injury to you or your child, call us today at 800-553-8082. Alternatively, get a free online medical malpractice consultation. We will tell you whether we think you have a case for which you could receive compensation.

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