Expectant and new mothers often feel like doctors aren’t listening to them. Doctors and other medical professionals dismiss many of their concerns as “mommy brain.” However, failure to give credence to women’s concerns can have devastating results for them and/or their babies. Rates of maternal mortality in this country are shockingly high for a developed nation. A study in the United Kingdom found that the number of stillborn babies could be reduced by half if medical professionals paid more attention to expectant mothers.
Even someone with the wealth, influence and strength of tennis great Serena Williams isn’t immune to this problem. Shortly after she gave birth to her daughter, Williams felt short of breath. Since she’d had blood clots in the past, she feared that she had them again and was in danger of an embolism. When she alerted a nurse and asked for a CT scan and blood thinner, she was told that she might be confused by her pain medication. She insisted, and sure enough, doctors found blood clots in her lungs.
Sometimes it’s the baby who suffers when doctors don’t trust maternal instincts about their babies. In his new best-selling book, former FBI director James Comey recounts a tragic episode in his family’s lives. Shortly after his wife gave birth to their fourth child — a healthy son — in 1995, she “sensed a change in him,” as Comey recounts. He had become very irritable. When Mrs. Comey alerted the staff, she was told by a nurse, “You’ve just never had a colicky baby.”
In fact, the baby had contracted sepsis, which is a serious bacterial infection. He died days later. This was not an isolated incident. Mothers who have this infection, which poses no danger to them, unknowingly were passing it on to their babies, for whom it could be fatal. Patrice Comey made it her mission to see that this didn’t happen to anyone else. Now pregnant mothers (who have a 25 percent chance of carrying the bacteria) are tested and treated before they can pass it on to their babies.
It’s essential for all patients to trust their instincts and advocate for themselves as well as their children. When someone suffers harm or worse because a doctor or other medical professional didn’t listen to their concerns, it’s important to find out what your legal options are.
Source: Quartz, “A tragic episode in James Comey’s book shows the ingrained sexism of maternity care,” Annalisa Merelli, April 19, 2018