A “birth injury” may occur when a baby is injured from complications during labor and delivery. Medical error can cause these birth injuries, or greatly increase their severity and/or permanence.
Birth injuries range from mild to severe. Some of the minor injuries are bruising and swelling from passage through the birth canal or the use of forceps. More serious injuries can sometimes occur that result in broken bones, loss of arms and hand mobility and brain damage.
In no particular order, the following are the 10 most common birth injuries:
- Oxygen deprivation, which is the leading cause of brain injuries during labor and delivery. Not only can a lack of oxygen cause cerebral palsy, one of the most debilitating brain disorders, but it also does not take long for the damage to be done. If the baby is left in the birth canal for too long, he or she has a risk of being born with physical, mental and emotional disabilities.
- Perinatal asphyxia, a form of oxygen deprivation, can also occur when there is not enough blood flow to the baby before or after birth.
- Facial paralysis, in which there is too much pressure placed on the child’s face during delivery. This is more common with the incorrect or excessive use of forceps or vacuum extraction and can leave the child’s face completely unable to move.
- Cerebral palsy is the consequence of failing to properly monitor both the mother and baby during labor. Sadly, there is no cure for the lack of motor skills, muscle spasms, vision impairments, speech problems and learning disabilities which follow.
- Cephalohematoma, also known as bleeding under the cranial bone. This birth injury can also result in jaundice, hypotension, anemia, and more.
- Brachial plexus, which is a disability involving damaged nerves from the spine down to the hand. The most devastating cases even result in permanent paralysis.
- Spinal cord injuries are some of the most dangerous and often leave babies mentally and physically disabled.
- Fractured collarbones, requiring further hospitalization for the baby.
- Caput succedaneum, which refers to a swollen scalp due to pressure during delivery.
- Hemorrhages are a result of pressure during birth and refer to bleeding under the two lawyers of the brain. They can also cause a burst blood vessel in the eyes.
Some of the most common causes of birth injury are:
- The baby’s position. “Breech birth” is when the baby is in an unusual position when the baby’s bottom is down or traverse (in a sideways position). These positions make vaginal birth risky.
- The size of the baby and the size of the mother’s pelvis. When a baby is more than eight pounds, a birth injury is more likely. On the other extreme, premature babies are also more susceptible to injury.
- Difficult labor. Prolonged labor can lead to oxygen deprivation.
Medical errors can increase the chances and severity of injuries. Failure to anticipate birth complications from a larger baby or a breech baby may lead to fractured bones, especially the collar bone.
A baby’s shoulders may impair its passage through the birth canal depending on the size of the baby and the mother’s pelvis. The baby may then suffer from Erb’s Palsy where a group of nerves that control movement in the arms and hands is injured and causes weakness or paralysis in the arms or hands.
If a physician failed to recognize these factors and your child suffered a birth injury, speak to an attorney in your area who is experienced at handling these difficult cases. An attorney can evaluate whether a birth injury was caused by negligence. If a doctor or nurse was negligent in the care and birth of your child, an attorney can help you seek the compensation you deserve.
The Lifelong Care Required For Birth Injuries Is Costly
No amount of money can replace health. However, money is what the American legal system offers families that are seeking justice — and it is often much-needed to care for victims of birth injuries. Children and their families need significant resources to pay existing medical bills and to receive ongoing physical therapy, multiple surgeries, and medical treatments. They also need resources for special accommodations, like homes that are wheelchair accessible and vans with wheelchair lifts.
As time goes on, resources often must go to hiring continuing caretakers as parents need additional help around the home so they can continue working to support the household. The long-term costs of a birth injury can be astounding, but many parents do not realize this until they talk with an attorney. It is only when they begin to tally the true costs of care that they realize just how necessary legal action is. Through filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, families can gain the resources necessary to help their children move forward with their lives.
Most Birth Injuries Are Preventable
Most birth injuries are entirely preventable, resulting from negligence by doctors, nurses, and others involved in the delivery. In a tragic 2008 case, 34-year-old Victoria Upsey arrived at the hospital with symptoms of complications that indicated her unborn son was being deprived of oxygen. A physician at the hospital examined her and determined that her baby had already died. After a second ultrasound, however, doctors detected a fetal heartbeat and performed an emergency cesarean section. At trial, experts testified that Upsey’s son would likely have avoided injury if doctors had immediately initiated delivery.
In this case, the jury found that the doctor who initially examined Upsey was not responsible. Rather, the hospital was responsbile for the child’s injuries. The hospital not only lacked a properly trained ultrasound technician, but had nothing but old, unreliable ultrasound equipment available. The verdict included payment for the child’s future medical expenses, lost future earnings, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
A Simple Device Could Prevent Many Birth Injuries
there is a simple device —a pessary —that could help prevent birth injuries by delaying birth in mothers at high risk for premature birth long enough to allow their babies a greater chance at survival. A pessary is a small silicon collar placed around the neck of the cervix.
A major benefit of using a pessary is its low cost; they typically cost around $50 each and, if demand were greater, they could be manufactured for even lower prices. Properly placing a pessary requires ultrasound equipment, but this equipment is readily available in most hospitals and clinics around the world.