Thousands of children each year are born with injuries caused by negligence or trauma during the delivery process. Although many of these birth injuries can be resolved through surgery or other treatments, many children suffer from lifelong disabilities as a result of damage to their bodies that occurred when they were being born.
In some cases, the birth injuries are caused by the negligence of physicians or hospital staff who failed to take proper measures to resolve complications during the delivery process, or who failed to take adequate precautions to manage and monitor pre-existing risk factors that arose during pregnancy. In other instances, birth injuries may occur due to the negligent use of instruments during the delivery process, or because of excessive force or improper techniques used to deliver a baby.
Risk Factors for a Birth Injury
Complications during the delivery process may increase the risk of a birth injury to a child. The use of aggressive delivery methods by the doctor who performs the delivery may also increase the chances of trauma during the delivery process.
Serious risk factors that can increase the chances of a birth injury may include:
- Instrumental delivery, including the use of forceps or vacuum extraction.
- Breech delivery, either through vaginal delivery or an emergency Caesarean section.
- Shoulder dystocia: The baby’s shoulder becomes stuck inside the mother’s body during delivery, increasing the risk of Erb’s palsy or other birth injuries.
- Prolonged labor: Long or difficult labor, including cases where contractions aren’t strong enough to move the baby through the birth canal.
- Premature birth: Children born before the 37th week of pregnancy, especially those born before the 32nd week.
- Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD): The baby’s head or body are too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis.
- Other birth complications, including problems with the umbilical cord, uterine rupture, or detachment of the placenta.
Certain pre-existing factors prior to delivery may make it necessary for a doctor to use forceps or other delivery methods, which can increase the chances of a birth injury to the child, including:
- Large baby: Babies weighing more than 9 lbs. at the time of birth may face an increased risk of injuries due to birth trauma.
- Low birthweight: Children born weighing 5.5 lbs. or less (especially those weighing less than 3 lbs.) are at a higher risk of birth injuries, including cerebral palsy.
- Multiple births: Twins, triplets, and other multiple births are often born prematurely or with low birthweight, increasing their risk of birth trauma.
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART) infertility treatments: Children conceived via ART infertility treatments face an increased risk of birth injuries from preterm delivery or multiple births.
Types of Birth Injuries
Some birth injuries caused by trauma during delivery resolve themselves within a few weeks after delivery. Other conditions can be managed through surgery, physical therapy, or other treatment.
In other cases, however, birth traumas that occur during the delivery process may cause injuries that result in developmental delays or permanent problems with movement or cognition.
Some of the most common types of birth injuries include:
- Cerebral Palsy: Injuries to the brain before, during, or after delivery can cause lifelong problems in a child’s ability to move, hear, see, or think. Some cases of cerebral palsy are caused by low blood oxygen levels during delivery.
- Erb’s Palsy (brachial palsy): Injuries to the brachial plexus (a bundle of nerves connected to the hands and arms) may cause problems with the baby’s ability to move their hands or arms. Erb’s palsy is especially common in babies born with shoulder dystocia.
- Fractures: Improper delivery methods can result broken bones, including cranial fractures, broken clavicle due to shoulder dystocia, or fractures of the humerus during breech delivery.
- Facial Nerve Paralysis: Pressure on the facial nerves during delivery (especially for children delivered with forceps) may cause facial paralysis.
- Intracranial Hemorrhage: Broken blood vessels inside the baby’s skull could lead to bleeding in the brain, especially in premature babies.
- Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE): Injury to the brain cells caused by lack of oxygen.
- Perinatal Asphyxia: Injury to the newborn around the time of birth caused by too little blood flows to the baby’s tissues or too little oxygen in the blood.
- Caput Succedaneum: Severe swelling of the baby’s scalp during labor, especially in children born via vacuum extraction.
- Other Birth Injuries, including subconjunctival hemorrhage, bruising, and lacerations.
Causes of Birth Trauma During Delivery
Some birth injuries are caused by pre-existing conditions in the newborn which can increase the risk of complications during delivery. Babies who are born prematurely, with a large birthweight, who were conceived through ART fertility treatments, and twins or other multiple births may be more likely to be born with complications.
In other cases, birth injuries can occur because of mistakes made by a doctor, nurses, or hospital staff during the delivery process. The use of forceps, vacuum extractors, or other instruments during delivery can place excessive force on the child’s body, leading to injuries. Obstetricians may use excessive force to pull a child through the birth canal, causing broken bones, nerve injuries, or other complications.
Hospitals or medical staff may also fail to properly monitor the mother or her baby during the delivery process. Signs of an abnormal heartbeat, low blood oxygen levels, fetal distress, or other complications may make it necessary for a doctor to perform an emergency C-section delivery in order to reduce the risk of complications and save the life of the child or its mother. Failure to diagnose pre-existing conditions that can increase the risks of delivery (including vaginal delivery) may also cause birth trauma to the infant.
Find Out If You Qualify to File a Birth Injury Lawsuit
If your child was born with cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, or other birth injuries as a result of trauma or negligence during the delivery process, the doctor or hospital in charge of the birth may be responsible for your child’s condition. Improper delivery methods or failure to properly monitor the vital signs of the child and mother may cause complications that can result in serious and permanent injuries to the newborn.
Parents whose child suffers from birth injury resulting from the negligence of medical staff who performed the delivery may be eligible to file a lawsuit and receive compensation to help with their medical expenses. Some children born with birth injuries may require lifelong care costing millions of dollars as a result of mistakes made during birth.
The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson are proud of the work we have done on behalf children who have been injured as a result of the negligence of others. Our results have including a $36 million verdict on behalf of a child who suffered brain damage and other serious injuries as a result of a bus crash, a $6.7 million settlement for hospital medical errors that caused permanent brain damage to an 8-year-old child, and a $2.2 million verdict in a lawsuit involving brain damage to a newborn with low glucose levels who was improperly discharged from the hospital.
The first step in determining whether you and your child have a claim is to talk with an experienced attorney about your legal rights. For a free legal consultation about your case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also follow the link on this page to our free case evaluation form and one of our staff members will contact you to discuss the details of your story.