7 Common Birth Injuries

By Lia Kopin-Green
/
July 28, 2022

When you are going through labor, there is already enough stress on your mind - you shouldn’t have to worry about birth injuries on top of that. There is, however, a sad reality: accidents do happen, and medical malpractice can lead to a variety of birth injuries.

These injuries may cause short-term damage, or lead to lifelong disabilities. In the event that your baby is injured as a result of a doctor's negligence, you should receive compensation - regardless of how long the damages may last.

Here are a few of the most common birth injuries, ranging from mild to severe:

1. Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is defined as a neurological disability in which brain damage affects the ability to properly control movement and coordination. This condition has no known cure, but there are several treatments available to help manage symptoms. 

As one of the most common birth injuries, cerebral palsy affects about one in every 345 children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are many malpractice lawsuits involving cerebral palsy, since it is often preventable and caused by inadequate care during labor and delivery. It may be caused by insufficient oxygen supply to the baby during childbirth or head trauma from the misuse of medical equipment such as vacuums or forceps. Children diagnosed with cerebral palsy may suffer from difficulties eating and swallowing, seizures, vision impairments and intellectual disabilities. 

2. Brachial Plexus Injury

Brachial plexus injuries may occur as a result of nerve damage in the shoulders, arms, hands, or fingers. This condition can limit muscle function and sensibility, and in some cases, lead to long-term paralysis. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 1 out of 1000 babies are born with brachial plexus injuries. In most cases, it is caused by medical malpractice during childbirth. This may be due to excessive stretching of the baby’s neck or head during delivery, pulling of the baby’s feet during a breech delivery, and getting stuck in under the pelvic bone or in the birth canal for prolonged periods of time during delivery.

When the nerves are stretched in these situations, they can tear out of the spinal cord, resulting in irreversible damage.

3. Facial Paralysis

During childbirth, facial paralysis may occur, which can limit the baby’s ability to move parts of his or her face. It occurs in about 0.5 out of 1000 live births. Excessive pressure applied to the infant's face during delivery can cause serious nerve damage, as well as the improper use of forceps, vacuums, or other tools used to deliver the baby.

This birth injury is typically first noticed when the baby cries. If it seems like there is no movement on one side of the face or one of the eyes won’t close, there may be facial paralysis. In cases where the nerves were simply bruised, movement will usually return within several weeks. However, torn facial nerves may result in surgery or even long-term paralysis.

4. Cephalohematoma

Newborn cephalohematoma is a relatively common birth injury caused by head trauma during childbirth. In these cases, bleeding occurs in an area between the skull bone and its muscular covering. In most cases, it appears as a raised bump on the baby's head that resembles a bruise. Over time, the mass will calcify and generally disappear on its own. 

Most newborn cephalohematomas are caused by the use of forceps during delivery. Cephalohematomas occur in about 2.5% of difficult or prolonged vaginal deliveries. The use of forceps or vacuums during these deliveries, however, increases the risk to about one in ten babies. While this condition usually resolves on its own within a few months, cephalohematomas have several long-term risks including jaundice, anema, meningitis or hypotension.

5. Fractured Clavicle

A fracture of the collar bone, also known as the clavicle, is the most common fracture sustained by newborns during labor and delivery. The clavicle fracture occurs when the collar bone breaks during a difficult or traumatic labor and delivery. An increased risk of fractured clavicles may be associated with larger babies and mothers with certain shapes of birth canals and pelvic bones. Between 0.2% and 4.5% of newborns suffer clavicular fractures. Fractures of the clavicles are often accompanied by crying and limited movement of the injured arm. The fracture is diagnosed using an x-ray or ultrasound image of the affected bone. Babies with fractured clavicles usually recover on their own, although the baby’s arm may need to be immobilized to prevent unnecessary movement while it heals.

6. Birth Asphyxia

Birth asphyxia, also known as perinatal asphyxia or neonatal asphyxia, occurs when a newborn is deprived of oxygen during the birth process, usually causing brain damage. It is also referred to as the failure to establish independent breathing at birth. It may be caused by a deficiency of oxygen in the blood or insufficient blood flow to the baby before or immediately after birth. This condition is not typically a direct cause of medical malpractice, but a doctor or hospital staff can become responsible for the injury if they failed to detect the warning signs of birth asphyxia or they did not respond quickly enough to stop it. Symptoms of perinatal asphyxia include pale or bluish skin, labored breathing and seizures.

As one of the leading causes of neonatal mortality, birth asphyxia accounts for about 900,000 deaths each year.

7. Caput Succedaneum

This common birth injury refers to significant swelling of the soft issues on a baby’s head. Caput succedaneum may occur when a doctor uses a vacuum to help move a baby out of the birth canal. Although caput succedaneum is generally temporary, the force of the vacuum can cause severe swelling of the brain that may result in permanent damage. Caput Succedaneum occurs in approximately 2% to 33% of babies.

Doctors and other medical providers will typically take measures to prevent this condition. However, if improper precautions were taken and your baby is diagnosed with caput succedaneum, you may be entitled to compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

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