If you suspect that your child may have suffered a birth injury or that the birth injury was caused by the negligence of a healthcare professional, you probably have a lot of questions. To help you out, we’ve put together this resource that answers some of the most frequently asked questions about birth injuries.
What Is a Birth Injury?
A birth injury is a harm done to a baby before, during, or shortly after delivery. Birth injuries range from minor ones that heal quickly on their own to more serious ones that require prompt treatment. The most serious birth injuries do not have a cure and can cause lifelong disability.
What Are Some Examples of Birth Injuries?
There are many different types of birth injuries affecting different body parts and functions. Some examples of birth injuries include:
- Brain damage - Occurring when a baby suffers a serious head injury during delivery, brain damage can lead to neurological and physical impairments and be caused by brain bleeding, asphyxia, infection, umbilical cord choking, and more.
- Cerebral palsy - Most often caused by brain injury during birth, cerebral palsy affects a person's muscle control and can cause speech and developmental delays.
- Erb’s palsy - Caused by damage to the brachial plexus nerves during childbirth, Erb’s palsy is characterized by paralysis of the hand, arm, or shoulder.
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) - Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy occurs when a baby suffers from a lack of oxygen and blood flow during birth.
- Intrauterine fetal demise - Also called stillbirth, fetal death before birth occurs in 1 out of every 100 pregnancies each year in the United States.
- Jaundice - Caused by high levels of bilirubin in the blood, jaundice causes a baby's skin and eyes to appear yellow in color.
- Kernicterus - Caused by untreated jaundice, kernicterus happens when bilirubin begins to collect in the brain.
- Newborn cephalohematoma - Occurring when bleeding in the skull causes blood to pool around the tissue surrounding the brain, newborn cephalohematoma can lead to seizures, brain damage, and depression in the head.
- Spinal cord injury - Usually caused by a doctor pulling on a baby’s spine during delivery, spinal cord injuries can reduce a baby’s sense of touch and ability to move.
How Can I Tell If My Baby Has a Birth Injury?
Some birth injuries cause symptoms that are apparent immediately upon birth. These include:
- One limp arm
- Abrasions, bruises, or swelling on the face, head, or shoulder
- A floppy appearance indicating a lack of muscle tone
- Requiring resuscitation at the time of delivery
- Seizures developing within 48 hours
- Failure to begin breathing immediately following delivery
Other birth injuries do not become apparent until after some time. Symptoms of birth injury that emerge later on include:
- Stiffness in the joints or muscles
- Inability to control leg or arm movement
- Trouble performing basic movements, such as clapping or grasping
- Inability to crawl, walk, or sit up
- Trouble swallowing or eating
- Missing certain developmental milestones, like rolling over, sitting, or standing
- Excessive drooling
- Seeming to favor one side of the body
- Limited range of motion
- Numbness or weakness in one arm
- Lack of arm movement indicating partial or complete paralysis
How Do I Know Who’s Responsible for My Baby’s Birth Injury?
Some birth injuries are not preventable and there is nobody that can be blamed for them. However, other injuries are preventable and occur as the result of a medical professional’s negligence. Healthcare providers owe a duty of care to their patients to meet a certain standard of caregiving. They must do everything they possibly can to prevent any harm to their patients.
Unfortunately, there are many mistakes that a doctor or hospital staff member might make during the pregnancy, labor, or delivery process that can cause birth injury. These include:
- Prolonging a difficult labor
- Delaying a necessary cesarean section
- Failing to notice and respond to signs of fetal distress
- Failure to diagnose and respond to other issues that can cause birth injury including malpresentation, molar pregnancy, jaundice, incompetent cervix, high-risk pregnancy, umbilical cord compression, fetal growth restriction, and more
If you suspect that a healthcare professional may be responsible for your child’s birth injury, it is recommended to consult a medical expert for a formal opinion.
What Can I Do If a Healthcare Provider Is Responsible for My Baby’s Birth Injury?
If a healthcare provider’s failure to meet the duty of care is responsible for your baby’s birth injury, you may be eligible for compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit. Your first step in pursuing a lawsuit will be to speak to a birth injury attorney who has experience working on cases like yours. They will give you a free consultation during which you wil go over the details of your case.
The lawyer will determine the strength and scope of your case and decide whether or not to take you on as a client. If you decide to work together, you will be able to formally request compensation from the party responsible for your baby’s birth injury. Often, birth injury cases are settled outside of court.
What Kind of Damages Can I Receive in a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
As part of your birth injury lawsuit, you can seek compensation for problems and issues caused by the injury such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills
- Reduced enjoyment of life
- Reduced future earnings
Part of the process of the lawsuit will involve providing documents that demonstrate the losses you have suffered as a result of the birth injury. A lawyer will be able to help you determine the exact dollar amount to ask for.