Common Birth Injuries
September 10, 2020
Sometimes during the act of birth, a baby is injured. In some cases, the infant’s injury is unavoidable. But some birth-related injuries are stoppable, such as ones that result from a healthcare provider’s negligence. Each year, somewhere around 28,000 infants are born with birth injuries – and data indicates that nearly half of these injuries stem from preventable medical mistakes.
A simple medical mistake during the birthing process can cause long term or permanent disability to the baby. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some o the most common birth injuries resulting from medical negligence are:
- Facial paralysis. Some babies experience nerve damage during delivery because a provider puts too much pressure on his or her face. Oftentimes these types of injuries result from a physician using vacuum extraction or forceps to pull the baby from the birthing canal. Babies with nerve damage can experience complications like being unable to close the eye on the affected side of the face or being unable to move one side of their face altogether. Depending on the severity of the nerve damage the symptoms may fade over time, but they can also be permanent.
- Brachial plexus injuries. Brachial plexus injuries include Klumpke and Erb’s palsy, which occur when the brachial plexus (the nerve responsible for movement in the arm and hand) is injured during birth. One of the most common causes behind brachial plexus injuries is shoulder dystocia, or when a baby’s shoulder gets caught underneath his or her mother’s public bone. If a physician pulls the baby too hard or incorrectly in order to dislodge his or her shoulder, it can result in brachial plexus injuries that may cause permanent nerve damage to the child.
- Fractures to the clavicle or collarbone. Similarly to some of the other common types of birth injuries, fractures to the collarbone or clavicle frequently result from a physician pulling on the baby too hard during delivery. Sometimes this occurs when a physician is trying to deliver children who are in the breech position. Infants with fractured clavicles or collarbones usually cannot move their arm on the side of the fracture, but the good news is that usually these injuries heal over time without further major medical complications.
- Caput succedaneium is one of the most common birth injuries. Caput succedaneium is localized swelling that occurs on the head of a newborn baby and typically results from the improper use of a vacuum extraction tool as the baby is making his or her way down the mother’s birth canal. Although the swelling associated with caput succedaneium often subsides on its own, if it does not it can cause life-threatening complications like jaundice (a buildup of bilirubin in the blood stream) and kernicterus. Kernicterus is a type of brain damage that can cause hearing loss, problems with vision and teeth, intellectual disabilities, and athetoid cerebral palsy.
- Cephalohematoma, which is a condition marked by bleeding underneath the cranium. Usually the bleeding occurs directly under one of the infant’s cranial bones. Cephalohematoma is usually caused by the improper use of birth assisting tools during the labor process. One of the most common signs of cephalohematoma is a raised bump on the top of the baby’s head. In some cases, the bump resolves itself in a few months time but in others, it can cause major complications including jaundice, hypotension (low blood pressure), anemia, and sometimes even meningitis, or inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.
Studies show that identifying and planning for obstetrical risk factors, or the risk factors that may appear during birth, are some of the most effective ways to prevent birth-related injuries from happening. Some risk factors known to increase birth injury rates are having a tool-assisted delivery (such as the use of a vacuum or forceps), vaginal breech deliveries, using abnormal or excessive traction during delivery, and macrosomia, or when an infant’s size is large for their date. Healthcare providers can mitigate these known risk factors by identifying them before delivery and coming up with an action plan to keep both the mother and baby healthy.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim
If your baby experienced injuries during birth that resulted from a provider’s negligence, you may want to consider filing a medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or healthcare professional (like a technician, specialist, or nurse) causes injury to a patient through a negligent act or omission. To learn more about filing a medical malpractice claim for your child’s injuries, contact a representative of our firm online now.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Individuals Since 1947
Galfand Berger has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.