A birth injury is an injury that occurs during pregnancy, delivery, or shortly after the birth process. Birth injuries can range from minor injuries that are harmless to permanent brain damage and physical disability. Some birth trauma can be fatal for the baby and the mother. There are several causes of birth injury, including accidents or genetic conditions. However, some birth injuries are caused by medical errors.
Pregnancy and labor can be difficult and doctors have a responsibility to their patients to provide the appropriate care at the right time. When a doctor fails to provide the proper care and it results in an injury to the mother or baby, the doctor may have committed birth injury malpractice. If the baby was injured because of the doctor’s error or the hospital’s negligence, the injury victim may be able to recover compensation.
Compensation in a birth injury accident can be important to make sure the baby gets the proper care to help them recover and lead a full life. Even if the child is permanently injured, a birth injury settlement can help provide medical care, surgeries, or other life needs for the child. If you have questions about a birth injury case, talk to an experienced childbirth injury lawyer.
If you suspect your child’s birth injury was caused by improper care, delayed diagnosis, or delayed delivery, a birth injury lawyer can help you get answers. Contact our birth injury law firm today online or by phone at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.
Types of Birth Injuries
There are many types of birth injuries but may be narrowed down to 5 categories of the most common birth injuries. The five main types of birth injuries for children in the United States include:
- Traumatic injuries
- Lack of oxygen brain injury
- Cerebral palsy
- Jaundice and liver problems
- Infection injury
Within these types of birth injuries, the severity can depend on the individual situation. If the injury is minor or the problem is quickly addressed, it may result in minor damage with no long-term impact. However, if the problem goes untreated or treatment is delayed, it can cause permanent injury, including mental and physical disabilities.
Traumatic injuries generally occur during the delivery process. Labor and delivery can be traumatic for the mother and baby. Birth complications can make delivery more difficult and delay delivery. Delayed delivery can be dangerous for the child, who may be at greater risk of suffering oxygen deprivation injuries or other birth injuries. In many cases, the proper course of action is to conduct an emergency cesarean delivery. Traumatic injuries can cause serious damage to the head, brain, spinal cord, and shoulder.
Head trauma during labor can be frightening for parents. Head trauma can be caused by improper delivery techniques. In a difficult labor, the doctor may improperly pull or grip the baby’s head to try and complete the delivery. If this is not done carefully, it can cause injury to the baby’s head and neck. Trauma can also be caused by improper use of assistive devices, like vacuum extractors or forceps. Types of head trauma can include:
- Intracranial hemorrhage
- Facial paralysis
- Bone fractures
- Caput Succedaneum
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage
Head trauma may be more likely when there is a disproportion between the size of the pelvic opening and the size of the baby’s head and body. Cephalopelvic disproportion occurs when the baby is too big for the mother’s pelvis. This can involve a baby who is larger than normal or a mother with a small pelvis. Macrosomia means a newborn that is larger than average. Even if there is nothing wrong with the baby, a large size may present birth complications in delivery.
Trauma to the Body
A traumatic delivery can also injury the child’s body, most commonly causing broken bones, shoulder injury, or arm injury. Traumatic delivery can cause permanent nerve and muscle damage, and leave the child with long-term limitations on their movement, muscle strength, and use of their arms. The most common physical injuries include brachial plexus injury, Erb’s palsy, and Klumpke’s palsy.
Brachial plexus injuries can occur during improper delivery, if the delivery doctor pulls on the baby’s arm or shoulder with too much force. Klumpke’s palsy is an injury to the brachial plexus which causes paralysis of the arm and brachial plexus nerves. Erb’s palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury that affects the upper group of the am’s nerves.
Long-term complications of brachial plexus injuries may include arm weakness, loss of sensation, muscle atrophy, paralysis, limited range of motion, and inability to raise the arm from the side or flex at the elbow.
Lack of Oxygen Brain Injury
Lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain is one of the most serious complications during pregnancy or delivery. Oxygen is vital to the baby’s brain and even a few moments without adequate oxygen can lead to brain cell damage and death. Oxygen is generally carried to the body’s organs through the circulatory system. When the circulatory system is compromised or there is not enough oxygen getting to the organs, cell death may quickly follow.
There are several possible causes of low-oxygen supply to the brain. During pregnancy, the baby receives oxygen through the mother. If the mother is not getting enough oxygen the baby will likely not get enough oxygen. Other causes of hypoxia during pregnancy include:
- Nuchal umbilical cord (wrapped around the neck)
- Prolapsed cord
- Acute maternal hypotension
- Uterine rupture
- Placenta previa
- Anesthesia complications
Delayed delivery can also cause oxygen deprivation. If the child should be delivered through an emergency C-section but the doctor delays delivery, it can increase the damage caused by hypoxia. Failure to properly monitor the vital signs of the mother and baby during pregnancy and delivery can also be a cause of hypoxic brain injury.
Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a type of birth injury caused by the lack of oxygen to the child’s brain. Ischemia is diminished blood flow to the brain. Hypoxia involves reduced blood oxygenation to the brain. Hypoxic-ischemia can cause damage to the body’s vital organs, including the liver, kidneys, and brain. When the body detects a low-oxygen supply, it tries to prioritize the vital organs of the brain and heart. This shifts blood supply to the brain. However, if the oxygen levels are too low, the cells in the brain will begin to shut down and die. This can cause permanent brain damage.
Palsy is a term for types of paralysis-related conditions. Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability for children and one of the most common types of palsy. There are about 10,000 children born each year with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy can affect different areas of the brain and cause different types of movement disorders. The four primary types of cerebral palsy include:
- Spastic cerebral palsy
- Dyskinetic cerebral palsy
- Ataxic cerebral palsy
- Mixed cerebral palsy
Spastic CP is the most common type of cerebral palsy and presents as muscle stiffness and uncontrolled movements. Dyskinetic CP involves uncontrollable movements of the hands, arms, feet, and legs. Ataxic CP generally presents problems with balance and coordination. Mixed cerebral palsy can include a combination of different types of palsy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), causes and risk factors of cerebral palsy include:
- Lack of oxygen at birth
- Brain injury
- Stroke or bleeding in the brain
- Sickle cell disease
- Jaundice and kernicterus
- Medical conditions of the mother
- Birth complications
- Premature birth
- Low birthweight
- Infertility treatment
In some cases, cerebral palsy can be caused by medical errors. When the doctor fails to provide the standard level of care which causes an injury, the doctor may be responsible for the injury. Birth injury causes of CP due to medical errors may include:
- Delayed delivery
- Failure to diagnose mother
- Failure to monitor baby or mother
- Hospital-acquired infections
- Failure to check for genetic conditions, chromosomal conditions, or blood conditions
- Traumatic birth injury
Jaundice and Liver Problems
Perinatal jaundice is not uncommon. However, when jaundice goes unmonitored or untreated it can cause serious organ damage. Other liver problems may lead to organ failure, brain damage, and death. These types of birth injuries include:
When jaundice occurs in newborns, it should be properly monitored and treated. Jaundice often resolves in a few weeks. However, jaundice can lead to serious health complications. The yellowing of the child’s skin and eyes is caused by an excess of bilirubin. Bilirubin can build up in the body of a newborn if the liver is not functioning well enough to remove it from the body.
Excess bilirubin can be toxic, leading to hyperbilirubinemia. Hyperbilirubinemia is a higher-than-normal level of bilirubin, which builds up in the grey matter of the central nervous system. If left untreated, it can cause permanent brain or neurological damage.
The related condition of kernicterus is also known as bilirubin encephalopathy. High levels of bilirubin in the blood can cause cerebral palsy, hearing loss, vision damage, developmental delays, and other neurological damage. Most of these problems can be prevented with early diagnosis and treatment of the bilirubin-associated conditions. Medical negligence after these birth injuries generally involves a failure to properly monitor and treat the baby.
A birth infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungus. Infection injuries can develop through exposure to bacteria or viruses from the mother or after delivery in the hospital environment. If a neonatal infection is not properly treated or monitored, it can cause injury to the newborn. Some of the sources of birth infection injuries include:
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- Group B streptococcus
- Zika virus
- E. coli
The risk of infections from the mother or through the birth canal may be reduced by proper testing of the mother before delivery. This could include blood tests and bacterial cultures. When the mother tests positive for a possible infection, the infection may be treated before birth. If the infection is not treatable during pregnancy, doctors will at least be aware of the risk of that type of infection and look for transmission after birth.
Other sources of infection injury come from exposure to a contaminated environment. This could include bacteria or viruses in the hospital, through unsanitized surfaces or equipment, or from infected health care personnel. Hospitals and doctors have a responsibility to follow the proper sanitation protocols to reduce the risk of infection to vulnerable patients, including newborn babies.
Costs of Birth Injury Treatment
The extent of the damage often affects the cost of care to treat the child. It is unfortunate that parents have to think about how much the injury will cost their family but healthcare is expensive in this country and the level of care can vary depending on where the family can seek treatment. Serious injuries may require a full-time caregiver throughout the child’s life and making life-care plans for if the family is no longer able to provide for the child.
Questions About Common and Uncommon Birth Injuries
Even after reviewing this information, you may not be sure if your child has a birth injury or whether it was caused by medical malpractice. This is common. Unfortunately, states limit the amount of time an injury victim has to file a lawsuit to claim damages. This may seem unreasonable considering the injury victim is a child and the extent of their injuries may still be unknown. However, the healthcare and insurance industries have an interest in limiting recovery by injury victims and they lobby legislatures to pass restrictive laws.
At Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, we are a law firm with experience handling complex birth injury cases that can help you understand your options. Our experienced and caring attorneys can review your case with their medical experts to get a professional opinion on the cause of the injury and whether it was caused by improper care. You may then have a better idea of your case and what your claim may be worth. The law firm can also make sure the hospitals and doctors are held responsible for their actions to help protect other families in the future.
A free consultation from an experienced birth injury law firm can help you understand your rights and what steps you can take to recover damages to help your family through this difficult time. With a free consultation, you have nothing to lose. However, don’t wait too long to talk to someone about your case. If you file a claim after the statute of limitations expires, you may be left without recovery options. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.