How common are birth injuries? And how do they happen?

Tuesday October 8, 2019

It’s common for expectant mothers to be nervous about how their labor and delivery will go as they give birth to their child. No one likes to think about the risks involved in bringing a newborn into the world, but unexpected complications do happen, resulting in injuries to the baby (or the mother).

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, of every 1,000 infants born in the United States, 6 to 8 are born with a birth injury or birth trauma.

What are the most common serious birth injuries?

Many birth injuries are temporary and will resolve with time. However, serious and lasting birth injuries do occur, such as:

  • Bone fractures (including a broken clavicle) — These usually heal in a few weeks.
  • Brachial plexus injuries —These are nerve injuries in the baby’s neck or shoulder that cause weakness or paralysis in one arm. They sometimes heal on their own. If the loss of function persists after 3 to 6 months, surgery may be necessary. Some infants suffer permanent loss of function in that limb.
  • Cerebral palsy — This is a lifelong condition, with some cases more severe than others. Cerebral palsy is a form of brain damage that causes partial or complete muscle paralysis, affecting motor skills, posture and speech. CP can also affect intellectual ability, vision and other body systems.
  • Perinatal asphyxia — This is when a child is deprived of oxygen for a period time during childbirth. It includes Meconium Aspiration Syndrome, which is when a newborn inhales defecated meconium that interferes with breathing. The longer an infant experiences asphyxia, the greater the extent of brain damage, which can cause lifelong issues.
  • Spinal perinatal cord injuries — Doctors often don’t diagnose these well. Parents should have their child evaluated if they notice her losing her touch sensations, not being able to move, having abnormal reflexes or spasms or having trouble breathing.
  • Facial paralysis — This nerve damage can lead to difficulty nursing or incomplete eye closure. If it doesn’t heal in three months, an infant will need surgery to avoid future speech problems or problems with expressions of emotion.
  • Brain damage — Severe brain damage can lead to multiple motor issues and cognition problems, leaving some infants with serious physical or learning disabilities.

What causes birth injuries?

Birth injuries primarily trace to (a) lack of oxygen or (b) physical trauma. A long labor, difficult birth or a baby’s unusual birthing position or premature birth can cause birth injuries.

Many birth injuries result from mistakes by medical providers. Improper use of forceps or vacuum extraction can cause nerve damage or fractures. If spinal perinatal cord injuries aren’t diagnosed quickly, the damage can become worse with no treatment. One of the most common scenarios is a baby stuck in the birth canal; using force to free the baby causes physical injuries or a delayed C-section causes extended oxygen deprivation and brain damage.

If your child has suffered a serious birth injury, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced attorney. You may need compensation to pay for your child’s long-term care and lifelong disabilities.

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