The Most Common Birth Injuries

When you imagine the birth of your baby, you likely envision mild labor followed by an uneventful delivery, resulting in a healthy, happy baby. While many parents experience anxiety before a child’s birth regarding previously unknown birth defects and complications, a rarely discussed phenomenon causes a surprisingly large amount of newborn injuries. Birth injuries, or injuries received during the birthing process, are not uncommon.

Birth injuries occur at a rate of approximately seven injuries per 1,000 births, or in .01% of the population. Birth injuries can result from numerous causes, from a variety of situations and contributing factors. The fact remains, however, that if an injury results from a mistake or negligence of a medical professional, you must consider whether the negligence was medical malpractice.

Most common birth injuries include:

Clavicle fractures. Fractures of the baby’s collarbone are the most frequent birth injury. When the baby’s shoulders pass through the birth canal, compression can fracture the bone. This injury heals quickly and completely, most often by strapping the arm to the rest of the body to immobilize the affected bones.

Cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy typically results from an extended lack of oxygen to the brain, leading to brain injury at birth. Characterized by a lack of motor skill development and weak, spasming muscles, cerebral palsy often occurs as a result of improper maternal monitoring, extended childbirth, and improper fetal distress monitoring. Cerebral palsy has no cure, though its effects may respond to therapy and management.

Erb’s palsy. Also known as brachial plexus, Erb’s palsy results from injuries to the nerves that travel from the spine through the arms and shoulders, up to the neck and into the head and hands. Most injuries are mild and caused by stretching of the nerves – most cases improve or disappear with therapy. However, more severe damage that ruptures the nerve or detaches it from the spine can cause permanent damage and even paralysis.

Perinatal Asphyxia. Babies experiencing a prolonged lack of blood oxygen to the brain may experience perinatal asphyxia. Lack of oxygen may result from insufficient blood oxygen or insufficient blood flow to the baby. Babies often present with a pale complexion, bluish tint, seizures, shock or coma.

Caput succedaneum. Forceps or other extensive pressure on the skull can cause areas of swelling, bruising, or other discoloration of the scalp. Most often, caput succedaneum heals on its own and presents little to no danger to the newborn.

Facial paralysis. Increased pressure on the baby’s face during the birth process can damage the delicate facial nerves. Since the nerves affect sensation and movement, babies may experience an inability to move the face at all, dependent on the extent of the damage. Usually, facial paralysis results from too-forceful use of forceps or vacuum extraction to remove the baby from the birth canal.

Cephalohematoma. Bleeding underneath the cranial bone of a newborn may result from use of forceps. Usually, cephalohematoma presents with a raised bump on the head. It may clear up in a few weeks or months, but can lead to other complications such as jaundice, anemia, or meningitis.

Spinal cord injuries. By far the most severe birth injuries, spinal cord injuries can cause extensive nerve damage. The extent of the spinal and nerve damage determines the outcome for the patient. Unfortunately, extensive spinal injuries can result in neurological problems, paralysis and even death. Some believe that the use of forceps can contribute to or cause spinal cord injuries.

If your child suffered a birth injury caused by the negligence or carelessness of a medical professional, causing emotional, physical, or financial damages, you may wish to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit. It is important to speak with a personal injury attorney experienced in medical malpractice cases as soon as possible.