The labor and delivery process is a joyous occasion for most parents – but in some cases, it can take a turn for the worse. When traumatic birth injuries occur to either the baby or the mother due to negligence or malpractice, those affected may be able to sue for any damages resulting from the incident.
Birth Injuries: Types, Causes, and Prevention
Birth injuries can be devastating for both the mother and her newborn baby. While some birth injuries are minor and heal over time, others can have lifelong consequences that require medical attention and rehabilitation. It is important to understand the types of birth injuries, their causes, and how they can potentially be prevented.
Types of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries can range from mild to severe. Common types of birth injuries sustained by the infant include:
- Broken bones. Broken bones usually happen during delivery when too much force is used on the infant's arms or legs. This can occur if the baby is too large for the mother’s pelvis or if a doctor uses gripping tools such as forceps or vacuum extractors to speed up delivery.
- Bruising or swelling. Bruising or swelling may also occur when too much force is used during delivery or when an instrument like forceps becomes stuck in an infant's head.
- Nerve damage. Nerve damage occurs when an infant's nerves get stretched during a long labor causing permanent physical disabilities.
- Cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is caused by oxygen deprivation during birth and can cause physical disabilities such as difficulty with balance and coordination while brain damage is caused by a lack of oxygen leading to potential learning disabilities in the future.
- Erb’s palsy. Erb’s palsy can affect an infant’s shoulder movement or facial paralysis which affects an infant’s facial muscles.
- Facial paralysis. An infant can suffer from facial nerve trauma because of birth trauma; facial nerve palsy refers to the loss of voluntary muscle movement in an infant’s face due to excessive pressure on the facial nerves before or during birth.
- Brain damage. A lack of oxygen during birth can lead to brain damage and other complications.
Mothers can also suffer injuries before or during birth because of medical negligence. Common birth injuries to mothers include:
- Vaginal tearing
- Postpartum hemorrhaging
- Post-natal traumatic stress disorder
- Ruptured uterus
- Prolapsed uterus
- Uterine inversion
- Nerve injuries
Causes of Birth Injuries
The most common causes of birth injuries are due to medical negligence on behalf of the doctor delivering the baby including:
- Failure to monitor fetal distress signs such as decreased heart rate
- Failure to offer a mother efficient or quality prenatal care
- Improper use of instruments during delivery such as forceps/vacuum extractors
- Failure to identify fetal malposition (when a baby gets stuck in the wrong position)
- Failure to perform a Cesarean section when necessary due to medical complications with either mother or fetus.
Other less common causes include infections passed from mother to infant during delivery and physical trauma resulting from difficult deliveries where excessive pressure was put on an infant’s head/neck area causing serious injury or death in rare cases.
Prevention of Birth Injuries
Fortunately, most birth injuries are preventable with proper monitoring throughout pregnancy and delivery. During prenatal care appointments, mothers-to-be need to discuss any concerns they may have about their pregnancy with their doctor. This open communication can help reduce any risks associated with labor/delivery and can be identified early on and addressed accordingly through medications/other interventions if necessary.
During labor/delivery, it is also important for doctors to monitor both mother's & baby's vital signs so that any changes in fetal health status can be addressed immediately. Emergency C-sections can reduce the risk of injury due to prolonged labor/difficult deliveries where excessive pressure could be placed on the baby's head/neck area leading to serious injury/death in rare cases.
Other important actions that can be taken to prevent birth injuries include:
- Preventing or minimizing the risk of premature birth (i.e. mitigating risk factors using practices like progesterone, cervical cerclage, etc.).
- Recognizing when a vaginal birth is unsafe (i.e. because of maternal infection, uterine rupture, umbilical cord compression, placental abruption, placenta previa, macrosomia, etc.).
- Providing high-quality and proper care for babies in NICU
Get Legal Help
No parent should ever have to experience the pain associated with seeing their newborn suffer from a birth injury due to medical negligence on behalf of their doctor(s). Mothers also should not have to fear for their physical health or safety during their pregnancy or birth experiences.
While some birth injuries are unavoidable due to unforeseen maternal and/or fetal complications, doctors must remain vigilant throughout pregnancy and delivery by properly monitoring both mother and baby. If you believe your child has suffered from a preventable birth injury due to medical negligence, the Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli can educate you on your legal rights and options as well as offer you more information about filing a lawsuit against those responsible for you or your child’s birth injuries.
To get started and discuss your case with our firm, contact our offices online or via phone (516) 628-6402 today.