5 Birth Injuries That May Be a Result of Medical Malpractice

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Medical malpractice is an area personal injury law that encompasses all situations where there is improper healthcare that harms someone. Some of the most tragic situations and injuries seen due to medical malpractice are birth injuries that occur to the fetus or baby. While every birth mishap cannot be considered a legitimate reason to bring forth a claim, there are certain times that negligence, i.e. improper and substandard healthcare, by doctors, nurses, or hospitals can result in damage to the baby before or during birth.

Birth Injuries: A General Overview

Regardless of improved nutrition, widespread access to prenatal care, and modern technological advances, birth injuries still occur too frequently in the U.S. Children with minor injuries may recover fairly quickly, but others are inflicted with devastating damage, and left with disabilities that can last for a lifetime. Birth injuries can be due to certain unavoidable circumstances that occur during pregnancy; however, it is also an unfortunate fact that the carelessness or errors of doctors, nurses and hospitals during the labor or birthing process can cause these injuries as well.

5 Common Types of Birth Injuries

There are several types of severe birth injuries, but the most common involve some improper care during labor or delivery of the baby where there is either physical trauma to the baby's head or prolonged oxygen deprivation to the baby's brain. These situations can cause the following outcomes, some of which may be seen soon after birth whereas others may not be known for much longer.

  1. Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) -- damage to the baby's brain from lack of oxygen or blood flow (asphyxia); usually diagnosed within days of birth.
  2. Brain Bleeding --from trauma to the baby's skull, which is not fully connected (fused) at birth; usually diagnosed by CT/MRI within hours or days after birth.
  3. Cerebral Palsy -- a movement disorder caused by the permanent brain damage from asphyxia or trauma; it may not diagnosed until 1-3 years after birth.
  4. Brachial Plexus Injuries -- damage to the nerves between the neck & shoulder that control arm and hand function; can seen on MRI done months after birth.
  5. Erb's or Klumpke's Palsy -- partial or total paralysis of the arm, wrist or hand from the brachial plexus or spinal nerve damage; seen on MRI months later.

Why Do Birth Injuries Generally Happen?

Birth injuries can happen from maternal health conditions that are not properly diagnosed or treated during pregnancy. But more often they arise during the the time when the mother has gone into labor, or during the delivery process. "Operative deliveries" means the use of certain tools designed to assist with the birthing (delivery) process, such as forceps, vacuums, or cesarean section. These deliveries are performed when it is considered a safer option than allowing the pregnancy or labor to continue. In labor, the baby may experience excessive stress and/or lack of oxygen from a variety of dangerous situations, and when this occurs the electronic fetal monitoring will typically show the effect on the baby's heart rate or heart rate patterns. This is why nurses and doctors use and interpret EFM, and intervene in cases where it does. Sometimes this may mean giving the mother fluids, medications, and taking other steps to resolve the fetal distress. Other times this may mean performing an urgent or emergent delivery, such as by C-section or vacuum extraction. Generally, birth injuries due to asphyxia happen because of delays in taking the right steps at the right times. And damage from trauma usually occurs because the wrong steps were taken or tools were improperly used. Here are just some of the situations where asphyxia or trauma can occur in labor or delivery and cause serious birth injuries:

Injuries from Lack of Oxygen or Blood Flow to the Brain (Asphyxia)

Compression of the umbilical cord, if stuck between the baby's body and the mother's pelvis Fetal head or body in the wrong position as it descends the birth canal Excessive contractions--if too strong or too close together, for too long Prolonged labor, particularly during the time of pushing Maternal low blood pressure--from conditions like seizures or cardiac arrest Early separation of the placenta from the womb--i.e. placental abruption Rupture of the womb (uterus) from medications like Pitocin or Cervidil Other conditions causing fetal distress to the baby which are not relieved or properly treated Delays in performing C-section or operative delivery when there is fetal distress

Physical Injuries to the Skull, Brain and Body(Trauma)

Excessive force or improper pulling (traction) on the baby's head if it's shoulder gets stuck (shoulder dystocia) during birth Excessive force or improper use of forceps, such as if the baby is too high up in the mother's pelvis at the time Excessive force or too many attempts with vacuum extraction on the baby's head Excessive compression of the mother's womb on the baby's head-- i.e. contractions too strong/frequent, or malposition of fetal head

Need a Medical Malpractice Attorney?

When a child is born with a birth injury, it is a traumatizing and heartbreaking experience. If you or a loved one suspects that a birth injury may be the result of medical malpractice, call 843-722-8070 immediately to speak with an attorney at Clore Law. We have significant experience, and have had substantial success, in prosecuting birth injury cases in different states across the country.

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Clore Law Group welcomes your questions about any issues concerning a serious personal injury, car accident, medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, business tort, or workplace injury. If you have a viable claim, we’ll explain the legal process. Since consultations are always free, there’s no cost in learning your legal options.