FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-05-02
Birth injuries, sometimes known as birth traumas, are physical injuries the baby receives while being born. Such injuries can be caused by the process of labor and delivery itself, but they can also be the result of medical malpractice.
Causes of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries are more likely to occur if the birth is a difficult one. A difficult birth is generally caused by the size or position of the baby during labor and delivery. Difficult births usually involve one or more of the following:
- Premature babies (born earlier than 37 weeks)
- Prolonged labor, particularly if the mother’s water broke early on in the process
- Large babies (those over eight pounds, 13 ounces)
- The size and shape of the mother’s pelvis makes it unsuitable for vaginal birth—also known as cephalopelvic disproportion—but a Caesarean section wasn’t advised or was unduly delayed
- Breech births and other instances where the baby is in an abnormal position in the uterus or birth canal during delivery
Common Birth Injuries
Some of the most common birth injuries are:
- Caput Succedaneum—A severe swelling of the baby’s scalp that develops as the baby is being born. This condition can cause bruising around the area of the contusion. If the baby is delivered by vacuum extraction, he or she is more at risk of developing this disorder.
- Bruising/Forceps Marks—Sometimes, bruising on the face or head is caused by contact with the mother’s pelvic bones and tissues. If forceps are used to deliver the baby though, they can also cause temporary bruising or marks. Babies delivered by vacuum extraction run the risk of cuts on the scalp as well as bruising.
- Facial Paralysis—The pressure on the baby’s face during the delivery process sometimes damages the facial nerves, causing the face to become paralyzed. The paralysis is usually temporary, but it can be permanent. Forceps-delivered babies have a higher risk of developing this injury.
- Brachial Plexus Injuries/Erb’s Palsy—Occurs when the bundle of nerves that run from the neck down the arm are damaged, causing the baby to be unable to flex or rotate the arm. The nerves may heal over time, but sometimes they require surgery. These injuries frequently occur when the delivery is complicated by shoulder dystocia — difficulty delivering the baby’s shoulder because of the mother’s pelvic bone — particularly if the obstetrician does not use reasonable care in responding to this delivery complication.
- Bone Fractures-The baby’s clavicle (collarbone) and femur (thighbone) are especially vulnerable during labor and delivery, as they are subjected to both pressure and twisting forces during birth.
- Cerebral Palsy—Brain damage due to inadequate oxygen being delivered to the brain. There are numerous reasons this can occur during labor and delivery but signs of fetal distress on the fetal heart monitor can alert the obstetrical team that the baby is at risk of brain injury and performing an emergency caesarian section delivery can prevent it.
An Attorney Can Help
Although some birth injuries occasionally occur naturally as a consequence of the birth process, others are the result of medical negligence. Anything from an obstetrician using forceps or a vacuum extractor improperly during labor, to the failure of a doctor to recognize signs of fetal distress can cause these types of birth injuries.
If your baby was injured during delivery and you suspect that the injuries were due to the negligence of your physician, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your area. An attorney can investigate the causes of the injury, advise you of your rights under the law and work to hold the responsible parties accountable.