Understanding the complexities of birth injuries

Birth injury claims can be heartbreaking and difficult to prove.

No two birth processes are alike. Even the most conscientiously planned and attended births are filled with chaos. There are medications being administered, painful contractions, people coming in and out of the room to check on mom and baby, monitors being attached, IVs being checked and much more.

Tragically, sometimes in the chaos, either baby or mother suffers a debilitating injury. In some cases, these events are naturally occurring, due to a prenatal infection or genetic defect. In other instances, though, it's the negligence of a medical professional that results in irreparable harm to a child.

The fact that there's no such thing as a "standard" labor and delivery, and that it can take literally minutes or over a day to deliver a baby, can make it even harder to figure out the root cause of a birth injury. A rapid delivery might mean there isn't time for vital monitoring of mother and child, while a very slow labor could lead to medication overdoses or fetal oxygen deprivation.

Categories of birth injury

About seven out of every 1,000 deliveries will result in a birth injury. While there are many different types of individual birth-related injuries, they fit broadly into two categories:

  • Injuries affecting the nervous system (the brain itself or individual nerves)
  • Injuries impacting other parts of the body

Nervous system injuries

Brain and nervous system injuries might, for example, be caused by improper monitoring of the baby's oxygen level during labor. If the baby is without oxygen for too long (because he/she is stuck in the birth canal or the umbilical cord is wrapped), "fetal anoxia" or "fetal hypoxia" could occur.

Nervous system damage can also occur when specific nerves are impacted or injured during birth. Sometimes this could be prevented with a timely C-section or repositioning of the baby, but the signs are often ignored until it's too late in the chaos of a busy delivery room.

Nervous system injuries include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Brachial plexus injuries (which can lead to Erb's palsy)
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Facial nerve injuries (which can lead to permanent full or partial facial paralysis)

Other bodily injuries

Birth injuries can also occur to other parts of the body not involving the nervous system. These can still be debilitating, both in the short- and long-term. These types of injuries include:

  • Broken bones (particularly clavicles, because they can become wedged in the birth canal, and femurs, because overly aggressive doctors can yank too hard while trying to turn a breech baby, fracturing the bone)
  • Overly aggressive use of vacuum extraction or forceps, which can lead to permanent scarring
  • Internal injuries, such as those affecting the baby's pancreas, liver, or spleen

It can be very difficult to prove birth injury cases. If your child was injured during delivery, you need to reach out to an experienced medical malpractice attorney like those at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP. Call them toll-free at 800-331-2782 or contact them online to schedule a case evaluation.