Birth injuries can sometimes occur as a part of the birth process, but many are preventable. When a doctor fails to diagnose a serious condition, fails to prevent an injury, or uses an improper technique that causes an injury, the newborn’s parents may be able to take legal action by filing a claim based on medical negligence.
SOME FACTORS CAN SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE THE RISK OF A BIRTH INJURY
There are some factors that can increase the risk of complications or birth injuries during delivery. Many of these risk factors are manageable if the doctor identifies them and take the correct actions. In some cases, this may require performing a cesarean (c-section) delivery.
Some of the factors that can increase the risk that a baby will suffer a birth injury during labor and delivery include:
- The baby is unusually large, especially common with babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes
- A breech presentation or another presentation that is not head-first
- Premature labor and delivery
- Delayed delivery
- The mother has a narrow or uniquely shaped pelvis that makes it difficult for the baby to pass through the birth canal
- An unusually long or difficult active stage of labor
- A mother who is morbidly obese, or suffers from certain medical conditions
- When the delivery requires the use of a vacuum extraction device or forceps
- When an emergency c-section is necessary
Doctors have a duty to protect their patients from additional pain and injury when possible, and this may include identifying any risk factors for birth injuries. A medical malpractice attorney who regularly takes on birth injury cases in your state can advise you if you have a case against a doctor or hospital based on your child’s medical history.
THERE ARE MANY TYPES OF BIRTH INJURIES ASSOCIATED WITH THESE RISK FACTORS
These childbirth injury risk factors can contribute to a wide range of birth injuries. These factors could increase your newborn’s risk of suffering many kinds of perinatal injuries. This includes:
- Swelling of the head
- Bruising and minor cuts to the scalp, face, and head
- Bleeding underneath the scalp or skull
- Skull fractures
- Damage to the small blood vessels in the baby’s eyes
- Brachial plexus nerve injuries that affect the baby’s shoulders, arms, and hands
- Facial nerve injuries
- Clavicle (collarbone) fracture
- Cerebral palsy and other injuries caused by loss of oxygen to the brain
While some of these injuries are relatively minor and generally heal on their own with little medical intervention, others are serious and can cause lifelong disabilities or even death. If your doctor failed to identify risk factors for a birth injury and your newborn later suffered that injury, you may have a viable medical malpractice case against them.
YOU MAY BE ABLE TO RECOVER COMPENSATION BASED ON YOUR CHILD’S BIRTH INJURIES
If your child’s doctor or another medical care provider failed to identify birth injury risk factors and take the correct actions to limit the risk of injury, you may have a medical malpractice case against the doctor or hospital. To hold the doctor or hospital liable and recover compensation, you will need to prove:
- The normal, expected standard of care
- How the doctor deviated from this standard of care, acting negligently
- The value of your economic and noneconomic damages
With a strong case against the at-fault party to prove medical malpractice, you may be able to recover damages including:
- Past and future medical care costs related to your child’s injury
- Ongoing care costs
- Expenses related to prescribed medical equipment and tools
- Out-of-pocket costs related to their injury or treatment
- Pain and suffering and other noneconomic damages
Medical malpractice laws differ from state to state, but often require a medical expert witness to testify on behalf of a birth injury victim. Your attorney should be able to identify a qualified expert witness and handle enlisting their help on your child’s behalf. In addition, your birth injury lawyer will take additional steps to help you build a strong case for compensation.
ENLIST THE HELP OF A BIRTH INJURY ATTORNEY TO BUILD YOUR CASE AND TAKE LEGAL ACTION
Most birth injury attorneys offer free case reviews and initial consultations for the families of newborns who suffered birth injuries and preventable complications. During this initial consultation, you will explain the facts of your case, and the attorney can help you understand:
- Your rights to take legal action on behalf of your child
- The strength of the case against the doctor or hospital
- How your doctor failed to reduce the risk factors and prevent your child’s injuries
- The steps necessary to prove your case
- The deadline for taking legal action in your state
- If your state allows for tolling the statute of limitations in birth injury cases
If you decide to take legal action in your case, your attorney can also answer any questions you have and represent you throughout the process. They may be able to negotiate an out-of-court settlement that compensates you fairly for your family’s losses. In some cases, medical malpractice birth injury cases go to trial, and your attorney can present your case and fight for a just payout.
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What Are Childbirth Injury Risk Factors?
There are a number of factors that can increase the risk that an infant might suffer an injury during labor and delivery. A part of the doctor’s job is monitoring the pregnancy and to reduce these risk factors when possible, ensuring the safest labor and delivery possible for both the mother and the child. When a doctor fails to uphold his duty and injuries occur, it may be medical negligence.
Some of the most common childbirth injury risk factors include:
- Extremely large babies
- Unusual presentation, such as breach or face-, brow-, or shoulder-first
- Long, difficult second phase of labor (pushing)
- Using forceps or a vacuum extractor device during delivery
- Prematurity or going significantly past their due date
Birth injuries occur in a variety of ways and reducing the risk of some may increase the risk of others. Doctors may need to discuss this with parents and make difficult decisions in some cases.
For example, the increased risk posed by a large baby or unusual presentation is avoidable by delivering the baby by cesarean section (C-section), especially when there is a chance of cephalopelvic disproportion (a baby too large for the birth canal) and a failure to progress may occur during an attempted vaginal delivery.
While C-sections do have risks, the risks may be lower than those posed by the possibility of prolonged and difficult labor and delayed delivery.
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What Preexisting Conditions Can Lead to a Birth Injury?
In some cases, pre-existing conditions can lead to a birth injury, leaving a newborn to endure pain and suffering, undergo treatment, and even possibly develop lasting impairments. When it comes to what pre-existing conditions can lead to birth injury, it is necessary to consider both the mother and the baby.
For example, babies that have a higher weight at birth may be risky to deliver traditionally, especially for mothers with small pelvises. Additionally, babies conceived using certain types of fertility treatments may have a higher risk of birth injury.
THE MOTHER’S PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS MAY LEAD TO BIRTH INJURIES
When a mother has a pre-existing condition or develops a medical condition during pregnancy, she may need to see a high-risk obstetrician to help reduce the risk to her and their baby. While many women see high-risk doctors because of their age or previous complications during pregnancy, others may need to see them or receive additional monitoring from their doctor because of:
- Thyroid disease.
- Autoimmune disorders.
- Certain sexually transmitted diseases.
There are also additional risks when a mother is overweight or obese. Doctors must be especially careful to screen these mothers for related complications, such as high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, either of which can cause birth injuries when left unmonitored.
In addition, some conditions that do not develop until pregnancy can increase the risk of complications during delivery. This includes:
- Certain maternal infections.
- Preeclampsia (high blood pressure related to pregnancy).
- Gestational diabetes.
- Some conditions related to blood flow to the baby or babies, or the placement of the placenta.
Lifestyle choices may also cause birth injuries, so it is important that doctors look for signs of alcohol use, tobacco use, and use of illegal drugs or dangerous medications.
If routine sonograms, anatomy scans, or other monitoring tests reveal concerns about the baby, the doctor will need to plan the delivery carefully. This includes considering:
- Whether he or she may need to provide breathing support.
- How to identify and respond to fetal distress.
- How he or she will approach any medical concerns the baby will have at birth.
- The importance of diagnosing all medical issues quickly after birth.
DOCTORS STILL HAVE A DUTY TO PROTECT MOTHER AND BABY WHEN POSSIBLE
While pre-existing conditions can lead to a birth injury, it may be possible to prevent them. Doctors who monitor pregnancies, plan for deliveries, and deliver babies, as well as the medical caregivers who help them, are responsible for identifying, diagnosing, and monitoring pre-existing conditions, as well.
Just because a condition is pre-existing does not mean the resulting birth injury cannot support a birth injury medical malpractice lawsuit in some cases.
For example, if a baby has grown past the typical estimated birth weight, the doctor may opt for an early delivery or a cesarean section (c-section) delivery to reduce the risk of complications for the mother and child. Natural vaginal birth of a large baby could cause shoulder dystocia, brachial plexus injuries, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, or other preventable birth injuries.
YOU MAY HAVE A BIRTH INJURY MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASE
If you believe your child’s birth injuries may have been preventable despite a pre-existing condition, you can speak with an attorney near you who takes on this type of case and is familiar with the laws in your state.
If they believe they can recover financial damages, they can help you try to hold the doctor, clinic, or hospital liable. This often includes reviewing medical records, identifying medical expert witnesses, and collecting other evidence to build your case.
Keep in mind that each state has a statute of limitations and other rules that set strict limits on how long you can wait to take this type of case to court.
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What Are the Long Term Effects of a Birth Injury?
What are the long-term effects of a birth injury? Depending on the severity and nature of the injury, it can lead to conditions like seizures and cerebral palsy. Click here to review some of the possible health effects of a birth injury on your child.
What Are The Long-term Effects Of A Birth Injury?
A birth injury may have immediate effects on your child’s health. However, there may also be lasting health conditions associated with a birth injury. What are the long-term effects of a birth injury? In some cases, a child may develop lifelong conditions, including cerebral palsy (CP).
CAUSES OF LONG-TERM DAMAGE FROM BIRTH INJURIES
There are many different injuries that your child could face during birth. However, not all of these injuries cause long-term effects. For example, mild damage to the brachial plexus can heal within weeks or months, leaving behind no long-term ill effects.
However, if your child experiences any brain damage as a result of a birth injury, it could have long-lasting effects on their health and well-being. Brain damage during childbirth could be the result of a lack of oxygen during the birthing process. It may also be caused by genetic disorders.
Long-term effects of a birth injury often consist of specific disorders. For example, your child may experience long-term health problems if they are diagnosed with:
- Cerebral Palsy (CP).
- Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE).
- Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL).
CEREBRAL PALSY CAN RESULT FROM A BIRTH INJURY
CP is a group of conditions that result from damage to the brain’s motor control centers. For this reason, children with cerebral palsy may be unable to control their posture or movement. They may also have issues with coordination and balance.
CP can result from a number of circumstances, including complications during birth. This type is called congenital CP. Examples include when the placenta becomes detached or from complications with the umbilical cord. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 85% to 90% of CP cases are congenital.
Not all cases of CP are of the same level of severity. Some cases are relatively minor, while others may be incredibly severe. There is no cure available for CP, so its effects may last throughout your child’s life.
HYPOXIC-ISCHEMIC ENCEPHALOPATHY AND BIRTH INJURIES
HIE may occur if a child did not receive enough cerebral blood flow during childbirth. Infants may not receive sufficient blood flow if there are complications during childbirth. Similar to CP, placental abruption or prolapse of the umbilical cord may both lead to this problem. HIE may cause seizures in children. Additionally, children diagnosed with HIE can also develop CP or motor disorders.
BIRTH INJURIES AND HYDROCEPHALUS
Hydrocephalus is a condition in which fluid builds up in the brain. Children who experience hydrocephalus may experience bleeding within the ventricles of the brain. This may cause cerebral swelling, which results in additional damage to the brain’s blood vessels and white matter. Hydrocephalus may lead to:
- Intellectual disabilities.
- Seizure disorders.
These disorders and conditions can last throughout your child’s life after this kind of birth injury. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that an estimated one out of every 1,000 babies experience hydrocephalus.
PERIVENTRICULAR LEUKOMALACIA AS A RESULT OF A BIRTH INJURY
PVL is another condition caused by insufficient oxygen during the birth process. It occurs if the periventricular area of the brain does not receive enough oxygen, sometimes because of birth asphyxia. This condition results in damage to brain tissues and may cause CP.
Note that children who are born before term are more likely to face PVL. However, even infants carried to full-term may experience this birth injury.
PREVENTING THE EFFECTS OF A BIRTH INJURY
A birth injury may have many long-term effects on your child. In order to avoid these effects, it is important for medical professionals to take all possible steps to prepare for complications during labor. This includes closely monitoring your child’s vital signs during delivery.
Healthcare professionals may need to take immediate steps if they notice your child appears to be in distress. In some situations, this involves ordering an emergency C-section, for example. A C-section can be beneficial if your child appears to be getting insufficient oxygen during labor.
Doctors may also need to take some steps immediately after your child is born, if they appear to be in distress. Providing an infant with immediate medical care can lower the odds of them experiencing a severe birth injury. For instance, doctors may need to provide your child with respiratory assistance or hypothermic therapy.
Medical professionals who fail to provide your child with proper care could be engaging in an act of medical malpractice. If you believe your child did not receive reasonable medical attention during the birthing process, you may want to contact a birth injury lawyer to get help. A lawyer may be able to help you get compensation for your child’s medical expenses in this situation.
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What Are Common Birth Injuries?
There are a number of common birth injuries that can occur during the birthing process, including cerebral palsy and Erb’s palsy. Some may be a result of unavoidable causes such as a genetic condition, but others may come about due to mistakes made by medical professionals.
Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in children according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimates that one in every 323 individuals are born with the condition in the United States, more commonly boys and black children. Note that cerebral palsy is actually a group of medical conditions, and children with these conditions may have difficulty moving or controlling their muscles. It is often diagnosed within a year or two after birth.
There are a number of reasons children may develop cerebral palsy. In some cases, cerebral palsy is a result of other illnesses such as jaundice or meningitis. In other situations, children may develop cerebral palsy because of a head injury, or because medical professionals made mistakes during childbirth and prevented the child from getting enough oxygen.
Erb’s palsy is caused by a brachial plexus injury, and occurs in 0.9 to 2.6 of every 1,000 live births according to the National Center for Biotechnical Information (NCBI). The brachial plexus is a group of nerves found around the upper arms and neck. This injury may be the result of a medical professional:
- Pulling on your child’s head or neck during childbirth.
- Putting too much pressure on your child’s shoulders.
- Stretching out your child’s arms improperly during a breech (feet-first) birth.
In some cases, Erb’s palsy can heal on its own. However, severe cases may prevent your child from moving their shoulder, arm, or hand, and if your child’s nerves were torn or damaged, they may require surgery in order to possibly recover any sensation.
INJURIES CAUSED BY FORCEPS
There are several birth injuries commonly caused by the misuse of forceps, a grasping instrument meant to assist with delivery. Some injuries that may occur if a medical professional fails to provide proper treatment during a difficult labor include:
Cephalohematoma is when a child experiences bleeding between their scalp and skull. You may notice a bump on your child’s head after birth if they sustained this injury. While it often clears up on its own, cephalohematoma may increase the odds of your child developing anemia, meningitis, or other conditions.
Some infants develop caput succedaneum due to the usage of forceps, which causes the scalp to swell like a cone and become discolored or bruised. While your child’s life is unlikely to be threatened by caput succedaneum directly, it may lead to other conditions such as jaundice.
Injuries to the Spinal Cord
Doctors who are too forceful with the use of forceps may cause injuries to your child’s spinal cord. Your child could experience paralysis as a result of a spinal cord injury, and this may lead to neurological issues.
OXYGEN DEPRIVATION AND ASPHYXIA
During the birthing process, your child stops receiving oxygen from the umbilical cord as they naturally transition to breathing with their respiratory system. However, there may be complications if your child’s birth is not handled properly, leading to oxygen deprivation during childbirth.
Oxygen deprivation, and the resulting asphyxia, may be severe. Children could suffer from seizures and other concerns if they are denied oxygen during childbirth.
In some cases, your child’s bones may be broken during the childbirth process. Broken bones are more common during difficult deliveries as a result of concerns like a large child or small mother. Broken collarbones are a common example of an injury sustained during childbirth.
These injuries can heal on their own, as a broken bone would in older individuals. However, it could be a stressful process, as your baby may need to be kept immobilized to allow the bones to heal properly, or may require surgery.
How Can Birth Injuries Be Prevented?
Birth injuries can be prevented in some cases. Doctors and other medical care providers should monitor the pregnancy, labor, and delivery process to recognize risks and make decisions based on them. This is a part of providing the proper standard of care that every patient is entitled to and should receive.
If a doctor or another care provider is negligent and fails to provide the accepted standard of care, this may lead to birth injuries and support a medical malpractice claim.
DOCTORS HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO PROVIDE A CERTAIN LEVEL OF CARE
Many birth injury legal cases focus on medical negligence. If a doctor or another medical care provider carelessly or recklessly deviates from the protocols most doctors with the same training and experience would follow and this leads to a complication, the child may suffer a preventable birth injury.
If doctors and other care providers fail to provide the expected level of prenatal care and watch for complications during labor and delivery, this may lead to situations where the baby could sustain an injury.
For example, imagine the doctor is not monitoring the mother closely and ignores signs of gestational diabetes. The mother’s uncontrolled blood glucose levels may lead to the baby growing larger than normal, increasing the risk for injuries during labor and delivery if the baby becomes stuck in the birth canal. This may lead to shoulder dystocia, in which the baby’s shoulder is caught in the mother’s pelvis, and Erb’s palsy as a result. Erb’s palsy occurs in 0.9 to 2.6 of every 1,000 live births according to the National Center for Biotechnical Information (NCBI).
This doctor and his or her medical team likely had numerous opportunities to recognize that they should have considered a cesarean delivery to try and prevent the baby’s injuries. Over 30 percent of deliveries in 2018 were C-sections according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
HOLDING A DOCTOR OR HOSPITAL ACCOUNTABLE FOR FAILING TO PREVENT YOUR CHILD’S BIRTH INJURIES
In some cases, birth injuries can be prevented if the team monitoring the mother and baby do their jobs and identify risks as soon as possible. Failure to recognize the risks, or inaction when they become apparent, may be considered negligence and support a medical malpractice claim if the baby suffers injuries.
If you believe this happened to your child, you will need to prove their injuries were preventable and show how the doctor’s negligence allowed them to occur. You should consider working with an attorney who may have access to medical expert witnesses that can testify to how your doctor or care team deviated from the accepted standard of care based on the facts of your case.
You can recover compensation you may be entitled to and hold the doctor and hospital accountable for your child’s injuries, but there is limited time to take action. Each state has its own statute of limitations and may have its own rules allowing you to toll the statute of limitations for birth injury cases, so it is best to speak with a lawyer familiar with the laws in your state.
CALL THE BIRTH INJURY LAWYERS GROUP TO GET HELP
At the Birth Injury Lawyers Group, our team knows how and why birth injuries may occur, and the most common ways medical negligence can lead to a baby suffering from an injury or impairment. We can help you understand what happened to your newborn, and what you can do to hold a negligent medical staff accountable.
Call (800) 261-9292 for a free case review to discuss your child’s birth injuries with a member of our team.
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