A birth injury is any injury that occurs during or near the time of birth. These injuries include birth trauma, excessive pressure on the baby or the baby’s head, birth asphyxia or oxygen deprivation, failure to prevent or treat an infection, brachial plexus injuries and many other complications. Some birth injuries can affect children cognitively, physically, and/or emotionally. Some birth injuries are caused by medical malpractice.
What are the Most Common Birth Injuries?
The most common preventable birth injuries include:
- Brain Damage
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Skull Fractures
- Seizure Disorders
- Cerebral Palsy
- Developmental Delays
Brain damage is one of the most serious types of birth injuries. Damage to an infant’s developing brain is also one of the leading causes of infant mortality and permanent disability. Causes of brain injuries include congenital defects, external trauma to the baby’s head during childbirth and oxygen deprivation during pregnancy or childbirth. Depending on what area of the brain is compromised, the impact to the child can be devastating. For example, Cerebral Palsy, can occur when there is damage to the brain’s outer layer, known as the cerebral cortex.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal injuries that occur during childbirth can have devastating, life-long effects on a child, which can include nerve damage and paralysis. The improper use of forceps and vacuum extractors during delivery can increase the chances of a child sustaining this type of injury during birth. These injuries are usually the result of blunt force trauma from the obstetrician’s hands, forceps, or vacuum, applied to assist the baby’s passage through the birth canal. The spinal cord may be bruised, torn, or cut, causing impairment to the infant, which is often severe.
The newborn skull is made up of several plates—two frontal bones, one occipital bone, and two parietal bones. These are knitted together by sutures, fibrous tissue that allows the plates of the skull to move and the overall skull to be more flexible as a newborn’s head is emerging from the birth canal. Most skull fractures, minor or otherwise, are the result of the use of instruments during delivery, especially in difficult or traumatic deliveries. Skull fractures can put pressure on the brain and cause brain hemorrhaging. Complications caused by skull fractures can be immediate or delayed and include brain damage, paralysis, neurological problems, cognitive impairment, and developmental delays.
A seizure is a sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. Neonatal (infant) seizures can be subtle and hard to identify. These seizures can have a variety of causes, the most common being hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE, or oxygen deprivation) and birth trauma. In many cases, HIE is the result of a birth injury such as a medical complication or medical malpractice that occurs during or around the time of birth.
Prolonged or frequent neonatal seizures may cause damage beyond that caused by the underlying disorder. When caused by acute injuries to the brain such as hypoxia-ischemia, stroke, or infection, neonates may have a series of seizures. While these seizures typically abate after 3 to 4 days, if brain damage has occurred, they may continue to recur months to years later.
Cerebral Palsy, a disorder affecting movement, balance and posture, is caused by damage to the developing brain before, during, or after birth. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Cerebral Palsy is the most common motor disability of childhood.
Many common birth injuries that lead to Cerebral Palsy are preventable. Medical malpractice on the part of the obstetrics team is often the cause. Parents of a child whose Cerebral Palsy was caused by a preventable birth injury may be entitled to legal compensation. Cerebral Palsy is a condition that requires lifelong treatment, which can be extremely expensive and financially burdensome to most families.
Children can grow and develop at various rates, but they should still meet developmental milestones—physical skills and behaviors that are seen in infants and children as they progress in growth and development. While developmental delays are often outgrown and can present as learning and attention issues, in serious cases, developmental delays persist and can be a symptom of Cerebral Palsy or another birth injury.
When something goes wrong during pregnancy or during labor and delivery, it is natural to have questions. Parents and loved ones might ask, what happened exactly? Why did this happen? Will our baby be okay? Could this have been prevented? Most birth injuries are caused by a lack of communication or a failure to act among health care professionals in response to the circumstances of a particular delivery.
If you believe you are the victim of a preventable birth injury, our Texas birth injury attorneys can help. Contact the Ammons Law Firm today for a free consultation at (281) 801-5617.