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Birth Injuries: How Often Do They Occur?

Birth injuries occur in seven out of every 1,000 births, according to statistics compiled by RightDiagnosis.com from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and numerous other sources.

These birth injuries can occur for a variety of reasons. However, a large number are the result of some type of medical negligence. In fact, during one reported year, almost 157,000 injuries to mothers and newborns occurred that were potentially avoidable, the federal Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project reports.

When a medical professional fails to provide the accepted standard of care during the birth process or fails to identify risk factors during a woman’s pregnancy that could cause problems at birth, there can be irreversible damage to the baby.

Some of the serious conditions that may directly result from medical negligence include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Erb’s palsy
  • Brain damage
  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Fractures.

For example, a disruption of the oxygen supply during the birth process is estimated to be the cause of about 10 percent of cerebral palsy cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.


Why Do Birth Injuries Occur?

The University of Rochester Medical Center identifies the following as common causes of birth difficulties:

  • Large babies – Giving birth to a baby weighing more than eight pounds, 13 ounces can cause heavy bleeding and other complications. High blood sugar levels caused by gestational or pre-existing diabetes contribute to this risk.
  • Maternal obesity – As HealthDay reports, researchers have found that obesity in pregnant women increases the risk of birth complications as well as the risk of children being born with heart, spine and limb defects.
  • Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD) – This is when a baby’s head and/or body cannot pass through the mother’s pelvis, which may require a C-section to be performed, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
  • Prolonged labor – A “failure to progress” may lead to excessive bleeding, oxygen deprivation and other causes of birth injuries. Again, a medical professional must be able to determine when a timely C-section should be ordered.
  • Abnormal baby position – The University of Maryland Medical Center describes three abnormal baby positions that can lead to birth difficulties: Breech (the baby’s feet are first instead of the head), occiput posterior (the baby is head-first but faces the mother’s front instead of the back) and transverse (the baby is sideways).
  • Shoulder dystocia – This is a complication that arises when the baby’s head passes through but the shoulders are stuck. This can prolong delivery and lead to injuries.
  • Prematurity – A baby born before the 37th week may suffer any number of complications, including heart and brain damage, the Mayo Clinic
  • Use of instruments during birth – A baby may suffer blunt force trauma due to the misuse of forceps or other instruments by medical professionals.

The forms of medical negligence leading to birth injuries can include failing to:

  • Detect a condition or potential complication during pregnancy
  • Properly monitor labor and delivery (or attach monitoring devices)
  • Diagnose fetal distress
  • Use established procedures to maneuver the baby in the birth canal
  • Perform a timely C-section.

Parents in New Jersey and New York who are seeking answers for why a birth injury occurred should contact a skilled and experienced medical malpractice attorney. The lawyer can thoroughly investigate the case and consult with qualified experts who can help find the answers that parents deserve.