Giving birth to a child can be a joyous occasion. However, it can also be highly stressful. The reality is that the delivery of a child is a complex medical procedure. It involves many different factors. If even one of those factors goes wrong, it could lead to a serious and, perhaps, permanent birth injury.
As the Merck Manual notes, birth injuries tend to occur as the baby passes through the birth canal during a difficult delivery. Complications may arise in the course of delivery due to:
- The baby being in an abnormal position in the uterus
- The baby’s unusually large size
- The small size of the birth canal.
The failure of medical professionals to foresee and properly respond to these problems may lead to the infant suffering injuries that could have been – and should have been – prevented.
This is why the parents of a child who has suffered a birth injury should consult with a lawyer. They deserve a thorough investigation into the matter to determine what went wrong – such as possible medical malpractice – and who should ultimately be held responsible.
The following are seven common types of birth injuries:
- Collar Bone Fractures
Nationwide Children’s Hospital reports that a fracture of the collar bone, or clavicle, is “the most common injury sustained by newborns during birth.”A fracture may happen because of the baby’s large size, a narrow birth canal or the baby’s shoulder getting stuck during delivery (shoulder dystocia), the hospital states. The fracture may also be due to improper use of forceps during delivery.The broken collar bone typically will heal. The greater concern is damage to the brachial plexus, which is a collection of nerves located near the collar bone. Nationwide Children’s Hospital reports that 1 in 11 newborns with collar bone fractures also suffer brachial plexus injuries.
- Brachial Plexus Injuries
The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that essentially controls feeling and movement within the shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist, hand and fingers, according to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. In a difficult delivery, these nerves can become damaged. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that pulling or exerting pressure on a baby’s head, neck or shoulders during a head-first delivery or pressure on a baby’s arms during a feet-first (breech) delivery are common causes of brachial plexus injuries. Damage can also occur in a C-section delivery, the NIH states.A brachial plexus injury may cause a baby to lose permanent use of his or her upper and lower arm (Erb’s palsy) or hand (Klumpke’s palsy), according to the NIH. The baby may also suffer permanent tightening of arm muscles or abnormal muscle contractions in the arm.
- Perinatal Asphyxia
The Merck Manual states that perinatal asphyxia occurs when blood flow is disrupted or oxygen is diminished in the blood stream during birth. The baby may suffer seizures or a coma and lasting brain, kidney or lung damage, Merck reports.Perinatal asphyxia can occur due to fetal infection, sudden blood loss or umbilical cord problems, according to Merck. It can also happen if the placenta fails to provide an adequate amount of oxygen to the baby during labor and delivery. Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that restrict a person’s control and movement of the body. It is estimated that as many as four out of every 1,000 children born suffers from this condition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.Cerebral palsy can be caused by perinatal asphyxia. However, there is debate about how large of a percentage of cases may be traced to this birth injury, with the medical community generally insisting that it is a low percentage.
- Facial Nerve Palsy
The NIH describes facial nerve palsy as a loss of voluntary muscle movement in a baby’s face, which may arise from pressure being exerted on the facial nerve during delivery, or birth trauma. The facial paralysis may be permanent.The organization, Facial Palsy UK, states that pressure on a baby’s head due to the use of forceps during delivery can cause this condition. The NIH reports that other factors include prolonged labor as well as the use of an epidural anesthesia or a labor-inducing medication.
- Intracranial Hemorrhage
Intracranial hemorrhage is the term used to describe bleeding in the brain that is due to the rupture of a blood vessel within the skull, the Merck Manual states. It can be caused by a lack of blood (ischemia) or oxygen in the blood (hypoxia).Due to an intracranial hemorrhage, a child may suffer seizures, permanent brain damage or an increased level of bilirubin in the blood (which may, in turn, lead to jaundice).
- Extracranial Injuries
Pressure on the scalp during delivery – perhaps by the use of a forceps or vacuum extraction – can lead to a variety of injuries, including skull fractures and hemorrhaging that occurs outside of the skull, Merck reports. In addition to health issues associated with excessive bleeding, an extracranial injury may cause a child to suffer from deformity.
- Spinal Cord Injuries
Merck reports that spinal cord injuries may occur due to trauma suffered during birth that causes a disruption of the spinal cord’s ability to function properly.In some cases, a baby’s spinal cord may be compressed due to hyperextension of the baby’s neck in the uterus or the pooling of blood between the outer membrane covering the central nervous system (dura mater) and skull, Merck states.Spinal cord injury may result in paralysis or neurological issues. It may also lead to other complications such as recurring pneumonia or loss of kidney function, which may be fatal, according to Merck.
A New Jersey Birth Injury Lawyer Can Assist You
If your child has suffered a birth injury, the law firm of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., has the skill, experience and resources to seek the answers you deserve. We can thoroughly investigate the case to determine whether medical negligence caused the injury, and we can aggressively seek just compensation for the harm suffered by your family. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.