Most children born in the United States are lucky to emerge from the process unharmed. Unfortunately, birth injuries can and do happen, sometimes causing catastrophic or even fatal injuries. One of the most difficult aspects of handling such an event is that medical negligence plays a prominent role in many birth injury cases in the US each year. It is essential for parents expecting a child to know the most common types of birth injuries seen in the US and how to determine whether a birth injury resulted from medical negligence.
One of the most common birth injuries seen in the United States is cerebral palsy, a condition commonly caused by oxygen deprivation or physical damage to the brain before or during childbirth. Cerebral palsy is a complex condition that causes permanent damage and affects every child differently. A child with cerebral palsy can experience a wide range of symptoms, from cognitive impairment and developmental delays to motor function and language processing problems. Some children with cerebral palsy display minimal symptoms, while others experience more profound cases, and all types of cerebral palsy are permanent.
Babies have extremely fragile heads, and any excessive force during the childbirth procedure can potentially result in various types of intracranial hemorrhaging:
- Cerebral hemorrhaging refers to bleeding inside the brain, similar to what a person experiences during a stroke.
- Intraventricular hemorrhaging occurs in the ventricular system of the brain that produces cerebrospinal fluid. This is the most severe form of intracranial hemorrhaging that a baby can experience, and it is common in premature infants and infants with low birth weight.
- Subconjunctival hemorrhaging describes broken blood vessels in the baby’s eyes. This form of hemorrhaging is relatively mild and produces a red ring around each baby’s irises, but these rings typically dissipate within a few days.
- Cephalohematoma describes a hemorrhage that manifests between the baby’s skull and the skin of their head. This will commonly result in a lump that will usually disappear within a few weeks or months following birth.
Some forms of hemorrhaging are more severe than others, and some intracranial hemorrhaging can lead to permanent disability, developmental delays, or even death.
Brachial Plexus Injuries
The brachial plexus nerves extend from the neck through the collarbone area into the shoulders and upper arms. Since a baby’s shoulders are the widest part of their body, the shoulders are most likely to become stuck in the birth canal. Attending medical staff must be very cautious when extracting a baby in this situation as too much force can cause a brachial plexus injury like Erb’s palsy. This condition entails nerve damage in the shoulder and upper arm, sometimes resulting in the affected arm going limp and experiencing delayed development. If the brachial plexus is damaged but not torn, it will likely recover with time. However, a torn brachial plexus nerve will result in permanent damage.
Another form of nerve damage that might occur during childbirth is Bell’s palsy, characterized by facial paralysis. If a baby’s face experiences trauma during childbirth, this trauma could damage or even tear the nerves on one side of the baby’s face. The damage will be most noticeable when the baby cries, as the affected side of the face will not move correctly. Damaged facial nerves will recover in time, but torn nerves will likely require surgery.
Injuries From Surgical Tools
The childbirth procedure is a delicate process, but under ideal conditions, a delivery team will require minimal tools and equipment to complete the process. However, some situations will call for the use of forceps or vacuum extraction equipment. It is vital that presiding doctors only use these tools when necessary and use them with the utmost care. Surgical tools can inflict severe wounds on an infant, including facial lacerations, crushing injuries, and even fatal wounds.
What to Do When Negligence Causes a Birth Injury
This is not an exhaustive list of all the potential birth injuries during the childbirth process. If you or a loved one recently experienced any birth injury, it’s essential to consult an experienced California birth injury attorney as soon as possible to determine your options for legal recourse. If the attending physician was negligent in any way that contributed to your birth injury, it’s possible to hold them accountable through a medical malpractice claim. If you believe you have grounds for a birth injury case, contact McLachlan Law, APC, today to schedule a consultation with an experienced and compassionate attorney.