The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 30% of birth injuries are preventable. Sadly, medical negligence is one of the leading causes of birth injuries in the United States. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), determined the following to be the most common types of birth injuries due to medical negligence:
Brachial palsy injuries involve damage to the bundle of nerves responsible for moving the arms and hands (brachial plexus). The result of this damage can be mild and temporary, or severe and permanent (in about 10% of cases the damage is permanent). The most serious injuries can even cause complete paralysis. A common cause of brachial plexus injuries is shoulder dystocia, which occurs when a baby’s shoulders are trapped in the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. If a doctor pulls too hard while attempting to deliver a baby who is stuck, the brachial plexus can be damaged. Brachial palsy injuries include Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy.
Oxygen deprivation during delivery may lead to significant brain injuries in infants. Unfortunately, oxygen deprivation occurs more often during delivery than it should. When a baby suffers from a brain injury, multiple medical disorders may follow, including cerebral palsy and chronic seizures. Oxygen deprivation can happen when a doctor or nurse fails to correctly monitor a baby during labor and immediately after birth. Common causes of oxygen deprivation include umbilical cord issues (such as a prolapsed cord or cord wrapped around the baby’s neck), blocked airways, placental disruption, or prolonged labor, where the baby remains in the birth canal too long. Studies suggest that even mild oxygen deprivation can lead to serious neurological damage, including intellectual disabilities and long-term physical problems.
During delivery, a baby’s face may have too much pressure on it, resulting in damage to the facial nerve. This type of injury occurs when doctors use tools like forceps or a vacuum to facilitate a difficult delivery. Facial paralysis in newborns results in the inability to close the eye or control the facial muscles on the affected side of the face. Mild injuries can clear up within a few weeks, however, serious cases can lead to total paralysis of the face.
Cephalohematoma is an injury that causes bleeding underneath the cranium, most often directly under one of the cranial bones. A cephalohematoma usually appears several hours after birth as a raised bump on the top of the baby’s head. Using tools like forceps or a vacuum during birth, have been known to cause cephalohematoma. Most of these bumps clear up within a few months and pose no danger to the infant. However, they may increase the risk for jaundice, anemia, hypotension, and in rare cases, meningitis.
Complicated or difficult deliveries are the usual cause of bone fractures in newborn infants. A fracture to the clavicle (collar bone) is the most common type of fracture during delivery. This type of birth injury may occur when an obstetrician pulls on the infant too hard while in the breech position or when the shoulder is forcefully pulled during a prolonged, difficult delivery. Depending on the severity of the break, the doctor might suggest immobilization to treat the fracture. Fortunately, most fractures will heal completely after treatment, and the baby will be fine.
If your child has suffered a birth injury as a result of medical negligence, it’s important to speak with a lawyer. Taking legal action can help ensure that your child gets the proper care and treatment they need and can help you get compensated for the medical expenses these tragic and life-altering injuries can cause.