Birth Injuries

Birth Blogs: Everything You Should Know About Birth Injuries

For most families, childbirth is a joyous occasion. Parents brace themselves for little more than learning experiences and sleep deprivation as they settle into their new roles. They count fingers and toes and hope for the best.

Sadly, this isn’t always the outcome for everyone.

Seven birth injuries occur for every 1,000 children that are born in the U.S. While high-risk populations and those with certain genetic predispositions tend to approach labor with caution, some of these injuries may be preventable.

Read on to learn more about the risk of birth injuries and how you can be prepared.

What Is a Birth Injury?

Birth injuries are types of injuries that an infant experiences before, during, or immediately after birth. It is a type of trauma that can range from mild to severe disfigurements or disabilities. While some birth injuries can be treated with few issues, many of these birth injuries are permanent and will affect the individual for the rest of their life.

A birth injury is an outcome of physical trauma, medical negligence, or environmental toxins. They differ from birth defects because, under the right circumstances, they may have been avoidable.

While all infants will present differently, a birth injury is usually identified by any of the following symptoms:

  • Pale or blue skin
  • Slow breathing or heartrate
  • Lethargy
  • The infant has extremely stiff or floppy limbs
  • The infant is displaying unusual movements in its face or limbs
  • The infant has unusual reflexes
  • The infant is not responding to noise or objects

Immediate examination, documentation, and treatment are critical if any of these symptoms are noted. This is especially necessary if the injury involves a lack of oxygen to the brain, as time is the primary factor with brain injuries at birth.

Types of Birth Injury

While the primary outcomes of birth injuries are cognitive, physical, or emotional delays, there are a number of birth injury types that tend to occur most often. These include brain injuries, muscle, and physical injuries.

Brachial Plexus Injury

A Brachial Plexus injury at birth occurs when the nerves that make up the brachial plexus system in the body are stretched, compressed, or torn. It may result in loss of muscle function or complete paralysis of the affected arm.

A brachial plexus injury happens in three out of every 1,000 births. This kind of injury may result in Erb’s palsy — a diagnosis of extreme nerve damage to the shoulder.

Anoxia and Hypoxia

Hypoxia is when a deficient amount of oxygen reaches the tissues — namely the brain. Anoxia is the complete absence of oxygen reaching the tissues. These injuries may be a result of incorrect medication, undetected infections and forceps, or vacuum extractor injuries that interrupt blood flow from the mother to the fetus.

Both of these birth injuries can result in severe brain damage as the brain requires oxygen to function. An infant may be diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) if the damage is severe enough. The mortality rate with infants diagnosed with HIE is extremely high.

Birth Asphyxia

Birth asphyxia (also known as neonatal depression) is also a result of oxygen and nutrient deficiencies, though, unlike anoxia and hypoxia, occurs during or right after birthThis can result in permanent brain damage that may present as seizure disorders, developmental delays, and learning disabilities.

Birth asphyxia can occur if the umbilical cord is damaged during labor. Uterine rupture has also been significantly linked to this kind of birth injury.

Bruising and Skull Fractures

The leading cause of bruising and skull fractures to an infant during birth is the misuse of forceps or a vacuum extractor. They are often used during pregnancies exhibiting complications but can cause severe damage if not used delicately.

Skull fractures put additional pressure on the brain that may result in a fatal hemorrhage.

Caput Succedaneum

External trauma is the leading cause of caput succedaneum — the fluid and swelling of an infant’s head. A difficult delivery, forceps or vacuum extractors may cause enough force to injure an infant’s head.

Though potentially harmless, any kind of injury to an infant’s head has the potential to cause long-term deficiencies and the interruption of oxygen flow to the brain.

Cerebral Palsy

Rather than a single diagnosis, cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that interfere with the brain’s ability to control the muscles and nervous system. It is the result of brain damage that occurs during or shortly after birth.

There is no cure for cerebral palsy, though certain therapies and treatments can improve quality of life.

Are Birth Injuries Preventable?

Though some birth injuries are a devastating result of the risks of labor, many of these injuries occur because of medical malpractice. Reasons for potential birth injury include:

  • Misuse of forceps or vacuum extractor
  • Mishandling of the infant
  • Inadequate prenatal care
  • Failure to effectively detect and treat infection during pregnancy
  • Incorrectly prescribing medication

Some of these injuries may have been heightened by certain uncontrollable factors, such as the size of the baby, premature births, the shape or size of the mother’s pelvis, and maternal obesity. It’s important to connect with an experienced attorney to determine if the birth injury could have been avoided.

Legal Options

If your baby experienced a birth injury, you are not alone. It’s possible to find both community and medical support to lean on as you adapt to the health needs of your child.

Some birth injuries could have been prevented. If you believe that this sounds like it could be your story, don’t wait for answers. Receive a quote from an experienced team of legal representatives today.

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