Birth Injuries: What to Expect When Childbirth Doesn’t Go as Expected

The nine months spent waiting for a child are full of both challenges and anticipation. For many individuals, couples, and families, anticipating a new arrival is one of the most joyful and exciting prospects imaginable.

For some of these people, however, the culmination of this experience is marred by a birth injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s last study of birth data in 2002, birth injuries occur in roughly 3 out of every 1,000 live births in the United States.

Not only can a birth injury turn the celebration of a new life into a whirlwind of tests, treatments, and worry, but these injuries can potentially affect mother, child, and family for years to come.

In this blog, we discuss the most common causes and types of birth injuries, as well as how birth injuries can potentially constitute medical malpractice and entitle individuals to a personal injury settlement.

Causes of Birth Injuries

During pregnancy and childbirth, both the mother and child are highly vulnerable to potential diseases and injuries, which is one of the reasons why prenatal care is so important. This vulnerability means that birth injuries can have a wide variety of causes. Some of the most common include:

  • Breech deliveries and other abnormal infant positioning during childbirth
  • Extended labor time
  • High birth weight
  • Inadequacy of the facility equipment
  • Incompatibility of the mother’s pelvic size or shape and the baby’s size, known as cephalopelvic disproportion
  • Inexperience of the medical staff
  • Labor complications
  • Premature birth
  • Unsafe medicines or unexpected responses to medicine

Some causes of birth injuries are entirely natural or essentially unavoidable, but others come from the carelessness, criminal actions, or negligence of a third party. We’ll discuss this distinction in detail in the section on the legal significance of birth injuries.

Common Types of Birth Injuries

Birth injuries can vary in severity from barely noticeable symptoms to permanent conditions. Because newborns are so delicate, the intensity of these injuries can be difficult to predict and the ramifications can sometimes take time to fully understand. Common minor birth injuries include:

  • Bruises
  • Caput succedaneum, or swelling on the baby’s head
  • Cephalohematoma, or small areas of bleeding beneath a baby’s skin that heal without intervention
  • Fractures that heal without splinting
  • Small vaginal tears
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage in the baby’s eyes
  • Temporary forceps marks

As in any other situation, these minor injuries may be uncomfortable and upsetting but should heal with minimal treatment. Unfortunately, some birth injuries are much more severe, with the most common being:

  • Brachial palsy, which can temporarily or permanently affect a child’s range of motion in his or her arms and shoulders
  • Brain injuries related to a lack of oxygen, which can cause impaired motor skills or intellectual disability
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Fractures that cause pain or deformation
  • Internal reproductive injuries to the mother, which could affect fertility, menstruation, and healthy sexuality
  • Paralysis, especially of the face
  • Serious vaginal or perineal tearing

While no two birth injuries are identical, because the vulnerability of pregnancy and childbirth is universally similar, different circumstances or inciting incidents can sometimes lead to the same results for a mother, child, or both.

Legal Significance of Birth Injuries

As mentioned in the first section, birth injuries typically fall into one of two categories: those that likely could not have been prevented and those that by all accounts could have and should have been prevented.

While even unpreventable birth injuries can have painful, long-term consequences for families, there is no legal recourse in these situations because no person or organization is legally responsible.

When a birth injury could have been prevented, the affected family may have a medical malpractice personal injury claim. The validity of this claim primarily depends on whether or not a specific third party is directly responsible for the injury under the law.

For example, a doctor who delivered a baby while impaired would clearly be responsible if that mother or child sustained an injury during the delivery. However, most cases of medical malpractice are not so straightforward, especially since claimants must provide proof of the connection between the third party’s actions and the injury.

Because the legal implications of a birth injury can be complicated, professional legal counsel is always recommended.

If you believe you, your partner, a loved one, or your child has been affected by a birth injury, seek treatment as soon as possible. Many conditions caused by birth injury can see marked improvement when management begins as soon as possible.

Additionally, if you have any reason to believe that the injury in question should have been prevented by the medical staff involved, schedule a consultation with a personal injury attorney to discuss your situation in detail.

For compassionate and passionate assistance with personal injury claims, including birth injury medical malpractice claims, trust the legal team at Otorowski Morrow and Golden, PLLC.