Becoming a parent is one of the most exciting times in a person's life. Birth can be joyful, but on rare occasions, complications can arise. Unfortunately, some of these complications can cause injury and aren't caused by the mother or child, but by the medical staff.
A birth injury is defined as damage or injury sustained by the baby during the birth process, usually while traveling through the birth canal. These injuries can be temporary, or cause lifelong maladies. Between 6 to 8 babies per 1,000 born in the United States every year will be injured during the birth process - that amounts to about 28,000 per year.
Other than the very common bruising and scratches from delivery and any instruments used during it, like a forceps, the following are some of the most common birth injuries in the U.S.:
- Facial palsy is the temporary paralysis of the face from the pressure of passing though the birth canal. Although mostly temporary, permanent damage can occur with a tear of the nerves in the face.
- Brachial palsy is caused by damage or severance of the Brachial plexus nerves in the baby's arm. Often during birth, the baby's shoulders and arms must be effectively "squished" together to pass through the birth canal and pelvis of the mother.
- If the shoulders of the infant are unable to easily pass though the hips or birth canal, or needs intervention to pass, the infant can suffer Shoulder Dystocia, which can affect the Brachial nerve. Shoulder Dystocia effects can subside within one year of birth.
- Cerebral palsy is fairly common in the U.S. - the most common brain injury suffered during the birth process - and affects the motor skills because of brain damage usually caused during birth. Cerebral palsy is permanent and can range from mild to severe, and effects include limited movement, weak reflexes and poor coordination.
- Cephalohematoma is essentially a bruising under the baby's skin in the periosteum of the skull which causes a pooling of blood. Cephalohematoma happens during delivery, although its cause isn't always tied to birth trauma. When trauma is present, it's usually because of the use of forceps.
- Usually when a birth is especially long, difficult and requires the usage of tools like a vacuum or forceps to deliver the baby. The result is Caput succedaneum, where the amniotic sac has broken and the baby's head is no longer supported, causing the scalp to swell. Luckily, this swelling usually resolves itself within a few days.
How do the injuries happen?
An important point to make is that birth injuries can generally be avoided with proper training and planning to take risk factors into account. So although some of the above common injuries are caused by a difficult birth due to the mother's anatomy or other circumstances out of the control of the medical staff, many are because of what can be perceived as malpractice.
If you or a loved one have gone through the birth process and the infant suffered a birth injury as a result of potential medical staff mishandling, reach out to an attorney to learn about your options. You could be eligible to seek compensation for your child's injuries and recovery.