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Birth Injuries

Sometimes the negligent or careless actions of those acting to help the mother and her child can inflict a devastating, lifelong injury.
Last Updated: November 23, 2022

There are many who consider childbirth to be the most intense experience in life. The climactic culmination of nine months of care and the beginning of a new life. 

With such a monumental effort, the aftermath is expected to be peaceful and wondrous as the new member of the family is lovingly welcomed into the fold. Unfortunately, sometimes this reunion is diverted by the most unfortunate of occurrences: a birth injury.

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What is a Birth Injury

The term “birth injury” is vague by design. While it can relate to the obvious physical injuries such as fractured bones and bruises, birth injuries also encompass subtler conditions such as jaundice and its complications. The de-facto definition of a birth injury is any injury occurring during or shortly after the birth of a child. 

A birth injury also refers specifically to the child’s injuries. There are a myriad of different causes for a birth injury. Some of the typical factors for birth injury according to Stanford Children’s Health are:

  • A large newborn weighing over 8lbs 13oz
  • Giving birth before the child has gestated for 37 weeks
  • Disproportionate size or shape of the mother’s uterus
  • A difficult or prolonged childbirth process
  • Unusual positioning of the child prior to beginning labor
  • Obesity in the mother

Other factors for birth injury can include:

  • Failing to perform an advisable cesarean delivery, also known as a C-section
  • Failing to detect infections during the birth process
  • Negligence in treating the child in the NICU.
  • Neglecting heart rate monitors or other indicators
  • Undetected umbilical cord complications
  • Rupture of the uterus
  • Placental abruption
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Improper use of delivery forceps or vacuum extraction devices

Regardless of the cause, not all birth injuries are the same. Some are typical in the birthing process and recover naturally, while others come as the result of thoughtless or negligent behavior and can be life-changing. In either case, many of the most common examples of a birth injury according to Stanford Children’s Health include:

  • Brachial Palsy: damage to the nerves of the arm and hand which result in the loss of the ability to rotate or flex the arm.
  • Facial bruising: marking or bruising of the head and face caused by the trauma of birth or the use of forceps.
  • Caput succedaneum: significant swelling of the baby’s scalp that develops as the baby travels through the birth canal. More common in babies delivered by vacuum extraction.
  • Cephalohematoma: an area of bleeding between the skull and its fibrous covering appearing several hours after birth as a raised lump on the baby’s head.
  • Fractures of the clavicle and collarbone: often arising from a breech birth, where the child is delivered tailbone-first, or a difficult birth.
  • Facial paralysis: a temporary paralysis deriving from injury to the facial nerve during the birthing process.
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage: blood vessels that break in the newborn’s eye presenting as a bright red band in one or both eyes.

While most of these birth injuries are temporary, other birth injuries can be far more damaging and permanent.

Birth Injury
Symptoms of A Birth Injury

What Are The Symptoms of A Birth Injury?

Symptoms of a birth injury can present immediately after the birth or in the first years of life. A variety of symptoms exist to indicate a birth injury to the brain. The symptoms that may indicate a brain injury immediately following the child’s birth include:

  • Seizures
  • Skull fractures
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Arching of the back while crying
  • High-pitched crying
  • High levels of fussiness or grunting
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Lower heart rate than normal
  • Photosensitivity
  • Excessive drooling
  • Curling of the hands without closing them completely
  • Delayed, weak, or absent reflexes
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Muscle looseness
  • Weakness or paralysis of the arm

If the child doesn’t present with any of these symptoms, they still may have suffered a birth injury if they present with the following symptoms between the ages of 1 and 2:

  • Ataxia
  • Trouble balancing
  • Trouble moving
  • Low memory retention
  • Involuntary flexing or pulling of the neck
  • Spastic muscle control
  • Delayed or absent speech abilities
  • Inability to crawl, sit, stand, or walk independently
  • Difficulty eating
  • Difficulty grasping items
  • Inability to move small items from one hand to the other

These symptoms can worsen and beyond the age of two symptoms include blindness, deafness, muteness, developmental disabilities, and more.

Birth Injuries
Victims With A Birth Injury

What Can Be Done For Victims With A Birth Injury?

The signs and symptoms of a brain injury often fall into four broad categories of birth injury to the brain. These are hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), intracranial hemorrhages, periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) and cerebral dysgenesis.

Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is induced when the child is born without access to oxygen or is denied oxygen during the birth process. Commonly this type of brain damage is caused by the placenta or umbilical cord failing to deliver oxygen during a long or difficult birth. Virtually any time the infant suffers from asphyxia, or inability to breathe, for any period longer than a few seconds, the infant is then risking HIE. 

While a small portion of infants with HIE can be treated, most suffer permanent physical or mental disability. The best treatment for HIE is to take preventative and proactive measures to ensure it never begins.

An intracranial hemorrhage is a major bleed within the brain. This can arise from traumas both natural and inflicted. Unfortunately, as with HIE, major intracranial hemorrhages cause serious developmental issues for the rest of the infant’s life although minor intracranial hemorrhages can recover.

Periventricular leukomalacia most commonly occurs in premature infants. PVL is characterized by “holes” in the brain where the cranial tissue has died. In addition to premature birth, PVL can be caused by an infection during the birthing process, or through dramatic changes to blood flow around the brain.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for PVL and it often leads to irreparable damage to the nervous system and developmental delays. Once discovered, however, doctors can monitor the infant’s heart, lungs, intestines, and kidneys to prevent further damage.

Cerebral dysgenesis is a catch-all term for abnormal brain development and is the most mild form of brain injury. Cerebral dysgenesis can occur during the developmental process of an infant, or it can be induced by several viruses during gestation, or infection during the birthing process. 

Because it is such a broad condition, the outlook for infants can range from mild to severely endangered.

What Actions to Take if You Want to Make A Claim?

If your child suffered a birth injury or someone you know has suffered a birth brain injury the first step is getting in contact with with a skilled injury attorney to discuss your case. Select Justice can help you fight back.

We have a number of experienced birth injury lawyers in our network, and we can connect you with the legal counsel you need to receive personal advice, fight back, and create a path toward gaining compensation for the injury.

Fill out this short form with your contact details and a brief description the injury.

Please make sure to have relevant documents available. Someone from our team will follow up with you as soon as possible.

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© Copyright Jazz Media Ltd. 2024. All rights reserved

About us

We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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© Copyright Jazz Media Ltd. 2020. All rights reserved