The term "birth injury" describes an injury an infant sustained during labor or delivery. These birth injuries fall into two main categories: hypoxic and traumatic, the former describing oxygen deficiency and the latter describing physical force. Injuries sustained during labor or delivery can result in lifelong complications and disabilities, like cerebral palsy.
Birth injuries should not be confused with birth defects, which can be caused by everything from genetics to prescription drug use and alcohol abuse. Birth injuries are often characteristic of high-risk pregnancies, for example, late-in-life pregnancy, large birth weight, or breech birth. Doctors are trained to respond appropriately in these situations to minimize the risk of harm to the mother and baby. When they fail to meet that standard of care and babies are injured, they can be held legally responsible.
Treatment for birth injuries can vary just as widely, depending on the location and severity of the injury. Consult your physician to discuss the potential risks and treatment methods available for your child. Our experienced Baltimore birth injury attorneys can also investigate your case through careful review of medical records. Call for a free legal consultation today.
We want to hear your story. Call 410.983.6266 today to learn your legal rights and options.
Birth Injury Causes
Notwithstanding unavoidable causes, numerous birth injuries are the result of medical malpractice. Parents are often given insufficient information regarding the cause of their child's condition, and can be wrongly led to believe that a preventable mistake was inevitable.
Some causes of birth injuries and ensuing disabilities include:
- Dystocia - A type of obstructed labor that happens when, after the head is delivered, the shoulder has difficulty passing through. If doctors fail to properly respond to dystocia, the umbilical cord can become compressed and be life-threatening to the infant. Resulting complications from dystocia can include Klumpke paralysis, Erb's palsy, and cerebral palsy, among others.
- Fetal distress - A labor complication characterized by diminished oxygen to the infant. Prolonged diminished oxygen can result in permanent brain damage or death.
- Prematurity - When doctors fail to respond appropriately to premature birth, an infant is at risk for problems like apnea, jaundice, respiratory distress syndrome, and others.
- Prolonged labor - Extended labor (labor that lasts longer than 14-21 hours) can be labeled "failure to progress." When this happens, the baby is at risk for serious complications.
- Birth infections - Infections, if left untreated, can cause serious birth injuries such as brain damage. Some common infections include bacterial infections, rubella, and cytomegalovirus (CMV).
- Abnormal pelvis shape - Labor can fail to progress if the mother has an irregular pelvis structure. Doctors can note this ahead of time to plan for a safer delivery option, such as C-section.
- Improper use of force during delivery - The use of forceps, ventouse, or excessive pulling during delivery can cause fractures and even paralysis.
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) - This is a type of brain injury that often results from diminished oxygen to the infant during childbirth.
Even if you had a major risk factor present, your doctors and nurses are trained to remain vigilant and respond to your specific medical needs to ensure a safe and healthy delivery. For example, hospital staffs are required to monitor your fetus' condition closely in the days and hours leading up to delivery. If fetal distress is discovered or a condition becomes life-threatening, a responsible healthcare provider should take the necessary steps to keep you and your baby safe, including scheduling an emergency C-section.
Identifying Birth Injuries
Some physical injuries may heal fairly quickly after delivery, including minor bruising or forceps marks, swelling in the scalp, and other injuries. Although the initial injury may look very extreme, most heal within a few weeks of birth. If they do not heal within the first weeks of your child's life, or you begin to notice developmental delays, you could have a more serious situation on your hands.
Physical injuries often require therapy or surgery, like the following movement-impairing conditions:
- Shoulder dystocia
- Injuries to the brachial plexus
Cranial injuries, such as cerebral palsy or brain damage, are often the most life-altering injuries and usually occur when a child experiences hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (also known as hypoxia, or simply a lack of oxygen) during the delivery process. Early treatment for these injuries can include therapy, medication, surgery, or accessibility devices.
Ultimately, the treatment process is as wide-ranging and complex as the injury itself and will vary greatly for each individual. Consult with your physician immediately to determine the best course of action for treatment and prevention of further injury or disability.
Compensation from a successful birth injury claim could provide the vital care your child needs for life with a permanent injury or disability. Call our Baltimore birth injury lawyers to learn more 410.983.6266.