A birth injury is an injury that occurs during labor and delivery.  These injuries can be caused by oxygen deprivation or trauma. The consequences of birth related injuries are often catastrophic and can affect the parents and the child profoundly for the rest of their lives.  Although rare, birthrelated injuries can be caused by a healthcare provider’s failure to provide adequate care to the mother and baby during the pregnancy or during the labor and delivery.

Common types of birth injuries include:

Brachial Plexus Injury:  This is an injury to a set of nerves in the shoulder and neck that control arm and hand movement.  The nerves can be stretched or torn during a vaginal delivery when there is a shoulder dystocia.

Clavicle or Collarbone Fractures:  These occur in babies born breech or where there is a shoulder dystocia.  They are also known to occur in large babies related to gestational diabetes.

Cephalohematoma: This is bleeding that occurs under the cranial bone.  These vary in severity but in more severe cases can cause complications including jaundice which itself can be serious.

Head Trauma:  These bruises and lacerations to the face and head can occur as the baby passes through the birth canal. Instruments such as forceps and vacuum extractors can contribute to causing head trauma.  

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy:  HIE is a brain injury caused by a lack of oxygen during delivery otherwise known as birth asphyxia.  This can be caused by umbilical cord problems such as cord prolapse or nuchal cord or in case of a uterine rupture or placental abruption.  

Cerebral Palsy: CP is also caused by birth asphyxia as well as trauma or infection. CP likewise may be caused by conditions that impair circulation or perfusion.  There are three main types of CP, depending on which part of the brain is affected. These include Spastic Cerebral Palsy, Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, and Ataxic Cerebral Palsy.  The most common is Spastic Cerebral Palsy, which results in stiff muscle movements.  Athetoid cerebral palsy involves involuntary, uncontrollable muscle movements.

Physicians and nurses can usually prevent birth injuries by following the standard of care, carefully monitoring the health of the mother and baby, and promptly dealing with any issues that may arise during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. If a healthcare provider fails to do these things, and their negligence results in a birth injury, they likely have committed medical malpractice and may be responsible for the damages they have caused.

If you have any questions regarding a potential medical malpractice claim related to a birth injury, please contact Michael P. Bonner, Esq. at [email protected]  Mr. Bonner is an attorney with thirty (30) years of experience handling medical malpractice claims for both healthcare providers and patients injured by medical malpractice.