Common Types of Birth Injuries

a mother holding her babyThe birth of a child is a joyous occasion for families. When something goes awry during the process, however, this joy can turn to ashes in parents’ mouths.

One such situation is a birth injury. A birth injury involves any damage or injury to a baby before, during, or after the labor and delivery process.

Below, our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys discuss the most common birth injuries.

What Are the Most Common Birth Injuries?

Birth injuries are startlingly common. Approximately 28,000 babies suffer a birth injury in the United States each year. That equates to 76 children experiencing harm during the birthing process every day.

Mothers and newborns experience dozens of birth injuries, including the following:

  • Erb’s palsy

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Cephalohematoma

  • Hemorrhaging

  • Preeclampsia

Below, we discuss the factors that lead to these injuries.

Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy is a paralysis of the arm caused by an injury to the arm’s main nerves that form part of the brachial plexus.

Erb’s palsy often occurs as a result of a doctor or nurse pulling or twisting the infant too hard during the labor and delivery process.

While Erb’s palsy may resolve on its own in a few weeks, it’s also possible that the damage the infant sustained was severe enough to cause permanent partial or complete paralysis of the affected arm.

The warning signs of Erb’s palsy include:

  • The affected arm is limp, held against the side of the body, or bent at the elbow.

  • The baby has a decreased ability to grip with the hand on the affected arm.

  • The baby has partial or full paralysis in one arm.

  • The baby has impaired circulatory, muscular, and nervous development.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affects a child’s motor coordination and movement. While some cases of CP are congenital, most cases are caused by errors in the delivery room.

These errors may include:

  • Failure to monitor an infant for signs of fetal distress

  • Failure to order a C-section when necessary

Oxygen deprivation is a main cause of CP, and doctors must do all they can to identify the warning signs of either hypoxia (reduced oxygen flow to the brain) or anoxia (no oxygen flow to the brain) and stop these conditions in their tracks.

Failure to do so may result in the following forms of CP:

  • Spastic diplegia: This results in stiff movements and issues with movement.

  • Athetoid: This results in loss of movement control.

  • Ataxic: This results in balance/depth perception issues.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for CP. Those living with this condition often require long-term therapies, medications, and surgeries, along with the need for mobility-assistance devices.

Cephalohematoma

Cephalohematoma is an accumulation of blood under the baby’s scalp. It may be caused by a prolonged labor or the improper use of birth-assistance tools, such as a vacuum or forceps.

In most cases, this condition resolves on its own. However, in cases where the blood build-up is excessive, the child may require a blood transfusion. Additionally, infants with cephalohematoma are at an increased risk for developing jaundice.

As such, the child will need to be monitored closely after the birth.

Hemorrhaging

Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is one of the birth injuries that the mother, rather than the child, may experience. PPH is the most common cause of maternal death in pregnant women. It occurs when a woman’s blood loss is greater than 500cc following a vaginal delivery or 1,000cc after a C-section.

When doctors do not monitor a mother’s condition closely and immediately treat instances of PPH, serious health conditions or death may result.

Certain factors make a woman more at-risk of experiencing PPH, including:

  • Retained placenta

  • Large for gestational age (LGA) baby

  • Forcep or vacuum delivery

  • Induced labor

  • Pitocin use

The common causes of PPH are referred to as the “four T’s,” and include:

  • Tone: This is when the uterus is unable to contract or tighten up and there is continuous bleeding.

  • Trauma: This involves trauma to the uterus, cervix, vagina, labia, or clitoris, and can lead to significant bleeding in a pregnant woman due to the increased blood supply to those areas.

  • Tissue: This involves the retention of the placenta or other products of conception that can inhibit the uterus from contracting and cause ongoing bleeding.

  • Thrombin: This is a bleeding disorder that occurs when there is a failure of the blood to clot after delivery.

Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is another condition that may harm the mother. It is characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, such as the liver or kidneys. Preeclampsia typically occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure has been normal.

If women develop preeclampsia, their healthcare providers should put them on bed rest, make them lie on their left side, and drink more fluids. Additional ultrasounds and non-stress tests are also good ways to ensure the woman’s child is not in any danger.

If a woman’s doctor does not realize she has preeclampsia, she may develop eclampsia and suffer seizures, liver problems, placental abruption, stroke, and even death. Additionally, this condition may cause catastrophic injuries to a woman’s baby, including CP.

Fourth-Degree Lacerations

Women may experience significant tears during the labor and delivery process. Fourth-degree lacerations are some of the most serious tears a woman may suffer from, as they tear through the areas surrounding the vagina, the perineal skin, and the anus.

Women who experience this injury may later suffer from incontinence and require a colostomy.

Recovering Damages for a Birth Injury

There is no doubt that a birth injury can have serious, life-changing consequences for a mother and her child. Often, birth injury victims require long-term, rehabilitative care. Victims should not have to pay for these treatments out of their own pockets when another party is responsible for their injuries.

With the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, you may be able to recover the following damages in the wake of a birth injury:

  • Past and future medical bills

  • Past and future lost wages

  • Pain and suffering

  • Loss of consortium

In Pennsylvania, you have two years from the date a birth injury occurred (or the date it was discovered) to file a lawsuit against negligent parties.

Suffered a Birth Injury? We’re Here to Help

If you or your child suffered a birth injury during the labor and delivery process, our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys are here to help.

At The Beasley Firm, LLC, we have the experience and resources needed to fight for your rights in court and help you recover the maximum possible compensation. We have broken state records in the verdicts and settlements we have achieved for clients going through similar situations, and we’re prepared to help you, too.

Contact us today at (215) 866-2424 to schedule a free consultation with our team.

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