Life for a child with a birth injury can prove difficult—physically, mentally, and emotionally. What makes birth injuries even more devastating is that they are entirely preventable, and occur when medical professionals do not perform their jobs as they should.
Below, our Philadelphia personal injury attorneys explain what life may be like for children with birth injuries.
What Causes Birth Injuries?
Birth injuries happen when damage occurs as a result of physical pressure or other factors during the birthing process. Such damage often occurs as a result of:
Delayed birth: Labors greater than 18 hours are considered long, and at this point, the pressure exerted on an infant’s head can become too much for the child to bear. This may result in oxygen deprivation and a permanent birth injury.
Oxygen deprivation: Oxygen deprivation is a major contributor to cognitive birth injuries and permanent brain injuries. Oxygen deprivation may occur when the umbilical cord gets wrapped around the child’s neck or when labor lasts too long.
Medical malpractice: Medical professionals are expected to respond to events in the delivery room appropriately, including the events mentioned above. The failure to do so, as well as the negligent use of birth assistance tools such as forceps or a vacuum, may be considered medical malpractice.
Common Types of Birth Injuries
The two main types of birth injuries are those related to physical damage and those related to oxygen deprivation.
Shoulder Dystocia and Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s palsy is a birth injury commonly caused by physical damage. Often, these birth injuries occur when a medical professional pulls or twists an infant too hard during the birthing process and damages the child’s brachial plexus nerves—sometimes permanently.
Once a medical professional recognizes shoulder dystocia, they should take certain precautions to release the stuck shoulder. Such measures may include:
Repositioning of the mother's legs to help widen the birth canal
Applying gentle pressure to the mother's lower stomach area
Rotating the baby to see if that releases the shoulder that is stuck
Performing a C-section
The failure to recognize shoulder dystocia or Erb’s palsy or to take the appropriate actions to mitigate the situation may be considered medical malpractice.
Cerebral palsy is a common birth injury caused by oxygen deprivation and brain damage. When an infant does not receive enough oxygen during the birthing process, their brain cells may begin to die and cause permanent brain damage. One example of such brain damage is the development of cerebral palsy.
In addition to oxygen deprivation, the following are common causes of cerebral palsy:
Infections during pregnancy such as Group B Strep
Untreated high bilirubin levels or kernicterus
Dangerously low blood sugar levels
It’s up to a woman’s doctors to identify the warning signs of cerebral palsy and prevent it from happening.
Mothers, as well as babies, can suffer from birth injuries. Birth trauma is one such injury that can cause catastrophic damage to the mother and the baby. Common causes of birth trauma include, but are not limited to, the following:
Improper use of forceps
Improper use of vacuum extractors
Improper traction on the fetus during maternal pushing
Failing to perform a timely C-section
The best way to prevent birth trauma is for medical professionals to take adequate precautionary measures including performing ultrasounds, stress tests, and more to check on the status of the mother and the baby before a problem arises.
Can Birth Injuries Heal on Their Own?
Some birth injuries may heal on their own with proper treatment. It is more likely that the birth injuries that have the potential to heal are the ones caused by physical damage rather than the ones caused by oxygen deprivation. This is because birth injuries caused by oxygen deprivation often leads to brain damage, which can be nearly impossible to resolve.
Cerebral palsy, for example, has no cure and others, like hypoxic brain damage, often cause impairments that are irreversible.
So, what will a child who has a permanent birth injury experience in life?
What Will Life Be Like for a Child with a Birth Injury?
Children who suffer from permanent birth injuries will likely face many difficulties in life, including challenges in their home life, school life, and social life.
A family with a child who has a permanent birth injury will need to make certain adjustments to their home life to ensure their child is safe and comfortable. Such adjustments include:
Installing ramps or lifts to make all areas of the house handicap accessible
Putting gates up around any pools or bodies of water to ensure the child remains safely out of the water
Purchasing and preparing any special foods the child requires
While the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that students with a disability are provided with free public education that is tailored to their individual needs, some birth injuries may be so severe that the child has to be homeschooled.
This can be difficult for families in a tighter financial situation who cannot afford to hire a tutor or to stay home from work and homeschool the child on their own.
Children with permanent birth injuries may find it difficult to communicate with others. In particular, children who have suffered brain damage from their birth injury may be unable to communicate their wants and needs to adults and children. This can make it difficult for the child to make friends or participate in activities with other children. It can also make it difficult for the child to care for themselves. Sometimes, those with permanent birth injuries require life-long, live-in care which can amount to hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars—in addition to feelings of isolation.
How to Move Forward After a Birth Injury
All of these difficulties can cause emotional and financial turmoil for a family. If your child suffered a birth injury, you should not have to pay for all of the treatment they will need out of your own pocket.
At The Beasley Firm, LLC, our seasoned birth injury attorneys can help you identify any and all liable parties and recover the compensation you need for your child’s treatment. The damages that you may be able to recover include:
Past and future medical bills
Past and future lost wages
Pain and suffering
Did Your Child Suffer a Birth Injury? Contact Us Today
If your child suffered a birth injury due to a medical professional’s negligence, our team is here to help. At The Beasley Firm, LLC, we have the experience and resources needed to take on large hospitals and insurance companies—and win. In fact, our firm has secured several record-breaking verdicts.
Our renowned team has nearly six decades of experience helping families just like yours recover compensation.
Contact The Beasley Firm, LLC at (215) 866-2424 to schedule a free consultation.