Complications can arise directly before, during, or after childbirth, which can cause injuries to the infant and impact a child’s ability to live a long and healthy life. In many cases, a birth injury is an overwhelming occurrence that could not have been prevented or expected. However, in relatively rare cases, there are some injuries to a fetus or newborn that could have been prevented by proper medical care. In those circumstances when medical negligence is suspected, families require the assistance of an experienced birth injury lawyer to help them pursue compensation and justice during this difficult time.
WHAT IS A BIRTH INJURY?
Birth injuries, unlike birth defects that are a natural occurrence, are typically the result of negligence on the part of a medical professional. A birth injury is any injury that occurs at or before childbirth when a medical professional makes a mistake by providing improper natal care or fails to correctly diagnose complications during the labour and delivery process.
A birth injury can also occur if a prescription drug is given to a pregnant woman, which harms the baby.
Birth injuries can range from minor injuries that quickly resolve to more serious and life-threatening injuries. Some injuries will require extensive medical care and may have lifelong complications for the child.
TYPES OF SERIOUS BIRTH INJURIES
It is only on rare occasions that birth injuries will occur leading to long-term effects for the child and a financial burden to the family. The following are some of the most common types of birth injuries, although this is not an exhaustive list.
Brachial Plexus Injury
The brachial plexus is a group of large nerves located between the neck and shoulder. These nerves are responsible for moving the child’s arms and hands. During a difficult delivery, the baby’s arms can be stretched and an injury can occur to the nerves of the brachial plexus. This can result in weakness or paralysis of part or all of the baby’s arm and hand.
Approximately half of brachial plexus injuries are related to difficult deliveries, generally involving large babies.
Mild injuries of this nature may resolve over a few days. More severe injuries can last weeks or months and may require physical therapy or occupational therapy, and, in some cases, surgery.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy is one of the most common types of brain damage that occurs when a baby is deprived of oxygen during childbirth. This type of condition can be caused by complications and/or medical mistakes, a few examples are:
- Anesthesia errors;
- Birth trauma;
- C-section errors and delays;
- Fetal monitoring errors and failure to recognize signs of fetal distress;
- Forceps and vacuum extractor injuries;
- High risk pregnancy;
- Low birth weight;
- Placenta complications; and/or
- Umbilical cord infection.
Receiving a diagnosis of Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy as soon as possible following birth is essential as treatments need to be administered in a timely manner.
Broken bones can be caused by complicated or difficult deliveries. The most common type of fracture during delivery occurs to the clavicle (collar bone). This can occur when the doctor pulls too hard on the infant while in the breech position or when the shoulder is pulled during a prolonged and difficult delivery. Fortunately, most broken bones will heal completely following treatment.
Cephalohematoma is an injury that causes bleeding underneath the cranium. This type of injury has been known to result from the use of tools during delivery such as a vacuum or forceps.
This type of injury causes a bump on the top of the baby’s head and usually clears up within a few months, posing no real danger to the infant. However, the baby may be at increased risk of jaundice, anemia, hypotension, and in rare cases, meningitis.
Caput succedaneum describes a condition when swelling occurs to a baby’s scalp shortly after delivery. This is a common condition that often occurs during head-first deliveries.
During delivery when pressure is exerted on a baby’s head, fluid may build up and cause caput succedaneum. Although quite common and non-life-threatening, this condition can lead to additional health conditions such as jaundice, infections in the area of alopecia.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries at birth are caused by trauma to a specific area of the spinal cord, thus disrupting the connection of nerves between the brain and the rest of the body. These types of injuries range in severity from mild bruising to complete tears.
Spinal cord injuries at birth can occur when a doctor strains an infant’s neck by pulling, twisting, or using tools to remove the baby from the birth canal. The infant may show symptoms of paralysis or weakness. Babies diagnosed with spinal cord injuries may require a combination of medication and surgery.
A child can suffer from cerebral palsy if he/she suffered a brain injury during birth. Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects the way the brain sends messages to the muscles. This can result in a lack of motor development, muscle weakness, and muscle spasms.
There are several medical errors that can contribute during childbirth to cause cerebral palsy. Some of these may include the following:
- Failure to monitor and assess the fetal heartbeat during and after delivery;
- Failure to schedule or provide for a timely C-section;
- Failure to detect and treat a maternal infection;
- Failure to properly use birth-assisting tools;
- Failure to correctly detect and treat umbilical cord problems;
- Failure to supply oxygen in a timely manner.
PURSUE A MALPRACTICE CLAIM WITH THE ADVANTAGE OF AN EXPERIENCED LAWYER
If you or your baby was injured during delivery, you may be entitled to financial compensation if the injury was caused by medical malpractice. At Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers we are committed to helping you and your loved ones. We can assemble a team of legal and medical experts to ensure that you put forth the strongest case and receive the compensation you are entitled to. With over 20 years of experience, the award-winning lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers have handled many different types of medical malpractice claims, and have the experience and knowledge to evaluate your case and help you decide whether you should pursue a claim. Call us at 403-571-0555 or online today to book a free consultation.