As if going through labor were not difficult enough, parents must also worry about birth injuries. Although labor and delivery do not always go as we imagine they should—or planned they would—and medical accidents can and do happen, in some cases a birth injury is entirely preventable. It is these preventable birth injuries that can devastate parents and can also result in a medical malpractice claim being filed.
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While there are a number of preventable birth injuries, the five most tragic birth injuries include:
Brain Injury –
Brain injuries can be mild or severe and can include cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain), bleeding between the skull and the cover of the skull, bleeding between the brain cover and the arachnoid membrane, bleeding where spinal fluids are produced (intraventricular hemorrhage), and lack of oxygen or blood to the brain. Babies who are born too early or are born having a low birth weight are at risk for intraventricular hemorrhage, while lack of oxygen or blood to the brain during labor and delivery can result in shock, breathing issues, coma, seizures, and even death. Brain injuries may not be apparent immediately after birth; however, they may become very apparent as the baby gets older. Brain injuries can result in seizures, decreased motor skills, and problems with speech.
Damage to the Peripheral Nerves —
This is also known as a brachial plexus injury and can prevent normal hand and arm movement. In some cases, a brachial plexus injury will improve over time unless a nerve was torn during the birthing process. Peripheral nerve birth injury is also known as Erb’s Palsy.
Damage to the spinal cord and cranial nerve —
Improper rotation during birth or undue pulling and stretching of the baby during birth can result in spinal cord injury, facial paralysis, or paralysis in other parts of the body.
Bone fractures —
Breech births or the birth of a large baby can result in bone fractures. While adults have 206 bones, babies are born with 300 bones—many of those bones fuse together as we age. These bones are soft, particularly in the head, and can break much more easily than the bones of an adult. The clavicle of a baby can also break during labor.
Cerebral Palsy —
Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal brain development during the pregnancy, or brain injury during childbirth. Cerebral palsy can be the result of trauma to the baby’s head, an extremely difficult delivery, or insufficient oxygen during labor. There are three different types of cerebral palsy: Ataxia is the loss of body movement or the use of limbs; spasticity is dragging of a foot or leg when walking; and athetosis involves slow, involuntary, writhing movements. There is no cure for Cerebral Palsy.
Another type of birth injury is blunt abdominal injury, or intra-abdominal wounds. While intra-abdominal wounds are uncommon, they can result in damage to the baby’s internal organs, particularly the liver. Many of the above injuries can be prevented when medical providers give proper care and attention. In fact, when the following conditions are not properly addressed, the likelihood of birth injuries increase exponentially:
- Infants who weight more than 8 lbs. 13 ounces;
- Labor which is longer than normal;
- A small or tipped uterus in the mother;
- Babies born too early;
- Deliveries which use vacuum or forceps to remove the baby from the birth canal;
- Undue stress caused to the baby during the birth;
- Breech births; and
- Excessive pulling on the baby during birth.
Of course, the most tragic birth injury involves the death of the mother or child, particularly when that death is the result of medical errors or professional negligence. The infant mortality rate in the United States is 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, and as many as 650 women die every year across the nation from complications related to pregnancy or delivery. A wrongful death claim can enable surviving family members to seek compensation for economic damages just as a medical malpractice claim can help parents pay for the treatments their child requires as a result of a preventable birth injury.
Contact Our Experienced Pennsylvania Birth Injury Lawyers
The birth injury attorneys at McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., have more than 100 years of experience representing injured babies and their families across Philadelphia, Berks, Bucks, Dauphin, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, and Northampton Counties, as well as the State of New Jersey. Contact us today toll-free at 215-568-1510 or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options.