The birth of your child should be a joyful occasion, and the days following the birth should be filled with worry-free bonding as you welcome your little one into this world. However, the birth process doesn’t always go according to plan.
Sometimes the mother and infant experience a difficult birth. A baby may be born prematurely or breech. The baby may be too large for the mother’s pelvis, the labor may be prolonged or other difficulties may arise.
When a birth involves complications like these, there is a greater risk of the baby developing an injury caused by the birth itself. There are many types of birth injuries, and many of them are minor and will heal naturally. However, a few are more significant, and can have long-lasting effects on a child’s life.
One of the most common birth injuries involves damage to the brachial plexus, which is a bundle of nerves that helps move the arm or hand. The brachial plexus is usually damaged when the baby’s shoulder is stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone, and the doctor pulls too hard to free the baby from this position. This can damage the nerve fibers, which can lead to conditions like Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy.
However, nerve damage caused by the birthing process can also occur to other nerves. For example, facial nerves are commonly damaged during birth. When the infant’s face is under significant pressure, the facial nerve can bruise or tear, resulting in facial paralysis. A doctor’s use of tools, like forceps or vacuum extraction can increase the odds of a child experiencing this type of injury.
Oxygen deprivation can have long-term impacts on a child’s life. Hypoxia is when an inadequate amount of oxygen reaches the unborn child’s brain. This can by a variety of birth-related problems, such as the placenta being damaged or the umbilical cord getting tangled or compressed.
Hypoxia can cause a variety of conditions, such as acidosis, asphyxia, intraventricular hemorrhage, brain damage and physical disabilities. An infant who experienced oxygen deprivation during birth may develop disabilities like cerebral palsy, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and seizures. In extreme situations, lack of oxygen can even cause death.
Another common birth injury is caput succedaneum, which occurs when significant swelling occurs in the soft tissues of a newborn’s scalp. Although this condition usually occurs when an infant travels down the birth canal, it is linked to the improper use of a vacuum extraction tool. The swelling may naturally reduce within a few days, but this is not always the case. Infants with caput succedaneum have a high risk of experiencing jaundice and kernicterus, which can then lead to brain damage.
Another head injury that could occur is cephalohematoma. This is characterized by bleeding that occurs under the infant’s cranium, usually as a result of birth assisting tools. This particular injury may not appear until several hours after birth, at which point a bump may appear on the top of the baby’s head. It could take between two weeks and three months for the body to reabsorb the blood and make the bump disappear, but if the bump is too large, there are other risks. For example, the baby may have an increased risk of developing jaundice, anemia, hypotension or meningitis.
Sometimes birth injuries are caused by factors out of anyone’s control. However, many serious birth injuries are caused by medical errors that occurred before or during a child’s birth.
It may be worth exploring your options if your child received a diagnosis for a preventable condition, and you believe your medical team did not do everything they were supposed to do to prevent the condition. It can be expensive to raise a child who suffers from the long-term effects of a birth injury. By holding the doctor accountable, you may receive compensation to help cover these costs, and you may also help prevent a similar situation from happening to another child.