What Causes Birth Injury?

Throughout a woman’s pregnancy and during the labor and delivery process, medical practitioners have a responsibility to provide a certain standard of care to both the mother and the child. This includes prescribing the best prenatal vitamins, performing check-ups, and delivering the baby as safely as possible.

When this does not happen, the baby may be left with preventable injuries, also known as birth injuries. Get the facts on what causes birth injury and what you can do if your child has suffered one.

Birth Injury Causes

Birth injury has many different causes and sadly, many of them are avoidable. Below are the most common causes of birth injuries.

Delayed Birth

Labors that last over 18 hours are considered long, and the human brain was designed to withstand a certain amount of pressure for a certain period of time. When a baby is in the birth canal for too long, the compression on the brain may become too much to withstand. At this point, the baby may show signs of fetal distress, including elevated blood pressure.

Once the baby starts displaying these signs of stress, it is the responsibility of the medical practitioners in the delivery room to respond appropriately and perform measures to relieve the pressure on the child’s brain. If this does not happen quickly enough, the child may be left with life-long neurological impairments.

Oxygen Deprivation

Nearly all birth injuries are related to some form of oxygen deprivation. Oxygen deprivation can occur as a result of external forces, such as a prolapsed umbilical cord, or internal forces, such as low birth weight. Either way, oxygen deprivation leads to some of the most severe birth injuries, including cerebral palsy.

Medical Malpractice

Unfortunately, medical malpractice is a leading cause of birth injuries in infants. Of every 1,000 infants born in the United States, 6-8 of them are born with a birth injury due to medical malpractice. That equates to approximately 28,000 babies per year.

Birth injuries due to medical malpractice can happen when medical practitioners fail to monitor a baby for signs of fetal distress, fail to perform an emergency C-section when necessary, pull too hard on the baby in the birth canal, or simply do not know what to do in the delivery room.

This negligence can lead to a variety of birth injuries, some of which may last for the child’s entire life.

Birth Injury Types

Birth injuries may be apparent immediately after a child’s birth, and others may not present themselves under the child is older. Below are some of the most common types of birth injuries.

Brain-Related Injuries

Brain injuries in particular manifest in several different ways. However, most brain injuries caused during labor and delivery occur as a result of oxygen deprivation. These types of injuries include the following:

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Anoxia and hypoxia

  • Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)

  • Brain hemorrhage

Cerebral palsy is the leading birth injury related to brain trauma or oxygen deprivation. This condition is estimated to affect 800,000 children in the United States, with 8,000-10,000 new cases diagnosed each year. In most cases, cerebral palsy and other birth injuries caused by oxygen deprivation are entirely preventable if the medical practitioner responds appropriately in the delivery room.

Muscle-Related Injuries

Muscle-related injuries are another common form of birth injuries. These types of injuries often occur when a medical practitioner pulls or twists too hard on an infant while they are still in the birth canal. Common muscle-related birth injuries include the following.

  • Brachial plexus

  • Erb’s palsy

  • Shoulder dystocia

These injuries often occur when a medical practitioner damages a baby’s upper extremities or nerves during delivery. Symptoms of muscle-related injuries include weakness, loss of feeling, and inability to use muscles in the affected limb.

Typically, muscle-related injuries are easier to diagnose than brain-related injuries, because physicians can more easily pinpoint the location and cause of the child’s symptoms. However, this does not negate the fact that muscle-related injuries are serious birth injuries that may affect a child’s mobility for the rest of their life.

Infection-Related Injuries

Sometimes, birth injuries may be passed on to a child from the mother due to an infection in the mother’s birth canal, including the group B strep infection or meningitis. Approximately 25% of mothers carry these infections in their birth canal without any symptoms or knowledge of these infections.

Other birth injuries may be caught from the mother during pregnancy, including folic acid deficiency, anemia, and spina bifida. All of these are infections are preventable if a medical practitioner properly screens and prescribes treatment for them. If this does not happen and the child is injured as a result, the negligent medical practitioner may be held liable.

Taking Action Against Medical Malpractice

If you suspect your child suffered a birth injury at the hands of a medical practitioner, you have the right to seek compensation against them for their negligence. Many birth injuries last throughout a child’s life and require extensive medical treatment. Recovering the compensation you and your child deserve will help alleviate the costs of these unexpected medical expenses.

At Dolt, Thompson, Shepherd & Conway, our Louisville birth injury attorneys have the experience and financial resources needed to go up against hospitals, physicians, and large insurance companies. Over the past three decades, we have secured a number of jury verdicts in birth injury cases, including jury verdicts of 18.6 and 20.8 million dollars, and we are prepared to fight for you too.

Contact us today at (502) 242-8872 to learn how we can help you.

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