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Premature Labor and Preventable Birth Injuries

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Dov Apfel

Content Reviewed by: Dov Apfel

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Since 1979, Dov Apfel has been passionate about advocating for birth injury and medical malpractice victims. Mr. Apfel’s career-long record of achievements in birth injury litigation, education, and advocacy has been recognized by the Executive Board of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. His expertise is demonstrated by his numerous awards, presentations on birth injury topics at legal conferences for organizations like the AAJ and ATLA, and articles published by Trial Magazine and many others.

Premature Babies Have Significant Birth Injury Risk of the Brain

Premature babies, especially those born very early, often have complicated medical problems and face many challenges, including a high risk of birth injuries, such as brain damage. These injuries can be the source of great emotional distress as well as extreme financial hardship, especially when preventable and caused by the negligence of a trusted doctor.

A baby is premature when born too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy and the normal pregnancy should last approximately 40 weeks. Each year, about 1 in 10, or 450,000 babies in the United States is born prematurely, according to the March of Dimes. Depending on how early a baby is born, Mayo Clinic identifies these preterm timelines:

  • Late Preterm: Born between 34 and 36 completed weeks of pregnancy
  • Moderately Preterm: Born between 32 and 34 weeks of pregnancy
  • Very Preterm: Born at less than 32 weeks of pregnancy
  • Extremely Preterm: Born at or before 25 weeks of pregnancy

The earlier a baby is born, the higher the risk of complications; although some can survive outside the womb as early as 24 weeks but will face many challenges in their young life. And the parents are likely not prepared for the too-soon arrival of their baby, causing added stressors.

Signs of Pre-Term Labor

A medical professional must identify at-risk pregnancies and provide directions for proper care of the mother and her fetus. A doctor might be responsible for the injury if they failed to identify and properly treat the cause of preterm labor signs such as:

  • Contraction less than ten minutes apart
  • Lower back pain
  • Cramping in the abdomen or uterus
  • Flu-like symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Vaginal bleeding or other discharge
  • Sudden decrease in baby movement

To prevent premature labor, a physician will need to correctly assess pregnancy complications and distress signs. In some cases, they may need to apply sutures to a weak cervix, order steroid use to keep the baby’s brain and lungs functioning, or prescribe the correct medications to slow down birth. If a physician could have done something to prevent the premature birth injury and did not, a family may have a medical malpractice case and should consult with an attorney.

Common Birth Injuries in Premature Babies

Careful and quality care during a woman’s pregnancy can help prevent many lifelong injuries associated with premature birth and related birth injuries. Unfortunately, pediatric health researchers and experts believe that as many as 75% of infant deaths from premature birth are preventable. The birth injuries can range from mild to severe, and at times, have deadly outcomes. Some injuries may be temporary, while others cause permanent disabilities and irreparable stresses on the brain. Although the full extent of injuries may not be known at first, will be misdiagnosed, or care is mismanaged, this is a list of the more common birth injuries in babies born prematurely.

  • Asthma and chronic respiratory disorders
  • Behavioral disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Cerebral palsy (neuromuscular disabilities that affect a child’s ability to control movement, posture, and muscle tone)
  • Developmental and learning delays
  • Epilepsy
  • Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Microcephaly
  • Motor disorders
  • Neonatal encephalopathy
  • Organ failure
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Periventricular leukomalacia
  • Seizure disorders

Preemies do not always have fully developed internal organs and are incredibly tiny, sometimes only weighing as little as 1 pound. They must also be properly cared for immediately upon birth to have the best possible recovery and survival.

Brain Injuries Still More Common in Preemies

Researchers from the Society for Neuroscience say more than 60,000 babies are born early, weighing less than 3.3 pounds each year. The good thing is advances in neonatal medicine have allowed most of these tiny, underdeveloped infants to survive. Still, the researchers say preventing brain damage is not one of those advances and the hurdle has caused overall rates of neurodevelopmental disabilities to be on the rise.

The most common cause of brain injury in premature infants is a lack of oxygen in the days and weeks after birth, when immature lungs cannot deliver enough oxygen to the brain, even with medical help from a breathing device or medications. Inadequate oxygen levels can decrease a newborn’s blood pressure, heart rate, and limit blood flow to vital organs and tissue. When this happens, irreversible neurological or cellular damage can occur and lead to permanent deficits and disabilities such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and vision and hearing loss. When the oxygen deprivation may have been aggravated by inadequate medical care, a birth injury lawsuit may be appropriate.

The costs to diagnose and treat birth injuries can be astronomical, and many of the expenses may not be covered by health insurance. Additionally, the child may need to have extended treatment or even lifelong care. These costs are mostly unknown. For these reasons, it is necessary to seek legal guidance as soon as your family is ready. When choosing an attorney for your birth injury lawsuit, look for a law firm that has achieved consistent results for their clients in birth injury cases.

Illinois Birth Injury Attorneys at Levin & Perconti

If you or your baby has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, and your doctor failed to identify the signs of pre-term labor, you want to ensure that your legal rights are represented by someone familiar with this specific area of the law and has the resources available to understand the medical facts. Our birth injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti have handled a number of lawsuits on behalf of clients suffering from serious birth injuries. We have come to understand the causes, symptoms, and proper treatments for various birth injuries through this experience. Call us today at 312-332-2872 or 877-374-1417, and let a Chicago birth injury attorney at Levin & Perconti help you explore your legal options.

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