A birth injury is defined as the structural destruction or functional deterioration of an infant’s body due to a traumatic event at birth. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Some of these injuries are avoidable when appropriate care is available, and others are part of the delivery process that can occur even when clinicians practice extreme caution.” And most of the time, birth injuries are typically indicative of a medical mistake that was likely the cause of a traumatic experience to the fetus or newborn. Here is a deeper look and explanation of the top ten most common birth injuries in the U.S.
- Cerebral Palsy: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows the average prevalence of cerebral palsy is 3.3 children per 1,000 live births. It is the most common motor and movement disability of childhood and could cause serious, long-term injuries.
- Facial Paralysis: Facial nerve palsy is the loss of voluntary muscle control of the face. While it can be serious, the condition often goes away over time. The injury is caused by the pressure put on the baby’s seventh cranial nerve during birth.
- Oxygen Deprivation: Inadequate oxygen levels can decrease a newborn’s blood pressure, heart rate, and limiting the 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.
- Cephalohematoma: The National Institute of Health defines cephalohematoma as, “an accumulation of blood under the scalp” and occurs during the birth process when “a small blood vessels on the head of the fetus are broken as a result of minor trauma.” The injury is more likely to occur when birth-assisting tools such as forceps or a vacuum were used by a physician during delivery.
- Brachial Plexus: The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves located in the upper shoulder and neck area of an infant’s body. The nerves can be damaged when the area is pulled or pinched. When nerve damage happens, it may be relatively minor, and the child will eventually make a full recovery – while other times the damage may be extensive and a permanent disability is the possible outcome. The child could have restricted movement of the shoulder, arm, and hand, as well as possible nerve injuries that affect facial muscles. The problems are associated with the side of the body where the immediate damage happened.
- Fractured Collarbone: Fracture of the clavicle or collarbone is the most common birth injury fracture during a shoulder dystocia labor and delivery, and the infant is forced to move through the birth canal. “A baby with a fractured clavicle rarely moves the arm on the side of the break. However, healing occurs quickly. As new bone forms, a firm lump on the clavicle often develops in the first ten days. If the fracture is painful, limiting movement of the arm and shoulder with a soft bandage or splint may be helpful,” according to Stanford Children’s Health.
- Perinatal Asphyxia: A difficult or prolonged delivery can cause distress to the baby in which perinatal asphyxia occurs and the infant fails to breathe normally just before, during, or after birth. In some cases, the baby experiences a lack of oxygen to the brain. This results in brain injuries that may include cerebral palsy and other long-term disabilities.
- Caput Succedaneum: Caput succedaneum is the swelling of an infant’s scalp after birth, most often brought on by extreme pressure from the uterus or vaginal wall during a delayed head-first delivery. It is more common after the membranes have broken because of the lack of fluid in the amniotic sac. When a medical professional chooses vacuum extraction to support labor and delivery efforts, there is an increased chance of a caput succedaneum.
- Intracranial Hemorrhage (IVH): Intraventricular hemorrhage is bleeding into the fluid-filled areas inside the brain. The condition occurs most often in premature babies, born before ten weeks. The smaller and more premature an infant is, the higher the risk for IVH. This is because blood vessels in the brain of premature infants are not yet fully developed and very fragile.
- Spinal Cord Injuries: A breech or transverse position is likely the most common reason that a spinal cord injury may occur. Traction on the baby’s trunk or twisting the trunk can put stress on the spinal cord and subsequently cause injury. The doctor must try to manually manipulate the baby’s position and further cause distress. The best way to avoid these types of injuries is for a doctor to properly evaluate the baby’s position before labor and delivery begins.
Also, maternal injuries caused by ineffective care can create serious injuries or death to a fetus or infant. Labor and delivery complications can lead to permanent severe injuries to both mother and child. However, 50% of these events are thought to be avoidable with proper planning and care, according to the University of California at Davis Family Practice Network. Birth injuries can be caused by the negligent actions of the doctor or other medical staff while giving birth rather than birth defects. When an infant presents with any of these issues, it is necessary to find out the precise cause of the problem and respond with prompt treatment.
A Chicago Birth Injury Attorney Can Help Your Child
The Illinois birth injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti have taken on every role in life and are uniquely positioned to understand parental worries and sensitive needs. We can be relied on to get answers, settle disputes, and earn you compensation for economic losses, physical and emotional damage to your quality of life, and even the lost life of a child. When you are ready, please do not hesitate to call us at (312) 332-2872 or toll-free at (877) 374-1417.