Whether parents-to-be hear the news that they are expecting or experience the magical moments during childbirth, it's safe to say that these are unarguably one of the most joyous times in their lives. It’s extremely common for all couples to spend loads of time worrying about the optimal development and wellness of the baby during the ups and downs that are part of the bitter-sweet journey of pregnancy.
Despite being extraordinarily cautious and anxious about the uncertainties involved, parents-to-be put all their trust in medical healthcare practitioners, may it be the midwives or the doctors, nurses, and other staff in hospitals. They expect to receive a premium standard of care throughout their nine-month journey and during and after delivery.
Sadly, it's not always the case. Several complications can arise and may potentially harm the baby. According to claims made by an estimate, seven out of every 1000 babies born in the USA are injured, whereas 11% are born with minor or severe birth defects.
While there are many birth injuries that may be sustained to the baby, it's critical to understand your legal rights if the birth injury has resulted from avoidable negligence on the hospital or healthcare professional’s part. Research reveals that the number one cause of birth injuries in the USA is medical malpractice, while other factors may be biological, nutritional, and environmental. But first, let’s understand what birth injuries are and what is meant by birth-related medical malpractice.
Birth Injuries Owing To Medical Malpractice And Negligence
Primary birth-related medical malpractices involve negligences such as wrongful birth, wrongful pregnancy, or instances where the injury is sustained to the infant, the expectant mother, or both during the pregnancy phase or delivery process due to negligence of the hospital staff or the doctor.
Birth injuries, also commonly known as birth trauma, refer to any damage caused to the baby before or shortly after labor and delivery. According to research, physical trauma that isn’t due to any congenital disability affects around 3% of live births in the USA. The inappropriate use of vacuum extractors, forceps, and hands, among other reasons, are more likely to cause neonatal injuries. Some birth injuries are minor and may resolve with time, while others can cause permanent damage, including bone damage, brain damage, nerve and muscle damage, and sometimes unfortunate deaths.
While all medical malpractice or negligence claims are subject to different legal actions, consulting a licensed attorney helps safeguard the baby's and parent's legal rights while enabling them to get suitable compensation.
Data suggests that there are numerous types of birth-related injuries, but here are some of the ones caused due to mere negligence, which means they could've otherwise been prevented.
Types Of Birth Injuries
When the doctor has no choice but to choose to deliver by using forceps, the instrument, if not used with proper care, can cause bruises or nerve damage and sometimes lead to severe brain damage when not properly handled.
#2 Oxygen Deprivation
Perinatal asphyxia or oxygen deprivation can lead to cerebral palsy, chronic seizures, and detrimental brain injuries. This typically occurs when the healthcare practitioner fails to keep a stern eye on the baby during or after delivery. Sometimes it is also caused due to the baby staying too long into the birth canal and can result in long-lasting intellectual and physical disabilities.
#3 Spinal Cord Injuries
Studies show that severe spinal cord injuries can sometimes occur during the delivery, which is caused due to either incorrect use of forceps or meningeal tear. When a baby suffers any type of spinal cord injury, he or she is likely to develop paralysis or severe neurological illnesses.
#4 Brachial Plexus
This involves nerve damage that stems from the upper region of the baby's spine to the neck, shoulder, hand, or arm. Sometimes it causes short-lived damage, but at other times it may cause permanent disability.
Mild forms of brachial plexus involve stretched nerves; meanwhile, severe cases include torn or ruptured nerves which typically do not heal properly. There have been severe cases where it has caused paralysis due to the nerve's roots completely shifting from the spine.
#5 Bone Fractures
The bones of neonatal babies have more cartilage than adults. This means they can be more flexible, leading to high chances of fracturing during stressful deliveries. The medical practitioner needs to be extremely careful when using instruments as babies are prone to damaged collarbones and bone fractures.
#6 Facial Paralysis
Sometimes babies may suffer damage to the facial cranial nerve during delivery, leading to muscle weakness or complete facial paralysis of one side of their head. While, to date, it's not conclusive as to what may have caused the facial paralysis, most experts speculate that misusing forceps, prolonged labor, or a baby's unusually large size are some of the more prominently attributed reasons.
#7 Cerebral Palsy
Did you know cerebral palsy effects approx. one out of every 3500 babies born in the USA today? The medical disorder causes a wide range of problems, including delayed or poor motor control, muscle spasms, problems with hearing, vision, or learning, and more. What's even worse is that the condition is lifelong.
This occurs typically due to vacuum extraction or prolonged labor and may cause a hemorrhage in the baby's brain and skull. It can signal a fracture in the skull and usually start showing signs a few hours after the delivery. Cephalohematoma may lead to various health complications such as jaundice, anemia, blood pressure, meningitis, among other conditions.
#9 Erb’s Palsy
If the baby’s shoulder nerves suffer injury, it can lead to Erb’s palsy. Symptoms may include trouble moving the arms or shoulders, arms bent inwards, lack of reflexes, and more. Erb’s palsy often results in trauma when a professional healthcare practitioner pulls the baby's arm and causes trauma during the delivery.
#10 Wrongful Death
While most birth injuries are not fatal, the fact that a significant number of infants die each year due to negligence caused at the time of birth cannot be overlooked. If lack of action or a particular act by the medical caregivers indirectly or directly led to the infant's death and was otherwise preventable, it is often termed as wrongful death.
Sometimes, the infant suffers an injury that isn't fatal but results in the child having to live with lifelong complications. Such as due to failure to detect an infection while the mother was pregnant, a detrimental side effect of prescribed medications, failure to detect the need for a C-section, or more.
Whatever the case may be, experienced birth injury lawyers can help you take the steps needed to seek justified compensation for the infant. You can consider getting expert legal assistance at Hare | Wynn, Newell & Newton. They are based in Alabama, with extensive experience of dealing with personal injury cases, including birth injuries, car accidents, medication error, medical malpractice, burn injuries, and brain and catastrophic injuries,
About the Author
The author is a senior columnist specializing in children's learning disabilities and therapies that help children recover from a wide range of mental, physical, and emotional trauma. She actively writes for Hare | Wynn, Newell & Newton and highly appreciates their prompt and credible services.