Birth injury is a term used to describe whenever actions or inaction harm an infant during birth. The cause of birth injuries might be untreated illness or physical harm at the time of delivery. Treatments can help manage the effects of these injuries and improve the quality of life for children. However, severe or sometimes untreated injuries can leave a child with permanent or lifelong disability. If a doctor shows negligence during childbirth, then it is considered medical malpractice.
Many babies suffer from minor birth injuries that often heal on their own and do not need treatment. Some injuries can lead to long-term problems and need attention immediately. Most people mistake birth injuries with congenital disabilities that confuse the masses.
There is a significant difference between these two terms. Congenital disabilities are the abnormalities that typically form inside a womb. Factors such as drug use, untreated infections, or family history may use these defects. On the other hand, birth injuries happen during birth, such as physical head trauma or brain bleed.
Leading Causes of Birth Injuries
Several risks and conditions play a role in causing birth injuries. Each can lead to different types of injuries based on their distinction. One of the most common causes of injury is a delayed birth. Labor that lasts for more than 18 hours comes under delayed delivery and can compress the fetus. The compression, in turn, causes distress or high blood pressure leading to strokes or heart issues.
Another cause is oxygen deprivation due to prolapsed umbilical cord or underdeveloped lungs. Oxygen deprivation is a leading cause of brain-related birth injuries. Certain medications, viral or bacterial infections in an infant or mother also cause birth injuries to happen. A professional birth injury lawyer usually handles such medical malpractices legally if the condition goes beyond treatment. Such professionals handle these cases where a doctor’s negligence causes a fatal injury.
Common Birth Injuries
There are many types of birth injuries depending on the severity, area of effect, or the disability/impairment created. Cesarean delivery can prevent most of these injuries, but surgical procedures have their set of risks involved. Some of the most common birth injuries include:
- Clavicle Fractures
The most frequently encountered birth injury is clavicle fracture, which is an orthopedic-related condition. The clavicle or collarbone that connects the chest to the shoulder receives a fracture resulting in pain over that site. This type of injury does not cause any noticeable deformity or disability. Simple treatments such as strapping arms to the chest heal the injury. The duration of therapy is only for a few weeks as baby bones heal relatively quickly. It usually happens due to difficult or breech births.
- Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a birth injury sustained by 2-3 infants in every 1000 characterized by halted motor skill development, muscle spasms, and weakness. Most of the time, brain damage during birth is the cause of cerebral palsy. Other times, improper monitoring during labor, fetal distress, or inadequate techniques all result in extreme hypoxic episodes, ending in cerebral palsy in an infant. There is no definite cure for this injury. It requires lifetime therapy, sometimes leading to other issues like vision impairment or learning difficulty.
- Facial Paralysis
Damage to facial nerves may occur if too much pressure exerts during delivery on the child’s face. Facial paralysis is more common when the delivery happens with a vacuum or forceps pull the baby out. The effect is that the baby cannot move that part of the face, and it sometimes closes the eye permanently.
- Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s palsy, also called brachial plexus palsy, is a birth injury sustained by 1 out of 1000 infants. The characterization of this injury is the paralysis of a child’s shoulder, hand, or arm that happens due to the damaging of brachial plexus nerves. Excessive pulling of the child’s head or neck and breech delivery causes Erb’s palsy. If a child’s shoulder, neck, or head gets stuck under the pelvic bone or birth canal during delivery, it also causes the injury. Infants with the injury can make a full recovery without any treatment. However, some may require surgery or occupational therapy to make a recovery. In a worst-case scenario, a child may never regain the use of the affected limb ever.
- Perinatal Asphyxia
Perinatal asphyxia is the oxygen deprivation that happens in infants or newborns due to a twisted umbilical cord. The injury sustained caused a lifelong consequence on the mental development of a child.
It is a birth injury in which bleeding occurs between the skull and its covering. It becomes prominent as a bump on the head a few hours after birth. The bump lasts for a few weeks or months after birth and does not need surgery or treatment.
Subarachnoid hemorrhage or intracranial hemorrhage can occur when bleeding develops inside the baby’s skull. Another type, the subconjunctival hemorrhage, may occur due to the bursting of a blood vessel in the eye. Hemorrhages may also happen due to pressure variations during birth.
Birth injuries sustained during the delivery process mostly happens due to doctor’s negligence and cause lifelong disabilities in babies. While some of these injuries have treatments, others are not so fortunate and suffer permanent issues. Doctors take utmost care in preventing such injuries, but these are common happenings that occur eventually. The injuries mentioned above are some of the most common ones that happen to a few children from time to time.