Babies can be vulnerable to suffering a wide range of birth injuries during the delivery process. Although not all birth injuries are the result of medical negligence, many of them can be prevented by monitoring the mother’s condition for signs of distress and providing appropriate medical care. For example, pulling excessively on the baby’s head during delivery or failure to perform an emergency C-section are medical mistakes that can result in birth injuries.
A doctor’s negligence can cause birth injuries like cerebral palsy or Erb’s palsy. Such conditions can be devastating and have lasting consequences on a child’s future. They may also require therapy and long-term medical care. While some injuries such as bone fractures are temporary, brain injuries and other severe conditions can have permanent impact. The following are among the most common birth injuries:
Shoulder dystocia is a birth injury that occurs when an infant’s head and shoulders get trapped in the birth canal during delivery. Although the injury happens in only around 1 percent of all pregnancies, it can result in serious complications for the mother and baby. The infant may experience a collarbone fracture, difficulty breathing, brachial plexus palsy or cerebral palsy. Shoulder dystocia can even be fatal in some cases.
Brachial plexus palsy
Such injuries can result from shoulder dystocia, when an infant’s shoulders get stuck behind the mother’s pelvis during delivery. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that runs through the neck, shoulder, arm and hand. Damage to these nerves can range from mild to severe. When the nerves are torn, the infant may suffer permanent harm such as paralysis.
A brachial plexus injury can be the result of medical negligence during the birth process. For example, a doctor’s use of forceps to deliver the baby can cause the brachial plexus nerves to be stretched and torn. Common symptoms of brachial plexus palsy are loss of sensation in the arm or hand, lack of muscle control and intense pain. There are several different types of brachial plexus injuries including Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy.
Brain injuries can occur due to a number of reasons. A doctor may fail to monitor the newborn after birth, or the baby may suffer from oxygen deprivation after remaining stuck in the birth canal for a long time.
One of the leading disorders that can occur due to brain injury is cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy can result in muscle spasms, speech difficulties and learning disabilities among other symptoms. The condition can occur due to a lack of oxygen to the brain before, during or shortly after birth. It may also be the consequence of prematurity or maternal infections during pregnancy. In some cases, cerebral palsy can arise from negligent medical care such as a doctor’s failure to carry out an emergency C-section or monitor fetal distress.
A complicated or difficult delivery is usually the cause of broken bones in newborns, especially a fractured clavicle or collarbone. Such injuries usually heal on their own over time, depending on the severity of the fracture. Fractures are more common during birth when the infant is in the breech position. A doctor may be forced to pull on the baby due to its position, resulting in a fractured arm.
Spinal injuries can have a more severe, lasting impact than other birth injuries as they are likely to cause paralysis and neurological problems. They can occur due to nerve or umbilical cord damage when doctors use forceps and vacuum extractors to help pull the infant through the birth canal. The improper use of such tools can result in spinal cord injury.