Any birth injury that is the result of malpractice, carelessness or recklessness demands civil action. This is because hospitals, doctors, nurses and other health care givers have a legal duty to provide proper standards of medical care during every stage of pregnancy. Any mistake by the medical staff or malfunction of defective equipment during delivery could cause your child to suffer a devastating birth injury that produces lifelong consequences.
The birth of a child is one of a parent’s most precious events. Unfortunately, mistakes, errors and malpractice by medical professionals can result in significant injuries, disabilities and even wrongful death during pregnancy and birth. Birth injuries usually cause physical harm to the newborn during the pregnancy, labor, delivery and aftercare, and can affect the life of each member of the family.
The newborn can suffer injuries from mechanical forces including traction, torques, contractions and compression. Numerous factors can complicate the event including the size of the fetus, neurologic immaturity, and position of the fetus at childbirth. Improper use of obstetric instruments often amplifies the injuries, which might cause:
- Abrasions and lacerations
- Linear fractions
- Renal hemorrhage
- Liver hematoma
- Peripheral nerve injury including facial palsy, radial nerve palsy, unilateral vocal cord paralysis and lumbosacral plexus injuries
These types of birth trauma usually occur during the birthing process might require resuscitation.
Soft Tissue Injuries
A medical error during childbirth can also produce soft tissue birth injuries when the fetal heart rate is being monitored. This can lead to a variety of serious medical conditions including:
- Cephalhematoma – Extensive hemorrhaging can produce cephalhematoma when blood collects in an area just under the skull bone that if the area becomes infected can lead to osteomyelitis or meningitis.
- Subgaleal Hematoma – When the attending obstetrician applies the vacuum directly onto the head of the newborn during delivery, the equipment can cause subgaleal hematoma. The hematoma often produces significant head trauma including fracture of the skull or intracranial hemorrhage. The baby typically develops significant swelling after delivery that can last for days even when treated properly. Some infants experience hemorrhagic shock or require phototherapy or transfusion.
- Caput Succedaneum – Significant pressure applied to the mother’s dilating cervix during childbirth can cause the infant to develop caput succedaneum where the scalp will bruise, swell or discolor. This non-life-threatening condition tends to heal without treatment. However, observation in the following days after childbirth is recommended.
- Perinatal Asphyxia – Serious medical conditions can arise by perinatal asphyxia, when the fetus or newborn lacks sufficient oxygen due to insufficient blood flow or oxygenated blood deficiency. Usually the child experiences labored breathing, pale complexion, shock or coma. Many cases result in permanent neurological damage.
- Abrasions and Lacerations – Delivery instruments including forceps and vacuums, and scalpel injuries occurring during necessary and delivery can cause life-threatening abrasions and lacerations. Many of these injuries require suturing, antibiotic treatments and careful cleaning during the healing process. The child’s life may be at risk if the wound develops an infection.
- Subconjunctival Hemorrhage – Pressure applied to the fetus during the delivery process can create subconjunctival hemorrhage where blood vessels in the eye burst and create a bright, reddened area.
- Subarachnoid or Intracranial Hemorrhage – This type of hemorrhage is usually caused by accumulated blood in the infant’s cranial vault leaving a subarachnoid hemorrhage, subdermal hematoma or epidermal hematoma. This condition is considered a serious medical emergency that can lead to limited blood supply and injury to delicate brain tissue.
- Intrapartum Asphyxia – Any impairment in delivering oxygen to vital tissues in the brain during the labor process can cause intrapartum asphyxia, which is often referred to as “fetal distress.” The condition is typically accompanied by various other symptoms and is often misinterpreted by medical staff not properly trained to use monitoring devices efficiently. This type of asphyxia has the potential of causing lifelong impairment especially when it produces encephalopathy (brain dysfunction syndrome).
- Bronchial Plexus Injury (BPI) – Any damage of nerve bundles of the newborn’s upper spine that travels to the hand, arms, shoulders and neck can cause BPI. The injury can produce temporary mild damage or permanent severe injuries including neuroma caused by the tearing of a nerve that cannot properly heal. In some cases, the newborn suffers avulsion BPI where the roots of the bundled nerve system dislodge completely from the spinal column.
- Spinal Cord Injury – The misuse of forceps or any traumatic damage to the fetus’ spinal cord or nerves can cause a spinal cord injury that leads to neurological problems or paralysis.
Cerebral palsy (CP) often refers to a group of devastating neurological birth injury disorders that affect the individual’s muscle coordination and body movement. Even though cerebral palsy conditions occur at birth, they can occur during fetal development or at any point before, during or immediately following birth and early infancy. The condition is usually brought on through some type of head injury during pregnancy or from brain infections including viral encephalitis and bacterial meningitis.
The CP-affected child typically lacks muscle coordination during ataxia (the performance of a voluntary movement), exaggerated reflex (spasticity) or because of tight or stiff muscles. Other children experience leg or foot dragging when walking, walking with a crouched gate or on toes, or experiencing floppy or stiff muscle tone.
Even though there are various treatment options to improve the child’s capabilities when performing motor activities, there is no cure for cerebral palsy. This condition usually involves occupational and physical therapies, speech therapy and prescription medications that can relax muscle spasms, control seizures and provide relief from associated pain.
In some cases, surgical options are available to release constricted muscles or correct anatomical abnormalities. Orthotic devices, braces, rolling walkers, wheelchairs and communication aids including voice synthesizers can minimize some cerebral palsy conditions.
Birth Injury Settlement
Often times, parents are unaware that a childbirth injury has caused significant damage to their child until many days, weeks, months or even years after birth. Any parent who suspects their child suffering a disability was injured through mistakes or negligence during childbirth should seek civil action to obtain compensation before the state’s statute of limitations expires.