Of every 1,000 births in the United States, birth injury occurs in 7. Birth injury occurs when during the course of the birth, the doctor performing the procedure acts in a way that is considered negligent, resulting in injury to the baby. A failure to act can also be considered negligent. Cerebral palsy is a common birth injury, where damage to the brain sustained either during pregnancy or during the birth results in lifelong disability and difficulty performing simple motor functions. Other birth injuries include Erb’s palsy, shoulder dystocia, brachial plexus palsy, birth asphyxia, and kernicterus caused by jaundice. All of these injuries can result in lifelong injuries.
Causes of Birth Injury
There are a number of different reasons birth injury can occur. These include:
- Not responding to signs of fetal distress such as an increase in the fetal heart rate.
- Negligence in the performance of a C-section, or failure to perform a C-section. In addition, failure to plan a C-section can also be considered negligent, for example, if the child were too large for vaginal delivery.
- Failure to identify and treat a prolapsed umbilical cord. This is when the umbilical cord wraps around the baby’s neck and cuts off oxygen supply to the brain.
- Failure to anticipate complications in the delivery due to the health of the baby and/or mother.
- Injury resulting from improper use of forceps or vacuum extractor. Though not commonly used, these tools can be a hazard to the baby’s health if used improperly.
Implications of Birth Injury
The implications of birth injury are often life-long consequences. These include:
- Brain damage, often resulting in a life-long need for special needs care.
- Physical damage to limbs, nerves, and joints.
- Emotional pain and suffering of both the child and the parents.
- Expensive medical care.