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How Do I Know If My Child’s Birth Injuries Were Avoidable?

On Behalf of | May 25, 2022 | Birth Injury

Welcoming a new baby into the world is typically a joyous occasion. However, a trauma that results in a birth injury can have detrimental effects on a child’s life-long health and wellbeing. No family deserves to navigate the effects of a birth injury, especially if it was preventable. Here, the medical malpractice attorneys with Peter Angelos Law provide insight into what birth injuries are and how to determine if your child’s birth injury was preventable.

What Is a Birth Injury?

A birth injury occurs when a baby suffers an injury prior to, during, or directly after delivery. While many infants suffer minor injuries, in some instances the child can suffer permanent, life-altering injuries.

Birth injuries are not the same as birth defects. Birth defects often have an undetermined cause and typically develop within the first three months of pregnancy. Most doctors believe that a variety of factors lead to birth defects, including genetics, behaviors, and environmental factors.

What Are The Most Common Types of Birth Injuries?

The most typical birth injuries affect the brain, head, nerves, bones, skin, and soft tissues. Examples include:

  • Brachial palsy: Occurs when the group of nerves that supplies the arms and hands is injured. It most commonly occurs when there is trouble delivering the baby’s shoulder. The baby loses the ability to flex and rotate the arm. If the injury caused bruising and swelling around the nerves, movement should return within a few months. However, if the nerves are torn, permanent nerve damage may occur.
  • Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE): Brain damage that is caused by decreased blood and oxygen levels in the brain. HIE leads to the destruction of brain cells and tissue in the motor cortex, which can lead to cerebral palsy and periventricular leukomalacia. HIE is the most common type of brain damage during childbirth.
  • Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL): Occurs when the white matter in the brain dies, resulting in the loss of brain tissue. White matter is made up of nerve fibers that relay signals for motor function and can affect the brain’s ability to learn and function. PVL is caused by a lack of blood flow to the periventricular area of the brain and can co-occur with bleeding. Placental failure and infection may cause PVL.
  • Intracranial hemorrhage: Classified as bleeding in the brain. The most common cause of intracranial hemorrhage is a fetal stroke from blocked or damaged blood vessels. High blood pressure, placenta complications, and reproductive system infections in the mother may lead to an intracranial hemorrhage. This is most common in premature infants.
  • Cerebral dysgenesis: This describes abnormal development of the fetal brain. This generally occurs during pregnancy when the fetal brain is forming. Direct injury to the baby’s head during or shortly after delivery can also cause cerebral dysgenesis. Infections in the fetal brain can mutate genes responsible for motor function development.

Are There Certain Risk Factors That Make Birth Injuries More Likely?

Certain risk factors can make the baby more at risk for injury, and it is important that the mother’s medical team understands and identifies these risk factors to ensure that the odds of sustaining a birth injury are mitigated.

The following are maternal risk factors:

  • Certain pelvis shapes or sizes: If the mother’s pelvis shape is not conducive to a safe birth, there is potential for the child to struggle or twist in the birth canal, resulting in the loss of oxygen flow.
  • Difficult labor or delivery: May be caused by an awkwardly positioned fetus or by a cervix that is unable to expand. Both of these conditions make it difficult for the child to exit the birth canal.
  • Prolonged labor: Generally associated with a higher risk of birth injuries due to difficulty with the fetus exiting the birth canal.

In addition, the baby may present with several risk factors that could lead to a birth injury. They include:

  • Babies weighing over 8 pounds and 13 ounces: This condition is known as macrosomia. Heavier infants are at a higher risk of a difficult delivery.
  • Babies born prematurely: Babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy have a higher risk for birth injury because the child’s muscles and nervous system have not fully developed.
  • Abnormal fetal position: If infants are in a head-up, buttocks-first, or breech position, they are more likely to suffer a birth injury.

A mother’s medical team should take note of these risk factors and take appropriate action to ensure that the birth goes smoothly. If a doctor fails to meet the standard of care and a birth injury is sustained, there may be a viable medical malpractice case.

Can Doctors Cause Birth Injuries?

In addition to risk factors, there are certain actions that can lead directly to birth injuries. If any of the following actions occurred during your child’s birth, medical negligence may have taken place:

  • Failure to act quickly in dangerous situations
  • Failure to diagnose any apparent health conditions in the mother or the baby
  • Failure to monitor the mother or baby after childbirth
  • Misuse of birthing tools such as forceps or vacuum extractors
  • Use of unnecessary force during childbirth

Complications that result from the above actions can result in long-term birth injuries that may have a detrimental impact on a child. If a doctor or other medical professional’s actions, or lack thereof, result in a birth injury, you may be able to pursue justice through a medical malpractice claim.

Who Should I Contact If I Think Medical Malpractice Caused My Child’s Birth Injury?

A birth injury can cause a lifetime of challenges for a child and their family. While financial compensation does not erase the pain caused by medical malpractice, it can aid with the cost of medical bills, physical or occupational therapy, and any necessary medical equipment. It is important that you consult an experienced legal team who can help gather evidence to support your case and represent you in court. At Peter Angelos Law, we have decades of experience representing families and individuals who have been impacted by a birth injury. To learn more, fill out the form below.