What is a Birth Injury?
Ordinarily, childbirth is a miraculous process that is life-changing for the families of newborns. A typically joyous occasion can quickly turn traumatic if a complication arises during pregnancy or childbirth. While hospital providers are specially trained to deal with each and every outcome, there are occasions when training falls short. A medical error resulting from a medical professional’s wrongful actions and/or negligence that injures a mother or child at birth is considered a birth injury. Birth injuries can last a lifetime; and, many children with birth injuries require lifelong specialized medical care.
Types of Birth Injuries
Cerebral Palsy (CP) can occur for a number of reasons – all of which result in the abnormal development of the brain or damage to the developing brain. Brain damage that can lead to CP can occur before, during, or after giving birth as the newborn’s brain continues to develop. A lack of oxygen to the brain can cause CP and leave a child unable to control their muscles. Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy in babies can include the inability to lift their head at an appropriate developmental stage, stiffness in a baby’s joints or muscles, uncontrolled movement in limbs, and poor muscle tone that results in heavy limbs.
Brachial Plexus Injuries – also known as neonatal brachial plexus palsy (BPP) – refers to injuries to the brachial plexus nerve group, which supplies the arms and hands with feeling and movement. Injury to this nerve group during delivery can cause bruising, swelling, and the loss of movement in a newborn’s arms, shoulders, and/or hands. Because of a newborn’s fragile frame and ongoing development, any level of error – no matter how minor – can cause lifelong injury. The damage can be temporary or permanent, requiring intense physical therapy and ongoing medical treatment as the child grows.
Erb’s Palsy is a form of brachial plexus injury that damages a newborn’s arm’s main group of nerves in the upper trunk C5-C6 area. Erb’s Palsy ranges from mild to serious, depending on the severity of the injury and nerve damage. When doctors use too much force during delivery, nerve damage can create weakness or paralysis in the baby’s arm, which can result in loss of muscle function or paralysis of the upper arm. Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy typically include weakness in one arm, and limited motion in the shoulder, bicep, elbow, forearm, or hand. Additional symptoms can include a “limp” arm that dangles inward, numbness, and the inability to grip the hand of the weakened arm’s side.
Forceps and/or a Vacuum Assisted Delivery could be required depending on the birth situation, and both delivery methods can cause severe injury to both mother and child. During childbirth – whether natural or via Caesarian section – a physician may use a medical vacuum or a pair of forceps, which are a tong-like device, to deliver the baby. After placing the vacuum or forceps on the baby’s head, doctors gently pull the baby out of the birth canal. Doctors who use too much force during this movement can inflict devastating injuries to a newborn that can inhibit their development. This can leave a newborn with permanent injuries that require long-term medical care, special education, and physical therapy for the rest of a child’s life.
Hypoxia occurs when a patient is deprived of oxygen. When oxygen levels drop during childbirth, whether in the baby or the mother, it is essential to get air to the patient before permanent organ and tissue damage occurs – or worse, death. Prolonged labors can lead to a lack of oxygen supply to a baby’s brain, which can cause permanent brain injury.
Shoulder Dystocia is a brachial plexus injury that often occurs when a physician delivering a baby pulls on the baby’s head to aid the birth. When an infant’s head and shoulders become stuck behind its mother’s pelvic bone during delivery, it can cause a shoulder dystocia injury. While rare, this type of injury is severe and risky for both mother and child. The mother can hemorrhage and/or rupture her uterus; and, the baby may experience difficulty breathing, a collarbone fracture, cerebral palsy, a brachial plexus fracture, and in some instances, die during or shortly after birth.
Philadelphia Birth Injury Attorneys
Bringing a child into the world is supposed to be a joyous occasion that marks the beginning of life and a new chapter for a family. When complications that result in injury or death occur during this precious time the pain felt by parents and loved one is unimaginable. No parent should be left to cope with a child’s serious injury due to the negligent actions of a medical professional they trusted. If your baby or someone you know suffered a birth injury during a hospital or home birth, contact the Philadelphia birth injury attorneys of Lopez McHugh LLP today to discuss your case. When handled correctly, the compensation obtained via your birth injury claim should help you take care of your child for life.