Birth Injuries

Common Birth Injuries and How They Happen

August 22, 2022 by Carrie Capouellez
Common Birth Injuries

Giving birth is an incredibly joyous time for a family. However, all of this excitement and hope can be dashed instantly when parents and family members learn the baby has suffered a birth injury. With such advanced medical techniques available, many people don’t realize giving birth still comes with serious risks for both mother and child. Unfortunately, these risks are heightened when a hospital and its staff fail to provide proper care to newborns. That is why it is important for all parents and soon-to-be parents to learn more about common birth injuries and how they happen.

It’s hard to imagine that a mistake made by a doctor or other healthcare provider could permanently impact the life of a newborn baby, but the sad reality is that birth injuries in hospitals do occur every month of the year. Unfortunately for parents and newborns, the effects of a birth injury may not always be obvious at first; and, months or years later, a mistake made during delivery can be found to have caused conditions like cerebral palsy or permanent brain damage.

How Do You Know If Your Child Suffered a Birth Injury?

As a parent, carefully watching your baby’s development will clue you into unusual behavior. Babies suffering from cerebral palsy will have difficulty lifting their heads, along with other physical difficulties. If your baby struggles to crawl or walk, or if they lag in achieving routine milestones, your child may have suffered a birth injury that caused permanent damage.

If you suspect your child suffered a birth injury, immediately seek the guidance of an experienced birth injury attorney. A lawyer can help you access necessary medical records and help you find the appropriate doctors and specialists needed to assess and care for your child.

How To Determine Infant Health

The APGAR test was developed in 1952 to rate a baby’s appearance, pulse, responsiveness, muscle activity, and breathing. It is now performed in all hospitals approximately one minute after birth and again five minutes after birth.

When determining whether or not a baby has suffered a birth injury, doctors will review the child’s APGAR score. The APGAR score is the very first test given to a newborn and it is designed to quickly evaluate the baby’s condition after birth. A doctor, nurse, or midwife will evaluate the newborn based on five characteristics. Each characteristic is rated from zero to two, for a total of 10 points. Low APGAR scores can be one of the very first indicators of birth injuries. The score helps physicians understand the baby’s condition and health at birth and identify if life-saving medical care is required.

  1. Appearance The first observation made during the APGAR test is of a baby’s skin color. Babies who are pale all over or exhibit a bluish-grey skin color are rated a 0, babies who have normal color but bluish hands and feet receive are rated a 1, and babies with pinkish skin all over are rated a 2.
  2. Pulse – A nurse or doctor will take a baby’s pulse, or heart rate, during the APGAR test. Babies with no pulse receive a 0, babies with fewer than 100 heartbeats per minute score 1, and babies with at least 100 heartbeats per minute score 2.
  3. Grimace – Also called reflex irritability, babies are scored based on their response to stimulation. Babies with no response receive 0, babies who only exhibit facial movement like a grimace receive 1, and babies who pull away, sneeze, cough, or cry with stimulation receive 2.
  4. Activity – Also referred to as muscle tone, this category rates newborn babies based on how much movement they exhibit in their arms and legs. Babies can have no movement and rate 0, some movement and rate 1, or active movement of their bodies and rate 2.
  5. Respiration – Babies are finally graded on their ability to breathe and the effort it takes to do so. Babies not breathing are scored a 0, babies with irregular breathing and/or a weak cry receive a 1, and babies breathing at a normal rate with normal effort and a strong cry receive a 2.

A baby’s APGAR score from the first measure at approximately one minute after birth to the second measure five minutes after birth can vary greatly. Just because a baby receives a low APGAR score on the first test doesn’t necessarily mean there is something seriously wrong. However, when a baby has a low APGAR score, it is up to doctors and other healthcare professionals to provide the needed care. If a doctor fails to do so, it can cause and/or exacerbate birth injuries like hypoxia, cerebral palsy, and others.

Vacuum Extraction Birth Injuries

Vacuum extractors are medical instruments that medical professionals sometimes use to help apply traction to a baby’s head to facilitate its passage through the birth canal. A vacuum delivery involves placing a suction-cup-like device onto a baby’s head and using the suction to pull it out of the womb. This method is meant to be used in extreme situations and is only used in about 10 percent of births.

Vacuum extraction is commonly used when:

  • Pushing and contractions have stopped moving the baby through the birth canal and labor is stalled.
  • The mother suffers from a heart condition or another medical condition limiting her ability to exert herself physically.
  • The baby is under excessive stress from the labor, as indicated by a fetal monitor.

In several cases, an excessively long or non-progressing delivery can be dangerous for both the mother and the baby; and, when a vaginal delivery becomes less viable, a doctor must look at alternatives, such as a cesarean section or an instrument-assisted delivery. Many doctors who use vacuum extractors do so to avoid a c-section and/or to relieve fetal distress. If a doctor chooses a vacuum-assisted delivery, however, birth injuries can occur as a result – some are minor but many others can be extremely serious.

Potential vacuum extraction complications include:

  • Skull fractures, swelling, and/or bruising
  • Bleeding between the scalp and skull, also known as a subgaleal hematoma
  • Brain hemorrhages or swelling
  • Brain damage
  • Neonatal jaundice
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Developmental delays

Many of these complications can be life-threatening and many are life-altering, leading to a potential lifetime of medical care for the child. To make matters potentially worse, if the injuries are either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed immediately, they can worsen. If your baby has suffered birth injuries or developed a chronic condition due to the use of a vacuum extractor injuries, you should find a birth injuries lawyer to help you recover everything you’re entitled to.

Brain Damage at Birth

Complications during the birthing process can leave a baby with brain damage that may even be permanent, leaving a family feeling hopeless during what was supposed to be such a special moment. Brain damage or brain injuries caused at birth can have a wide range of both physical and psychological effects, some of which can occur immediately and others that may appear later in life.

Oxygen deprivation is one of the most significant determining factors that cause a baby’s brain injury. A baby can be deprived of oxygen during pregnancy and childbirth due to:

  • Compression of the umbilical cord
  • A placental insufficiency problem
  • A baby being stuck in the birth canal
  • A baby’s airway is blocked due to mucous not being cleared
  • Placental abruption
  • Intrauterine growth restriction or IGR
  • Oligohydramnios or not enough amniotic fluid
  • Uterine rupture
  • High blood pressure in the mother
  • Breech positioning of the baby
  • Improper administration of epidural

Since every brain damage case is different from the next, it’s difficult to say what each child will experience in terms of short and long-term effects. Around three in every 1,000 full-term newborns in the U.S. are born with brain injuries, with half linked to oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery.

Dropping a Baby During Childbirth

Infant brain damage can also result from physical trauma during birth, such as occurs when dropping a baby. Babies are sometimes dropped immediately after exiting the womb if medical professionals are unprepared or inattentive. As delivery rooms are often chaotic, careless mistakes can happen, such as failing to use the proper medical equipment to ensure safe delivery. A baby being dropped at birth can suffer from brain injuries, hematomas, abdominal injuries, broken bones, and even wrongful death.

If your child misses developmental milestones, has a speech delay, or has abnormal muscle tone, you must ensure they are thoroughly examined by the appropriate medical specialists and have the necessary diagnostic testing done, such as a brain scan with an MRI, to determine whether they have brain damage.

Erb’s Palsy

Among the most common of all preventable birth, injuries is Erb’s Palsy. It is most often caused by damage to the brachial plexus, a bundle of nerves in the baby’s shoulder. Erb’s Palsy occurs in approximately two out of every 1,000 births and often causes a baby’s arm to be paralyzed to some degree because the nerves connecting the shoulder to the spine are damaged. This injury occurs most commonly during childbirth, often because a baby is too large to be delivered naturally and a medical professional pulls the infant from the birth canal with too much force.

Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy

The most common symptoms of Erb’s Palsy include limpness or even full paralysis in a baby’s arm or an inability to fully move an arm or the fingers. There may also be numbness, meaning the baby is unable to feel anything in an arm or hand. Quite often, the parents can tell there’s a problem because the baby will simply hold the affected arm very close to their body, unable to move it.

Erb’s Palsy usually leaves a baby with at least an inability to fully rotate and flex their arm, and, in many cases, if a nerve is severed during the delivery, the baby could be left with permanent nerve damage. If a baby is diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy, there are treatments and therapies available that may help to improve or even eliminate the condition, but in a large number of cases, the condition is serious enough to require surgery to correct it.

Even if it can be dealt with eventually, the pressures of dealing with an injured or sick child can become overwhelming. The medical ramifications of Erb’s Palsy include huge medical bills, a lot of stress, and an uncertain future for your child.

Our Medical Malpractice Lawyers Get Results: Lopez McHugh Obtains $5.5 Million for Birth Injury Client

Lopez McHugh obtained a $5.5 million settlement for a birth injury client.

Our client was admitted to a hospital five days post-due date. Over the course of that afternoon and evening, her fetal monitoring strips showed increasingly non-reassuring findings. The hospital nurses failed to adequately appreciate the concerning nature of these findings. While the nurses communicated the findings over the phone to the Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/Gyn), the doctor did not arrive at the hospital until later. The child was delivered just 12 minutes after the physician’s eventual arrival. The newborn infant was described as “limp with no respiratory effort” and noted to be “dusky, floppy, and unresponsive.”

The newborn’s APGAR scores were recorded as 2 (at 1 minute), 4 (at 2 minutes), 4 (at 5 minutes), 4 (at 10 minutes), and 4 (at 15 minutes). A healthy baby’s APGAR score ranges between 7 and 10. The newborn baby’s pH level was 7.06 when assessed two-and-a-half hours after birth. A healthy pH level for a newborn is around 7.4. A low pH level can mean the infant is suffering from respiratory problems and isn’t receiving enough oxygen.

Because of the newborn’s condition, the infant was taken by ambulance to another hospital before being airlifted to a children’s hospital. A brain MRI was performed that showed a diffuse hypoperfusion injury that compromised the infant neurologically. The child will require around-the-clock care for the rest of their life.

Lopez McHugh LLP successfully obtained a $5.5 million settlement for the family. While no amount of money can reverse the damage, the settlement will help the family pay for the necessary lifetime medical care their child will need.

Get Help from a Philadelphia Birth Injuries Lawyer

Medical malpractice cases are extremely complex, making them difficult for people to understand. When it comes to birth injury cases, the stakes are higher than usual because parents want to make sure their child is taken care of for the rest of their life. If your child suffered a birth injury, they will require varying degrees of medical care throughout their lifetime. The best way to ensure your child will always receive the care they need is to seek out and obtain financial compensation from the negligent healthcare providers and facilities that were at fault. Time limitations apply to birth injury claims, so it’s important not to wait to contact a lawyer.

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