Few things in life are as devastating as birth injuries. Some lead to fatalities, others cause complications that the affected children, parents, and family members must contend with for the rest of their lives. The emotional impact can be even worse when the injury could have been prevented and was caused by someone who did the wrong thing at the right or wrong time. This is referring to medical malpractice, and while it does not happen frequently, families who are impacted are entitled to certain rights under the law. The most common types of birth injuries are related to excess blood in the brain or not enough blood or oxygen in the brain, but birth injuries can be caused by acts of negligence as well.
Common Birth Injuries
Minor birth injuries like skin irritation and bruising are common and can fade away in days or weeks.
One of the most-often seen categories of major birth injuries is brain injury, which is usually caused by excessive bleeding.
- If it occurs in the brain, it is known as a cerebral hemorrhage.
- Interventricular hemorrhage occurs in the place where spinal fluids are produced; this can also happen when babies are born early or have low birth weights.
- Bleeding in the space in between the brain cover and arachnoid membrane is called subarachnoid hemorrhage.
- Bleeding in between the skull and skull cover (cephalohematoma) creates a bump that could last up to a few months.
- Not getting enough blood or oxygen to the brain (perinatal asphyxia) during labor and delivery can also lead to physical and mental issues. The severity depends on how long the deprivation lasted, and can result in labored breathing, coma, seizures, or death.
Newborns that suffer from brain damage can develop cerebral palsy or kernicterus (when high bilirubin levels in a baby’s blood causes brain damage), depending on which part of the brain was injured.
Are Nerve Damage, Fractures, and Wounds Common Birth Injuries?
A birth-related brachial plexus injury is less common than excess or a lack of blood and oxygen. This type of injury impacts the peripheral nerves, which are located outside of the brain and spinal cord. A torn brachial plexus can be very serious, but milder injuries of this nature can prevent hand and arm movement temporarily. Damage to the spinal cord and cranial nerve can paralyze parts of the body, including the face. Babies can be later diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, from damaged brachial plexus nerves that were stretched too far while exiting the birth canal.
Some new mothers and babies end up with bone fractures after the births, but it is more likely for newborns as their bones are much softer. These bones are not completely set at this beginning stage of life and break more easily – the clavicle and skull are particularly vulnerable. An intra-abdominal wound from labor and delivery is rare and can be caused by blunt force that can damage the baby’s internal organs.
Less serious complications that can occur from medical negligence during birth include:
- Low or high blood pressure
- Neonatal jaundice
- Infections that can become dangerous or deadly if not treated properly.
Serious, short-term injuries can involve:
- Excessive blood loss
- Exceedingly low or high blood pressure
- An inability to control urination
- Uterine and vaginal tears
- Injuries to the bowel, uterus and bladder can also be signs of medical malpractice.
A traumatic birth can also have lasting effects on the mother or father’s emotional state and can ultimately lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and severe anxiety or depression.
Medical Negligence During Labor and Delivery
Physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals can all commit medical negligence in delivery rooms, during and after childbirth. There is a long list of examples, which can give you some indication about how much room there is for error when babies are born:
- Failing to monitor the baby’s heartbeat correctly and/or failing to detect fetal distress.
- Twisting or pulling too hard on a baby when it is exiting the birth canal.
- Failing to perform a medically necessary cesarean section (C-section)
- Incorrectly using vacuum or forceps delivery (or failing to inform the mother of the risks.)
- Failing to treat or prevent severe bleeding or tearing.
Once the baby is born, providers can commit medical negligence by:
- Failing to control blood loss.
- Not monitoring the newborn’s oxygen levels properly.
- Failing to test the baby and mother for blood type incompatibility.
- Failing to examine the newborn for jaundice.
The following acts can also be considered as medical malpractice during pregnancy and/or labor and delivery:
- Not addressing macrosomia, when infants have grown too large for their named due dates. A weight of eight pounds, 13 ounces is considered too large for a delivery.
- Not recognizing that the mother’s uterus cannot accommodate a vaginal birth, due to its shape or size.
- Being unable to handle a non-traditional delivery position like a breech birth.
- Allowing prolonged labor that is dangerous for mother and child.
Obstetricians are supposed to screen expectant mothers for high-risk conditions like those and others like maternal infections, diabetes, and preeclampsia. Failing to diagnose and treat these and other issues can cause pregnancy and childbirth complications, like heart issues, seizures, and liver failure.
Medical Negligence and Childbirth
Medical negligence occurs when a medical professional fails to adhere to a high standard of medical care, which in turn causes injury or death to a patient(s). As for that standard of care, it encompasses a proper level of consideration and cause, plus the right judgment that should be employed by other medical professionals in similar situations.
Obstetricians and others who provide care to patients throughout their pregnancies, labor, and deliveries are expected to be handle difficult birthing situations and provide timely, appropriate medical treatment as needed. This includes emergencies, and physicians and staff members should be prepared to react quickly and professionally when situations arise. Not acting fast enough or doing the wrong thing during an emergency may be categorized as medical malpractice.
Living With Birth Injuries
Brain damage is not reversible, but the symptoms can improve with the right tools and therapies. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy are often used, and help patients with daily activities. Other treatment options include surgeries, medications, mobility aids, transportation equipment, assistive devices, and aquatic therapy.
With serious birth injuries, these treatment modalities can be a life-long undertaking, and necessary for the child’s survival and ability to thrive. Most families are not equipped to handle the ongoing medical expenses and can end up in severe financial distress. This only adds to the physical and mental stress that they must deal with every day.
Can I Sue for Medical Malpractice for a Birth Injury?
Most cases of birth injuries caused by medical malpractice occur when practitioners fail to act appropriately and quickly enough to ensure safe, healthy deliveries. The most common errors are failing to monitor babies during labor, not recognizing risks while monitoring, and using delivery assistance tools improperly, but other examples listed above are also cited in these kinds of claims.
Birth related injuries and medical malpractice laws can be complex to say the least, so it might make sense to consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer if you feel that an act of negligence caused a birth injury. Legal compensation can help families pay for treatment; it has been reported that the median medical malpractice award for children under one month old is one million dollars.
Contact a Dayton Medical Malpractice Lawyer at Wright & Schulte LLC if You or a Loved One Experienced a Serious Birth Injury
A birth injury can change lives forever, leaving permanent physical and mental damage in its wake. If you or someone you care for experienced this and suspect medical negligence, do not hesitate to reach out to a caring, skilled Dayton medical malpractice lawyer from Wright & Schulte LLC. We offer free consultations, and our team will fight to get you and your loved ones the compensation you deserve. Complete our online form today or call our Dayton, Ohio offices at 937-222-7477. We serve clients throughout Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Centerville, Toledo, Youngstown, and Miamisburg.