The Most Common Types of Birth Injuries and What Usually Causes Them

Giving birth should be among the most joyful moments of your life. After carrying a baby and feeling it grow for nine months, the emotional catharsis of bringing that life into the world is so powerful that it often brings parents to tears of happiness. We wish this was the case for every birth, but sadly, it isn’t. Sometimes healthcare providers make mistakes for a variety of reasons, and mistakes during childbirth can have disastrous consequences.

The last thing we want is for you or a loved one to experience a tragedy on what should be one of the happiest days of your life, but we’ve seen it happen far too many times. On average, about 7 out of every 1,000 babies born in the United States experiences some kind of birth injury or birth trauma

It’s important to be aware of what potential medical errors or mistakes that can happen and if those errors happen what the resulting complications could be, and if the complications were unavoidable or a direct result of medical malpractice.

If your child experienced birth trauma or an injury during labor and delivery, we may be able to help you. We know that the days ahead will be challenging both emotionally and physically. If you wonder whether or not you have a case, contact the offices of Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst for a free consultation to discuss your potential case. 

What is a birth injury?

When a baby is harmed before, during or directly after the childbirth process, it’s considered a birth injury. Birth injuries take many forms, and while some may be unavoidable, the sad truth is that a great deal of injuries are preventable. 

When a healthcare provider’s actions or lack of actions are directly responsible for a birth injury, it’s considered a form of medical malpractice and justice can be pursued.

What is birth trauma? 

Birth Trauma Is a term that is referencing infant injuries that occur due to excessive force during delivery as well as long term disabilities such as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and cerebral palsy. 

Birth trauma is a category of birth injury. It is normally caused by physical pressure during delivery, these injuries specifically affect the organs. Though excessive force is what we think about when we think birth trauma, it can also be caused by overuse of delivery drugs and other complications. 

Oxygen deprivation also known as birth asphyxia

Oxygen deprivation around the time of birth, also called birth asphyxia, is a common cause of infant brain damage. If a baby doesn’t have enough oxygen in their blood, or if blood flow to the brain is restricted, they may be born with a serious birth injury called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephlopathy (HIE)

There are many causes of HIE, including high risk pregnancy conditions, pregnancies in which mother and/or baby could have an increased risk of serious health issues. 

High risk pregnancy conditions such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia need to be properly managed. Negligent management of high risk pregnancy can cause babies to sustain avoidable birth injuries such as HIE.

Many times HIE can be prevented through careful fetal monitoring and timely intervention in response to complications. Having a plan in place and/ or the hospital having a policy and following it can reduce the risk of missing complications that could result in HIE or reduce the risk of performing negligent actions that cause HIE. 

HIE is a severe type of brain damage caused by an insufficient supply of oxygen in the baby’s blood flow during or near time of birth. Brain cells can die very quickly. 

HIE is a severe complication that dictates prompt actions by the medical professionals- it is critical that therapeutic hypothermia (a/k/a cooling) be administered very shortly after birth. Certain criteria must be met for cooling, and time is of the essence. 

The MND team has personally seen the positive effect of therapeutic hypothermia. We have seen this treatment minimizing the extent of permanent brain damage and reducing the risk of a devastating outcome such as cerebral palsy. 

Cerebral Palsy (CP)

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that negatively affect someone’s ability to move and balance properly. CP is caused by damage or abnormalities in the part of the brain that controls movement. Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in childhood. Many people with CP may have medical issues such as epilepsy, vision issues, hearing issues, and cognitive impairments. A large number of CP diagnoses are caused by preventable birth injuries.

Forceps and vacuum extractor injuries 

Vacuum extractors have been scrutinized for years. The FDA has very specific guidelines as to when and how the extractor should be used. 

Permanent damage can occur to your baby if the physician uses the vacuum incorrectly or uses the wrong size suction cup. There should never be any twisting of the neck or head, no excessive pulling (ie too much pressure or pulling too long, or attempting the delivery with the vacuum extractor too many times). 

The injuries can be devastating. Injuries could include: skull fracture, brain hemorrhages or bleeds, cerebral palsy, seizures, other forms of brain damage, or possibly brachial plexus (a/k/a Erb’s palsy)

Brachial plexus/ Erb’s palsy

There is a group of nerves that goes to the arms and hands called the brachial plexus nerves. A brachial plexus injury can occur from pulling too hard on the baby or when the baby has shoulder dystocia (difficulty in delivering the baby’s shoulders). When this occurs sometimes the damaged nerve will recover on it’s own, sometimes surgical intervention is needed and sometimes it will not heal. It is dependent upon how badly the nerve is injured and how many nerves are involved in the injury. 

MND stands with You

Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst wholeheartedly hope that your pregnancy, labor and delivery all goes beautifully, and that you do not need us. Unfortunately, we know, based upon our experience, that birth injuries occur. 

We have helped numerous families throughout Oklahoma navigate the difficult journey through the legal process when their little one was injured at or shortly after birth. Our birth injury team is lead by Jacob Diesselhorst. Jacob takes great pride in being honest, transparent, and compassionate with the parents that seek us out with the question: “Could this injury have been avoided.” If you or someone you know, are wondering if the injury sustained by your little one could have been avoided, please reach out to Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst for a free consultation. We will do our best to answer your question.

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