Understanding Birth Injuries: Causes, Effects, and Legal Guidance

Nothing compares to the joy and anticipation of giving birth to a happy and healthy child. However, childbirth can be a challenging journey. Even when you and your child stay healthy during the entire 9-month pregnancy, the childbirth process can sometimes take an unexpected turn and result in birth injuries. These injuries can have a severe impact on a newborn and may cause lifelong disabilities or developmental delays. 

If you are preparing for childbirth any time soon, it’s natural to ask questions about childbirth injuries, their causes, effects, and how to seek legal guidance. With that said, let’s go through the details.

Common Causes of Birth Injuries

Childbirth injuries are any physical injuries to mother and infant during and after labor. Numerous factors can cause childbirth injuries, and understanding them and taking precautions can help reduce risk of childbirth injury. Here are some common causes of childbirth injuries:  

Medical Malpractice

Deliberate or unintentional medical negligence is among the major causes of childbirth injuries. Inexperienced medical staff, inappropriate use of equipment, and mishandling of the baby can cause severe injuries to the brain, spinal cord, and vital organs in newborns. These injuries lead to lifelong disabilities and disorders in children. 

If a newborn experiences severe injuries during birth, parents can get legal help from birth injury attorneys to file a lawsuit against the medical team and seek accountability and justice. Birth injury lawsuits are also filed to get financial compensation to cover the medical expenses of the affected child and improve their quality of life. 

The birth injury attorney will gather the required medical documents and evidence of malpractice. They will then analyze these reports to check whether the birth injuries occurred due to inadequate monitoring, delay in C-section, medication error, or inappropriate use of forceps or vacuums during natural childbirth.  

Complications During Pregnancy and Birth

Some births are inherently more challenging than others, which puts a newborn at high risk of birth injuries. Here are some factors contributing to birth complications in mothers:

  • Prolonged or difficult labor can cause the fetus to go into distress, which causes injuries to the brain and vital organs.
  • Suppose a fetus is not appropriately positioned for birth, or the cervix doesn’t expand to the desired width. In that case, it can be difficult for mothers to go through a normal childbirth process, and the fetus may sustain childbirth injuries. 
  • Sometimes, a mother’s pelvis is not shaped correctly or fails to provide a favorable environment for the fetus to go through a normal childbirth. The fetus may twist the cord, which reduces oxygen flow and ultimately damages the brain. 
  • Overweight babies may have difficulty passing through the birth canal, which can potentially lead to injuries.
  • Premature babies born before the 37th week of pregnancy are also at a higher risk of experiencing birth injuries.

Underlying Health Conditions

Certain medical conditions in the mother or baby can increase the likelihood of birth injuries. These conditions may include diabetes, excessive consumption of alcohol, severe depression, substance abuse, high blood pressure, or viral/bacterial infections.

Effects of Birth Injuries

Birth injuries can have long-lasting physical, emotional, and financial effects on both the child and their family. Here are some common long-term effects of birth injuries on a child’s physical and mental health:

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a musculoskeletal disorder that causes brain development issues, physical disability, and developmental delays in affected children. The symptoms may or may not be visible immediately after a child is born, and the child may develop them over time. 

Although numerous factors can cause cerebral palsy, oxygen deprivation during childbirth is among the most common causes of cerebral palsy. The longer a fetus is deprived of oxygen during childbirth, the greater their chances are of developing cerebral palsy right after birth. 

Cerebral palsy is preventable during the childbirth process if the medical practitioner notices signs of fetal distress and takes immediate action. However, this grave negligence can cause lifelong disability in the affected child, and this is why cerebral palsy is almost always attributed to medical negligence and malpractice. 

Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy also often occurs due to medical negligence during childbirth. If the unborn baby gets stuck in the birth canal during the labor process, it can cause severe damage to the brachial plexus. 

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves, ligaments, and tendons that control arm, hand, and shoulder movements. When this network is damaged, it can lead to Erb’s palsy, which is a disability causing weakness or paralysis in the affected arm. These damages are irreversible in most cases and cause lifelong symptoms and disabilities in affected children. While muscle weakness can be reduced with therapies, a complete paralysis is medically impossible to treat. 

Newborn Jaundice Leading to Kernicterus

Although postnatal jaundice is common in newborns and easily treated with light therapy, children who are born before 38 weeks of gestation or suffer injuries during birth are at a higher risk of developing prolonged jaundice or kernicterus. 

High levels of bilirubin in the blood can become toxic for the child’s brain and cause psychomotor development delays, neurological disorders, immune deficiency, and malnutrition in children as they grow. 

Emotional and Psychological Effects

Birth injuries not only cause lifelong disabilities and developmental disorders but also have a severe psychological impact on the child as well as the family. Parents who see their child suffer from birth injuries face emotional distress, which causes feelings of anxiety, guilt, and a sense of helplessness. 

Children with birth injuries may face emotional and psychological challenges, such as coping with physical limitations or dealing with the emotional impact of their condition. Their inability to move or enjoy activities like normal children can have a devastating impact on their psyche, which can hamper their ability to socialize and form connections with their peers. These physical and mental challenges may affect their self-esteem and self-confidence in the long run and affect their ability to cope with their unique circumstances. 

Legal Guidance for Birth Injuries

Legal help and financial compensation can help families steer through this challenging journey. Financial compensation also helps families improve the quality of life for the affected child and get the best medical care.

Affected families should consult an experienced medical malpractice or birth injury attorney who specializes in birth injury cases. Birth injury attorneys analyze medical records and find evidence of medical negligence. They consult experts and prepare your case to file a birth injury claim against the practitioners. 

Before you file a case, it’s important to know the statute of limitation for your case. Statue of limitation defines a specific timeline for filing a birth injury lawsuit. Since each state has its statute of limitations, check your birth injury attorney to avoid mishandling the case.

Final Thoughts

Birth injuries are heart-wrenching events that can forever alter the course of a child’s life and impact their family. However, an in-depth understanding of its causes can help parents and healthcare providers reduce the risk of these injuries. Follow your appointment schedules during pregnancy so that your healthcare provider can timely diagnose any underlying issues and take appropriate measures well in time. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, you should receive specialized care to minimize potential complications.