What Is Considered a Birth Injury?

In legal terms, a birth injury is an injury in a newborn that was sustained either before, during, or shortly after birth. This includes injuries caused by trauma during the birth process and those that are caused by the negligence of a medical provider.

In 6-8 of every 1,000 live births, an injury occurs. While some of these injuries cannot be avoided, others are the result of preventable medical negligence. If you believe your child may have been harmed by negligence, visit birthinjurylawyer.com for more information about the options that are available to you.

There are many ways a newborn can sustain a birth injury. Keep reading to learn more about the most likely ways a baby can be harmed during birth and some of the circumstances that make it more likely.

5 Common Types of Birth Injuries

During the birth process, a certain amount of trauma is expected as the fetus is squeezed through the birth canal. Most babies make it out without any injuries. However, accidents can and do occur. These are the major types of birth injuries.

Bone Fractures

Bone fractures typically happen in a newborn’s collarbone or long bones. This kind of damage is more common in cases where the newborn is too large for the mother’s pelvis, during breech deliveries, and when shoulder dystocia occurs. Approximately 0.4% to 2.9% of all newborns are born with a fractured collarbone.

Spinal Cord and Nerve Damage

Injuries to the spinal cord and nerves can be caused when a newborn is overstretched, improperly pulled, or when improper pressure is placed on them. This can lead to conditions like paralyzed facial nerves, which may be temporary and resolve on its own. In the most extreme cases, it can lead to partial or complete paralysis.

Brachial Plexus Injury

Brachial plexus injury is also known as Erb’s palsy. This condition occurs when a newborn’s brachial plexus nerve is damaged. It often resolves on its own, but some babies will require treatment. In a small number of cases, the damage can be permanent. Signs of this kind of damage include the infant holding its arm abnormally, the inability to move the affected arm, and arm and grip weakness.

Brain Injury and Intracranial Hemorrhage

This kind of damage is caused by excessive force on a newborn’s skull. Newborns who suffer brain injuries can have cerebral, intraventricular, or subarachnoid hemorrhages. They can also suffer from subdural hemorrhage and hematomas and cephalohematomas. Babies with cephalohematomas will usually develop a lump on their head that can take a few weeks or a few months to disappear.

Intra-Abdominal Damage

Damage inside the abdomen of a newborn is a relatively uncommon cause of birth injury. Unfortunately, because it isn’t common, it can be overlooked as a cause of neonatal death. This kind of damage can include abdominal hemorrhage and injuries to the liver. Babies who have this kind of damage may have a distended abdomen.

What Causes Birth Injuries?

Birth injuries can be caused by unforeseen circumstances. In other cases, the cause of these injuries is negligence, such as improperly used equipment or failure to diagnose a condition or to react properly. Some of the most common causes of birth injuries include:

  • Cephalopelvic disproportion
  • Premature birth
  • Cesarean birth
  • Fetal macrosomia
  • Abnormal presentation
  • Long, difficult labor
  • Maternal obesity
  • Vacuum extraction
  • Forceps delivery

Some minor birth injuries will resolve on their own. More serious injuries can result in permanent damage. In the worst cases, this damage can lead to the need for lifelong treatment and care or even death. In fact, approximately 2% of all neonatal deaths are caused by birth injury.

Your obstetrician or midwife is obligated to take steps to keep your baby safe during birth. When they fail, babies and their families can suffer devastating consequences.