When a family welcomes a new baby into the world, it’s usually an occasion of joy. Sadly, birth injuries – tragic results of medical mistakes – affect thousands born each year. According to the National Healthcare Quality Report of 2003, birth injuries occur in the United States at the rate of 76 per day, or 28,000 per year.
Is a birth injury the same as a birth defect?
Birth injuries are, in most cases, caused by the failure of a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional to provide an acceptable standard of care.
What are some common childbirth injuries?
Included in the conditions which can result from injuries sustained during the birth process are the following:
- Cerebral palsy
- Brachial plexus injuries
- Shoulder dystocia
- Klumpke’s palsy
- Erb’s palsy
- Brain damage due to oxygen deprivation
- Developmental delays.
Cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is caused by a brain injury. Sometimes this occurs at birth, when there is an Interruption of the oxygen supply. According to the United Cerebral Palsy Research and Educational Foundation, 20% of brain damage that results in cerebral palsy occurs during the birthing period. Cerebral palsy affects muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.
Brachial plexus injury. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that sends signals from the spine to the shoulder, arms and hands. A newborn can sustain brachial plexus injuries when its shoulders are forced down and its neck is forced up, sometimes during delivery or prolonged labor. A brachial plexus injury can result in the inability to use shoulder or elbow muscles, inability to move fingers, or complete lack of movement and feeling in the arm, shoulder and hand. It is estimated that brachial plexus injuries affect 2 to 5 children per 1,000 births.
Shoulder dystocia occurs when the baby’s shoulders become wedged in the birth canal. Pressure used to dislodge the baby can cause this type of brachial plexus injury.
Klumpke’s palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury that causes paralysis of the hand.
Erb’s palsy is a brachial plexus injury to the upper nerves and affects movement of the shoulder but not the fingers.
Brain damage. Anything that interferes with the delivery of oxygen to the infant can cause brain damage. Some drugs given during labor and delivery, such as Pitocin and epidural anesthesia, can cause a drop in the mother’s blood pressure, leading to oxygen deprivation for the baby. Failure to timely proceed with a C-section in the situation of an umbilical cord compression or problems with the placenta can result in lack of sufficient oxygen to the baby, leading to brain damage or developmental delays. Additionally, brain damage may be caused by inappropriate use of vacuum extractors or forceps, which cause cerebral bleeds, contusions and torn blood vessels.
How do birth injuries happen?
In some instances, birth injuries are the direct result of inferior medical care, mistakes made by doctors, nurses or other healthcare providers. The causes range from failure to recognize a dangerous situation to failure to respond quickly to a dangerous situation. A birth injury can result from a lack of training or failure to abide by standard protocols.
How can an Indiana Birth Injury Attorney help?
A skilled personal injury attorney, with the assistance of experts, will be able to scrutinize the medical records and events surrounding your child’s birth to determine whether his or her birth injury resulted from medical malpractice. Success in a birth injury lawsuit rests on the ability to show that the medical provider’s actions fell below a reasonable standard of care.
The expenses of caring for a child who sustains a birth injury can be astronomical, extending over the entire course of his or her life. The CDC estimates that the lifetime cost of caring for a person with cerebral palsy is $1 million. The cost of care for a child with a brain injury can quickly drain a family’s resources. A lawsuit can provide funds which will ease this burden and guarantee adequate and effective treatment for a child who has developmental delays or physical handicaps caused by a medical mistake during labor or delivery.