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How Often Do Birth Injuries Occur?

Published on Dec 12, 2019 at 4:31 pm in Medical Malpractice.

Hand holding infant's feet

Giving birth is so commonplace that we forget that it is a stressful medical procedure. And like any other medical procedure, accidents can happen while giving birth. According to statistics, 28,000 of the 4 million babies born per year in the U.S. are born with a birth injury. That breaks down to less than 1% of all babies. Even though that might not sound very common, the potential severity of birth injuries makes any possibility of them alarming.

Most Common Birth Injuries

Birth injuries range from benign to serious—they could either heal in days or cause permanent life-long damage. If you plan on giving birth soon or have recently given birth, it’s important to know the different injuries that could happen in the process. These are the birth injuries that occur most often:

  • Bruising. Passing through the mother’s birth canal can cause bruising on the baby’s face and head. If forceps were used, they can also leave marks and bruises.
  • Cephalohematoma. Hematoma is the medical word for bruise, and “cephalo” means head. This birth injury is bleeding in the head that shows up as a raised lump. The body reabsorbs the blood over two to three weeks.
  • Caput succedaneum. Swelling and bruising of the soft tissues in the scalp can happen to babies delivered by vacuum extraction. Swelling should go down within a few days.
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage. This is broken blood vessels in one or both of the baby’s eyes. Much like bruising, the blood is eventually reabsorbed.
  • Fractures. Since babies have frail bones, fractures can occur in delivery. But these injuries heal quickly because the bones are rapidly growing.
  • Asphyxia. A baby could be deprived of oxygen before, during, or just after birth. Usually this can be fixed quickly, but if not, the baby could suffer brain damage.
  • Nerve damage. Facial paralysis and brachial palsy are two examples of nerve damage that can happen from delivery. If too much pressure is put on the baby’s facial nerve during delivery, it could cause paralysis on one side of the face. The face will usually regain movement in a few weeks. The same thing can happen to the brachial nerves for the arms and hands. If there is only swelling, the baby should regain movement in a few months. Both injuries could be more serious, and potentially permanent, if the nerves are torn.
  • Cerebral palsy. This is a condition caused by brain damage while the brain is still developing. It could happen before, during, or after birth. Any delay in motor skill milestones could be a sign that a baby has cerebral palsy.

Causes of Birth Injuries

Most often, birth injuries occur because doctors or other staff mishandle the baby. Mistakes happen most frequently with babies who are bigger than usual because they require extra instruments for removal, like forceps or vacuums. Even though a baby might be tougher to get out, a doctor should never use enough physical force to cause an injury. It’s estimated that nearly 50% of birth injuries are avoidable if doctors would use more caution. Some other causes of birth injuries are:

  • Premature babies
  • Mother’s pelvis is too small
  • Difficult labor
  • Delayed birth
  • Abnormal birthing placement, like a breech baby

As a parent, you expect the best care for your child, especially during birth. If your baby wrongfully suffered a birth injury, they could be affected for the rest of their life. This could present unexpected medical bills, time off work, and emotional damages. At Solomon Law Group, we can help. Contact us for legal support to get the compensation you deserve.

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