Birth Injury Guide for Families & Parents
Pregnancy can be such an amazing and bonding experience for you and your family. The nurturing of a life can be challenging, yet exciting. Those challenges, however, can sometimes be very daunting for you and your unborn child. Despite your utmost efforts to ensure a seamless and safe experience, birth injuries can occur and result in lifelong complications. These injuries are sometimes no fault of your own but can be caused by medical malpractice. Understanding how birth injuries happen can prevent these complications or help you receive legal compensation down the line.
You might hear these two terms and think they’re one in the same because they both translate to your baby suffering from some damaging effect. However, birth injuries and congenital disabilities, commonly called “birth defects,” are different types of medical issues altogether.
A congenital disability occurs during pregnancy and is often caused by flawed genetics or exposure to drugs, toxins, or chemicals. These are unfortunate events that are either inevitable or unavoidable given that nature so often creates them. There are over 4,000 types of congenital disabilities.
In contrast, a birth injury can happen before, during, or right after a baby is born. Such an injury is avoidable in most cases and can be the result of medical malpractice. Various types of birth injuries exist including broken bones, nerve and brain damage as well as meconium aspiration syndrome.
Types of Birth Injuries
The number of birth injuries isn’t as vast as the number of congenital disabilities. However, the following common types of birth injuries, among others, can cause wide-ranging damage to your baby, putting the child’s and your health at risk.
One of the more common birth injuries, cerebral palsy is a permanent movement disorder caused by the brain’s inability to control muscles. If your child has symptoms of cerebral palsy, his or her motor skills will be diminished. Your child may also struggle to see or hear and could have trouble eating as well as swallowing. Anything that causes a brain injury during or right after birth can lead to cerebral palsy.
Brachial Plexus Injuries
Positional mishaps cause some birth injuries. In some instances, when a baby born in the breech position raises its arm over its head during delivery, that leads to a brachial plexus injury. This type of injury is triggered when damage is sustained by the nerves that run through the upper spine and are connected to the baby’s neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. Damage to these nerves ranges from mild (neuropraxia) to severe (neuroma or avulsion), with some cases resulting in permanent disability.
Shoulder dystocia is an injury that can put you and your baby in danger, and it happens when your child’s shoulder is stuck behind your pelvic bone. This position can cause a uterine rupture or hemorrhaging for you while potentially leading to cerebral palsy or brachial plexus injuries for your baby.
A drawn out or complicated delivery can cause broken bones in newborns, including a fractured collarbone. Immobilization can treat the break depending on its severity, but they will otherwise heal on their own.
Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
Meconium is a thick green substance comprised of mucus, epithelial cells, amniotic fluid, and lanugo that makes up your baby’s first bowel movement. In normal circumstances, your baby will pass meconium in its first few days of life. However, meconium aspiration syndrome is the result of a baby passing meconium in the uterus, then drawing contaminated liquid into its lungs. As a result, it will be born while stained in meconium-stained amniotic fluid and the contaminated liquid it inhales can lead to blocked airways and lung irritation.
Some symptoms of a birth injury are not immediately noticeable, but many give a decent indication that something has harmed your child. Should you notice that your little one is having seizures, has a lowered heart rate, displays weak or absent reflexes, or is experiencing low oxygen levels, these are signs of a potential birth injury. Other symptoms include having an arched back while crying, sensitivity to light, excessive drooling, and muscle stiffness.
Preventable Birth Injury Causes
While some instances are unfortunate, many birth injury cases take place in the delivery room and could have been avoided entirely. In some scenarios, doctors or specialists fail to detect infections during pregnancy or used delivery instruments such as vacuum extractors or forceps in an improper manner.
Otherwise, the inability to perform a medically-advisable C-section as well as a failure to detect complications with the umbilical cord are notable birth injury causes. If heart rate monitors or alarms are ignored during the delivery process, this can also lead to an injury. Such causes will leave you upset and rightly so.
Filing a Birth Injury Lawsuit
Amidst your anger and frustration when you find out your baby has sustained a birth injury as a result of negligence, malpractice, or any other preventable reason, you need answers. The natural progression is to file a birth injury lawsuit in an attempt to cover your child’s growing medical bills.
Once it has been determined that the baby has a birth injury, stand your ground and ensure you don’t accept anything before consulting an attorney. A hospital representative or insurance person may approach you with some sort of deal to try and avoid a legal battle. Don’t allow yourself to be shortchanged and explore all legal avenues to recoup your deserved damages.
Hiring a knowledgeable birth injury lawyer may cost money, but not doing so could cost you much more than that in the long-term. Your lawyer will gather all pertinent information, including witness statements, medical records, pregnancy details, and more. Keep copies of any medical care expenses to establish costs, including estimated future expenses.