Common Conditions That Cause Birth Trauma


Every hour of every day, approximately three newborns are injured during the birthing process. Sometimes, the injury is so severe the baby is stillborn or dies shortly after birth. Others suffer minor injuries and recover and return to normal within days or weeks. Still another group are injured to a degree their lives and the lives of their parents are changed forever.

Birth Injury Defined

A birth injury is defined “as an impairment of the neonate’s body function or structure due to an adverse event that occurred at birth. Injury may occur during labor, delivery, or after delivery, especially in neonates who require resuscitation in the delivery room.”

A birth injury is not the same thing as a birth defect. A birth injury is when a normal newborn is injured during the birthing process. It is almost always the result of someone’s negligence.

A birth defect is when there is something abnormal about the child that has nothing to do with the birthing process. Some examples of birth defects are when a child is born with heart problems, spina bifida, cleft palate, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other issues that have nothing to do with the birthing process.

Most Common Causes of Birth Injuries

The sad thing about birth injuries is that they are almost 100 percent avoidable. Some of the most common causes of birth injuries are:

  • The baby is very large.
  • The fetus is breech, meaning the head is not in the birth canal as it should be.
  • Failure to properly monitor the fetal oxygen levels during labor and delivery. Oxygen deprivation can cause death, cerebral palsy, and other life-altering conditions.
  • Labor that is longer than 18 hours. This puts pressure on the baby’s head and can result in a brain injury.
  • No one notices that the baby inhaled meconium during the delivery process, so the baby was not immediately suctioned. This can result in pneumonia, severe lung damage, or even death.
  • Forceps or other devices are used which caused injury to the baby.
  • Infection in the mother was not diagnosed or left untreated so it is passed to the newborn in its journey through the birth canal.
  • Umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck.
  • Medication given to the mother during the birthing process causes fetal distress.
  • Delay in a cesarean section when the fetus has shown signs of distress.
  • Premature birth.

Symptoms Indicating the Baby is Suffering from a Birth Injury

Not all birth injuries are readily apparent. Some early symptoms include:

  • A high-pitched, abnormal sounding cry. The newborn may also have a fever.
  • The baby’s eyes cannot focus when someone initiates eye contact.
  • Not interested in the breast or the bottle and takes no nourishment.
  • May be interested in the breast or bottle, but has trouble with latching on or sucking.
  • A constantly fussy baby who cannot be consoled.
  • Does not cry when it seems it should.
  • Is flaccid and has little muscle control.
  • May have difficulty moving a limb or cries out in pain when the limb is moved. This may indicate a broken bone or nerve damage.
  • Obvious lacerations or bruises.

There are some birth injuries that may not show up for weeks, months, or years. There may be developmental delays both physically and mentally. The baby may not sit up alone, crawl, or walk at the expected times. Developmental delays can affect gross or fine motor skills as well as language development, social, or thinking skills.

Cognitive deficits may be noticed. The child may have difficulty paying attention, listening to stories, or playing age-appropriate games. They may not cause real problems until the child starts school and the learning delays are first diagnosed.

Types of Birth Injuries

Some types of birth injuries resolve quickly. Some without medical intervention, others require limited medical help. Other types of injuries have lifelong effects. The most common types of birth injuries include:

  • Swelling or bruising of the head or bleeding underneath one of the cranial bones.
  • Facial nerve injury due to the use of forceps, vacuum extractor, or a large baby’s head is injured while it traveled down a small birth canal.
  • Nerve damage in nerves affecting the arms, legs, feet, or hands.
  • Fracture of the collar bone.
  • Blood vessels in the eye are broken.

Birth injuries may also be a cause of cerebral palsy, although there are other causes of this often debilitating condition.

Damages to Which You and Your Child May be Entitled

Any medical personnel involved in the birthing process may be liable for damages if you can prove negligence. This includes all doctors involved including the obstetrician, anesthesiologist, pediatrician, general practitioner, and any nurses involved in the labor and delivery process, midwives, nurse’s aides, therapists, and others.

If you prove your malpractice case, damages to which you may be entitled include:

  • All medical expenses incurred due to your baby’s birth injury. This includes all future expenses the baby is expected to incur through his or her life. In some cases, this can mean costs of 24-hour care 7-days a week for life.
  • All costs of therapy and rehabilitation incurred due to the birth injury.
  • If the birth injury is the cause of cognitive and developmental delays, you can collect the costs of necessary special education or programs.
  • Any special devices needed by the child, like a wheelchair or braces.
  • Wages lost by parents due to the need to provide care for their severely injured child.
  • Parents can also collect damages for their pain and suffering.

How a Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help

If you are concerned that your baby may have suffered a birth injury due to medical malpractice, contact a Philadelphia Birth Injury Lawyer at Raynes & Lawn to discuss the circumstances surrounding your claim. You can fill out our contact form or call us 800-535-1797 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. The law requires you to file your medical malpractice claim within a certain period of time after the injury, or after you knew or should have known your child was injured, so call us as soon as possible.

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