Injury Law Blog

What Is the Most Common Birth Injury?

Birth injuries occur to newborns more frequently than most expectant parents realize. Although modern medicine has vastly improved conditions during pregnancy, labor and delivery, birth injuries still occur – largely due to medical malpractice. Medical malpractice could cause a catastrophic or permanent infant injury. A newborn could suffer many different injuries in the delivery room, from broken bones to temporary paralysis. Any type of birth injury could give parents the right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in California. If you or your child was injured during birth due to negligence, contact us. Our Sacramento birth injury attorneys can help you explore your legal options during a free consultation.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy impacts an estimated 1 in 323 children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the most frequent disability affecting motor function in childhood. It is more common among boys. The symptoms of cerebral palsy can include muscle spasticity, limb stiffness and delayed milestones, such as trouble talking, walking or eating. Cerebral palsy is a permanent condition with no known cure; however, children with cerebral palsy may be able to improve their independence and quality of life with advanced treatments.

About 10 to 15% of cerebral palsy cases stem from injuries during birth rather than congenital causes. A birth injury could cause cerebral palsy by damaging the brain. Scientists believe brain damage that impacts brain cell development in infants can lead to cerebral palsy. The most common birth injury related to cerebral palsy is lack of oxygen to the brain. Hypoxia or anoxia during labor or delivery could starve the brain of oxygen enough to cause permanent damage.

It is often possible to prevent loss of oxygen to an infant during labor and delivery with due care. A physician responsible for delivering a baby should monitor the infant’s vitals for signs of distress. At the first sign of something wrong, the doctor should order an emergency cesarean section or use another emergency birthing technique to minimize the infant’s risk of permanent brain damage from lack of oxygen or blood supply. Malpractice during delivery could cause a doctor to miss fetal distress and/or fail to act to prevent serious injuries.

Shoulder Injuries

Other common types of birth injuries involve the infant’s shoulders. Shoulder dystocia, nerve damage, brachial plexus injuries, Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy are all injuries that involve the shoulder or arm. Shoulder injuries are common due to an infant’s broad shoulders and the narrow birth canal. An infant getting stuck in the birth canal could ultimately lead to shoulder injuries such as nerve damage if the doctor tugs on the infant’s arm to release him or her. Incorrect birthing techniques when complications arise could contribute to serious shoulder and arm injuries.

Klumpke’s palsy describes damage to the bundle of nerves in the baby’s shoulder (the brachial plexus), which can impact feeling and movement in the arm and hand. Klumpke’s palsy is generally not permanent, but it could cause uneven growth between the infant’s arms. In some cases, an infant may require surgery to correct issues related to Klumpke’s palsy. Erb’s palsy also describes muscle weakness in the arm due to a brachial plexus injury. Erb’s palsy impacts the upper arm, while Klumpke’s impacts the lower arm.

Fractures

An infant could also suffer bone fractures during birth due to malpractice. An infant’s bones could bend, splinter or break from forces exerted on parts of the body during a complicated delivery. Bone fractures could also occur shortly after birth, in incidents such as a nurse mishandling the infant. Skull fractures are especially common, often resulting from the misuse of forceps, vacuums or other birth-assisting tools during delivery.

A serious skull fracture could cause a traumatic brain injury and lasting brain damage. A fracture anywhere along the spinal cord could also be catastrophic, resulting in permanent paralysis or growth and development issues. It is a doctor’s duty to reasonably prevent infant bone fractures and other common types of birth injuries during labor, birth and delivery in California.