Bringing a new baby into the world is one of the most exciting events in life. However, childbirth is a difficult and complex process that can be notoriously unpredictable. Today we expect doctors and medical professionals to provide a high level of medical care and we hope for a normal, healthy baby.
Unfortunately, things don't always work out this way. Complications frequently arise and doctors sometimes make mistakes. The reality is that birth injuries can and do happen during pregnancy, labor and delivery on a regular basis.
There are numerous types of potential birth injuries with a diverse range of causes and severity. Most birth injuries fall into 1 of 3 main categories: orthopedic injuries; nerve injuries, and brain damage. Understanding the various types, causes and significance of birth injuries can be difficult. Finding reliable sources of information about birth injuries on the web can be particularly challenging.
The Birth Injury Help Center provides a comprehensive, reliable reference site for information about birth injuries. Visitors to this site will find information and resources about the different types birth injuries and their potential causes, as well current information on treatment, prognosis and financial assistance. Visitors to the Birth Injury Help Center website will find accurate informational summary pages on primary birth injury topics, along with more focused pages offering in-depth information about various subtopics. External links to medical journals, recent scientific studies, and other reliable sources are also provided on each page.
Birth injury refers to physical harm or damage to a baby that occurs during pregnancy, labor & delivery, or shortly after birth. Birth injuries are often the result of medical error or negligence during childbirth.
Cerebral palsy is a neurologic disorder which impairs body movement and can leave a child permanently disabled. Children with CP may be unable to control their legs or arms, have speech issues and require mobility aids. Cerebral palsy is a common birth injury caused by medical errors during childbirth.
Erb’s palsy is a common birth injury that results in paralysis in the arm and hand. Erb’s palsy is caused when the brachial plexus nerves are stretched and damaged during childbirth. These nerves are often damaged when the baby becomes stuck or doctors use excessive force during delivery. Erb’s palsy occurs in approximately 2 out of every 1,000 births.
Injuries to the brain are the most serious type of birth injury. During childbirth injury to the baby’s brain can result from the disruption of oxygen or blood circulation to the baby or trauma to the baby’s head. Damage to the baby’s brain during childbirth can result in cerebral palsy and other permanent mental and physical disabilities.
In many situations birth injuries can be avoided by performing an emergency c-section delivery when complications arise. Doctors and hospitals have a duty to monitor for complications and promptly intervene with a c-section when necessary. Negligent delay in performing an emergency c-section is the leading type of medical malpractice claim asserted in birth injury lawsuits.
Prenatal care refers to the medical care provided by OB/GYNs during pregnancy. A key aspect of good prenatal care involves identifying complications and diagnosing conditions in advance during pregnancy. Many birth injuries are actually the result of negligent prenatal care during pregnancy.
Cerebral palsy is a permanent disability in which the brain is damaged unable to send signals to normally control body and muscle movement. The particular type of brain damage that causes cerebral palsy typically occurs during childbirth when oxygen to the baby’s brain is temporarily disrupted. Children with cerebral palsy are often unable to control their legs, arms or other parts of their body and may require mobility aids to walk. Cerebral palsy is the most common type of serious birth injury and is the subject of many malpractice lawsuits.
The brachial plexus is a key network of nerves running from the spine through the shoulders and down into the arms. This nerve channel serves to transmit brain signals to the arms and hands. Damage to the brachial plexus nerve channel is one of the most common types of birth injuries, occurring in thousands of births every year. This type of nerve damage during birth results in conditions such as Erb’s Palsy and Kulmpke’s Palsy (involving paralysis of the arm and/or hand). Damage to the brachial plexus nerves are often caused by excessive force in response to difficult vaginal deliveries.
The most serious of type of birth injuries are those involving the brain. The brain is a complex and delicate organ that requires a constant supply blood and oxygen during childbirth. When blood and oxygen flow to the brain are interrupted, permanent damage can occur in a very short time period. During childbirth, the delivery of blood and oxygen to the baby’s brain can be particularly vulnerable to disruption. Various obstetrical complications can interfere with the circulation of blood and oxygen to the brain. When these complications arise doctors have an extremely short window of time to respond in order to avoid injury to the baby.
A Cesarean section (or c-section) is a surgical procedure for delivering a baby through an incision in the abdomen. A c-section delivery is often the most effective means of avoiding birth injuries. When complications occur during childbirth a prompt emergency c-section can often avoid trauma or injury to the baby. Doctors and hospitals are expected to monitor for potential dangers during labor and delivery and be ready to immediately step in and perform a c-section. Delay in performing an emergency c-section is the most common type of medical negligence resulting in birth injuries.
Prenatal care involves medical care and monitoring provided by OB/GYNs throughout their pregnancy. A critical part of good prenatal care is timely diagnosis and management of conditions that could threaten the health of the baby. A large percentage of birth injuries can actually be prevented by errors in prenatal diagnosis and negligent prenatal care. This section will help explain the aspects of good prenatal care and some of the common diagnostic and monitoring errors that often result in birth injuries.