As medical malpractice attorneys some of the saddest cases we deal with are those where a child has suffered a birth injury. These cases include those where a baby is injured during or before birth by a medical professional’s careless or intentional acts. These injuries happen too often. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2006 alone in 19 reporting states there were 2,073,368 births that involved a significant birth injury. These injuries included skeletal fractures, hemorrhages, and peripheral nerve damage. Most birth injuries are relatively minor and heal on their own with time. But some are quite serious. Below we discuss five of the more serious possible birth injuries.
Roughly 2 or 3 out of every 1,000 children have cerebral palsy. According to the Mayo Clinic cerebral palsy is a “disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by an insult to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.” Kids can start to show symptoms in infancy or as late as the preschool years. This disorder can cause difficulties with movement including walking. Some people with the disorder have difficulty swallowing or have eye muscle imbalance. They may have reduced range of motion due to muscle stiffness. Some patients suffer intellectual disabilities. Epilepsy, blindness, and deafness can also co-occur.
Pressure on the baby’s face can cause damage to the facial nerve. This damage can also be caused by forceps. The side of the face that is injured will not move and the baby may not be able to close an eye. If the nerve is bruised it will heal on its own, but if it was torn surgery may be required.
Brachial palsy happens when the nerves that supply the arms and hands are injured. This is most common when there is a problem delivering the baby’s shoulder. If the nerves are actually torn there may be permanent nerve damage as a result of this complication which could affect the baby’s ability to flex and rotate the arm.
Fractures are the most common birth injury. Broken bones can occur during delivery when doctors improperly use birth-assisting tools or when the baby is tugged too forcefully. Another potential but rare cause of broken bones is the dropping of the newborn. The length of time these bones will take to heal varies. Clavicles are commonly broken and can heal in as little as two weeks.
Oxygen deprivation is also called anoxia. This can happen if the placenta separates prematurely or if the umbilical cord winds up around the baby’s neck and reduced blood flow to the brain. Another potential problem is where a baby does not begin breathing on its own after birth. This can lead to serious brain damage, hearing loss, blindness, learning disabilities, or other problems.
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