How do birth injuries happen?
We’ve gone over some of the emotional, financial, and health consequences of birth injuries, but it’s also important to understand why certain birth injuries happen, and why doctors and other medical providers need to be held responsible for negligence or medical problems that could have been prevented with proper care.
During a normal delivery, the primary role of the doctors and other medical personnel is to monitor the mother and child and act swiftly if there are any complications during the birth. In many cases, the delivering physician doesn’t even arrive until just before the baby emerges. An anesthesiologist may administer an epidural or other pain-relieving drug, and nurses monitor the mother during labor.
After the baby is born, the medical team will evaluate the child’s health, administer vitamins and other common medications to prevent things like clotting problems, and take blood samples to test for common diseases.
Common Delivery Complications
When complications do happen during the birth and delivery, the risk of injury to the child and the mother increases. Prior to the delivery date, medical providers should screen both the mother and child to diagnose any conditions that could lead to this kind of high-risk situation – such as preeclampsia, diabetes, or infection.
Even if the screening doesn’t uncover any preexisting conditions that could complicate delivery, there are a number of things that can still go wrong, with some of the most common being:
• Stalled labor
• Umbilical cord wrapped around baby
• Abnormal heart rate
• Perinatal asphyxia (or low blood oxygen)
• Shoulder dystocia (shoulder stuck)
• Excessive bleeding (mother)
When there are complications, it’s the responsibility of the doctors, nurses, and others to make the best choices regarding how to proceed with the delivery.
The most common cause of birth injuries is oxygen deprivation, or hypoxia, which can cause brain damage and permanent disabilities. It’s critical for doctors and nurses to monitor the baby for any signs that their brain is not getting enough oxygen.
The primary cause of hypoxia is the umbilical cord getting wrapped around the neck, but low blood flow can also be a factor. This is usually because the umbilical cord has become constricted or as a result of poor blood flow from the mother due to a preexisting condition such as preeclampsia or diabetes.
Assisted Vaginal Delivery
For many of these complications, assisted vaginal delivery is the first option doctors will choose. This involves using assistive devices such as forceps or vacuum extractors to safely and quickly deliver the baby.
Forceps delivery. In a forceps delivery, the doctor uses forceps (which resemble a pair of oversized metal salad tongs) to carefully grip the baby’s head and gently guide him or her out of the birth canal during contractions.
A forceps delivery isn’t uncommon, but it’s being used less often. When complications arise, most obstetricians will choose to use a vacuum extractor or perform a cesarean section.
Vacuum extraction. In a vacuum extraction (also known as a vacuum-assisted delivery), rather than grip the head, the doctor will attach a soft, rounded cup to the top of baby’s head to apply suction and allow the physician to gently pull the baby out of the birth canal during contractions.
With either method, the delivering physician needs to use extreme care, as these instruments are capable of causing serious injuries to the child. Using excessive pressure on an infant’s skull can cause skull fractures and lead to severe and irreparable brain damage – the underlying cause of cerebral palsy. Other injuries from forceps and vacuum-assisted delivery include eye trauma, bruising and lacerations (cuts) to the infant’s head and face, as well as nerve damage.
Dangers to Mothers
Mothers are also at risk of long-term issues as a result of poorly performed assisted delivery. Things like undiagnosed or untreated infections can lead to serious health problems, and complications with the assistive devices themselves can damage the pelvic floor and lead to long-term problems including incontinence, pain, and sexual problems.
With complicated deliveries, it’s also not uncommon for mothers to experience psychological stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Even if the mother and child survive unharmed , facing a life-threatening situation can cause lasting mental health problems.
Whether a birth is assisted or not, doctors often need to help by guiding the baby out of the birth canal, and care needs to be taken to ensure that the infant’s delicate bones aren’t pulled or twisted during the procedure. Fractures are more common in assisted deliveries, but they can occur in a normal, unassisted delivery when doctors directly manipulate the baby.
The most common bone that gets fractured during childbirth is the clavicle (or collarbone), as these are the widest part of the body, and the baby may need to be pulled to help clear them during extraction. Delivery fractures are more common when an infant is born in the breech position (i.e., feet first) and during prolonged and difficult deliveries.
During labor and delivery, a tremendous amount of pressure is put on the head of an infant, and even though babies’ skulls are flexible and not fully hardened at birth for this reason, fractures can occur – leading to serious swelling, bleeding, and damage to the brain that may cause extensive and permanent disability.
Operative Delivery (C-Section)
Better known as a cesarian section or C-section, this procedure involves making a surgical incision in the mother’s abdomen through which the baby is delivered. C-sections are common procedures that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are used to deliver nearly one-third of babies in the United States. Despite its benefits, delivery via C-section still poses a risk of injury for both the mother and baby.
The risks of a cesarean delivery include:
• Blood clots
• Increased risks for future pregnancies
• Injury to the child during surgery
• Longer recovery times compared with vaginal births
• Surgical injury to other organs
• Adhesions, hernia, and other complications of abdominal surgery
Medical Negligence After Birth
Even after a baby is born, care needs to be taken in providing proper medical attention to diagnose and treat any problems. Any delays in treatment could worsen a condition or cause further damage to the health of the child.
Negligence after birth can also take the form of things like administering the wrong medication or the correct medication in wrong dosages, failure to monitor vital signs, improper wound care, and improper neonatal care.
How GreeningLaw, P.C. can help
Serious birth injuries – especially ones that could have been prevented with proper diligence and care – shouldn’t leave parents struggling to provide for their families.
If you believe that your child’s birth injuries were caused by negligence on the part of a medical provider, you owe it to yourself and your family to contact a birth injury attorney like the ones at GreeningLaw, P.C. who have experience handling these kinds of complicated malpractice cases.
The Financial Impact of Birth Injuries in Children
As we’ve discussed before, when a child suffers a serious birth injury during delivery, the physical, mental and emotional consequences can have a devastating effect on parents and other family members. As if that wasn’t bad enough, many families also end up struggling financially, too.
Surprisingly, many parents in this situation can be (at least initially) reluctant to file birth injury lawsuits. Some don’t want to accuse a trusted medical provider of wrongdoing or negligence, while others just want to avoid the hassle of a long and drawn-out court case after what they’ve already been through.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to realize that seeking damages for medical malpractice is not simply a matter of assigning blame or punishing someone – it’s about making sure you can provide for your injured child and the rest of your family. Even the most extensive health insurance will not cover all of the expenses of caring for a child who suffered a serious birth injury.
That’s why at GreeningLaw, P.C., we work hard to get parents and families the resources and compensation they need to afford things like the costs of extensive medical treatment, loss of income and benefits, as well as other services that will most likely be needed, both in the short term and the future.
Costs of surgical care to treat birth injuries are high
Findings from the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that medical costs for children with severe birth injuries and intellectual disability are as much as 26 times greater than those of children without these complications.
In addition, many children with birth injuries will require surgery to correct or treat their condition, and the costs for these surgeries can range in the tens of thousands of dollars – even hundreds of thousands.
Here are a few examples of surgeries that may be required and the estimated immediate costs:
• Inpatient orthopedic surgical procedures can range from $25,000-$30,000, while outpatient surgeries may cost as much as $15,000-$20,000.
• The average cost of cochlear implants (hearing surgery) can be anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 without insurance.
• A corneal transplant (vision surgery) can cost roughly $13,000 for an outpatient procedure and up to $28,000 for an in-hospital surgery.
• Surgery to repair neuropathy (damage or dysfunction to nerves) can cost $20,000-$90,000 or more depending on the severity.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that surgery is almost always just the first step.
After that, patients often require extensive rehabilitation and physical therapy, with associated costs for follow-up appointments and procedures, medical equipment, travel back and forth, etc. Factoring in these kinds of additional costs, estimates can easily run up to $200,000 or more.
Long-term expenses can top millions
Surgery and short-term medical and rehabilitation costs can be surprising, but estimates for medical-related expenses over the long term are truly staggering. Many new parents simply don’t grasp the extent of these costs and discover too late that they can’t get additional financial help they need later on in the child’s life.
For children with birth injuries, long-term medical and living costs may include:
• Doctor’s visits – including specialists such as:
• Occupational, speech and physical therapists
• Pain management doctors
• ENTs (ear, nose, and throat doctors)
• Special dentists
• Prescription drug costs
• Special medical equipment
• Extensive home modifications
• Early intervention and special education needs
• Additional medical care, including
• nursing care,
• home health care,
• long-term care, and
• day rehabilitation services.
The CDC’s estimates for the lifetime costs of certain birth injuries and resulting complications (such as intellectual, developmental disability) show the high cost of supporting a child with one of these lifelong conditions:
• $383,000 for persons with hearing loss
• $601,000 for persons with vision impairment
• $921,000 for persons with Cerebral Palsy
• $1,014,000 for persons with mental retardation
Why do parents need to understand these costs as soon as possible?
The way that our system works, you only get one chance to negotiate financial terms with medical providers and insurance companies. So, it’s absolutely critical to understand the extent of expenses you’re likely to incur over time, as well as the kinds of damages you can collect on.
Damages may include things such as:
• Past and future economic and medical expenses. This includes surgeries, prescription drugs and other medical expenses, as well as economic losses as result of having to take off work.
• Past and future non-economic damages. This can include things like inconvenience, pain and suffering, physical disability, mental anguish, and the loss of capacity to enjoy life.
• Punitive damages. In cases involving egregious actions or inactions that constitute gross disregard for safety, responsible parties may also incur additional monetary penalties.
GreeningLaw, P.C. wants to help families
Serious birth injuries can leave families shaken and unsure of what to do next, and as the realities of the financial burden sets in, many stress over how they’ll be able to pay for all of the care necessary to give their child the life they deserve.
If you believe that your child’s birth injuries were caused by medical negligence, the best way to get the appropriate compensation for your case is to hire an experienced birth injury and malpractice lawyer like the ones at GreeningLaw, P.C.
Our compassionate legal team has extensive experience negotiating birth injury and medical malpractice cases. We’ll work with you and with independent medical experts to determine future costs and make sure your claim will cover these expenses as well as any you may have already paid.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation. Our team will go over the elements of your case with you, discuss possible options and the level of compensation you can expect, as well as suggest the best course of action for you and your family.
All of the attorneys at GreeningLaw, P.C. work on a contingency basis, meaning you don’t have to pay anything unless we win your case.
Call us at 972.934.8900 or visit our contact page today.
We fight the legal battle so you have time for healing and renewal. We will get you through this.