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.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with our expert legal team. We’ll go over your case, discuss all your possible legal options, and help you determine the best course of action for you and your family.
All of our attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means you don’t owe us a thing 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.