A birth injury is every parent’s worst fear. What should be a happy moment of a child’s birth can turn to tragedy if parents learn that their child has suffered a debilitating birth injury. But what exactly is a birth injury and what causes them?
What is a Birth Injury?
A birth injury refers to any injury that a baby suffers before, during, or immediately after childbirth. Most birth injuries occur during delivery and are usually minor enough that they heal on their own after a few days or a few weeks. However, more severe birth injuries may require more direct medical treatment, such as medications, surgery, or physical therapy. Severe birth injuries can even leave children with permanent physical and cognitive disabilities despite treatment.
Common examples of birth injuries include:
- Brachial palsy, or injury to the nerves that supply the arms and hands
- Cerebral palsy, or a condition arising from brain injury.
- Cephalohematoma, or bleeding between the skull and its tissue covering, which in severe cases may lead to jaundice.
- Brain bruise or brain bleeding
- Bone fractures
- Facial paralysis
- Fetal stroke
- Meconium aspiration syndrome, where a baby’s first bowel movement mixes in with the amniotic fluid, that is then breathed in by the baby when they try to take their first breaths. This usually causes choking and oxygen deprivation.
Differences between a Birth Injury and a Birth Defect
Although some may conflate birth injuries and birth defects, the two have significant differences. Generally speaking, a birth defect is a fetal abnormality that forms during pregnancy, usually during the first trimester. Birth defects normally result from maternal alcohol/drug use, untreated maternal infections, environmental exposure, and genetic factors.
Conversely, a birth injury arises from some external force, trauma, or lack of treatment, most frequently during delivery but sometimes during the pregnancy or immediately following childbirth.
Common Causes of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries can arise from a wide variety of causes during pregnancy, during childbirth, or immediately following delivery. Some of the most common causes of birth injuries include:
- Delayed or prolonged birth, which refers to any delivery that lasts longer than 18 hours. Prolonged birth places increased pressure on a child’s head, potentially triggering high blood pressure and other fetal distress.
- Prolapsed umbilical cord
- Uterine rupture, which usually occurs when a mother has had a prior cesarean section or other abdominal surgery.
- Viral or bacterial infections, such as an untreated herpes infection in the mother.
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or brain damage caused by decreased blood or oxygen flow to the brain
- Periventricular leukomalacia, or damage to brain tissues caused by brain bleeding or infection
- Maternal risk factors, such as a narrow pelvis
- Awkward position of the fetus, such as a breech birth or shoulder dystocia (where a baby’s shoulders get stuck in the birth canal)
- Premature birth
- Heavier infants, who tend to have more difficult deliveries.
Of course, one of the most common causes of birth injuries involves medical negligence by treating providers. This may include failing to monitor maternal and fetal health during pregnancy and treating any infections or conditions in the mother that may lead to complications or injury to the baby. During delivery, negligence may include improper use of delivery-assisting equipment like forceps or vacuum extractors or applying excessive force on the baby when helping with the delivery. Or negligence may include failing to prepare for complications and responding to signs of problems or fetal distress, including failing to perform an emergency c-section when complications with delivery arise.
Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Birth Injury Case in New Jersey
Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in New Jersey? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Haddonfield birth injury attorneys at The Law Offices of Andres & Berger P.C. are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout New Jersey, including Pennsauken, Voorhees, Lindenwold, and Collingswood. Call us today at (856) 795-1444 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 264 Kings Hwy. E., Haddonfield, NJ 08033.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.