When most parents bring a child into the world, their hope is to protect and guide their child to a long, happy and healthy life. Those hopes can be shattered when medical errors by a doctor, mid-wife, nurse or other medical professional injures their newborn before, during or shortly after birth.
It’s a heartbreaking event for any parent. Even when all known precautions for a safe delivery are in place, injuries at birth can occur. In fact, birth injuries are more prevalent than you may realize, and often lead to devastating, long-term consequences for the child.
Birth Injury Statistics
According to a statistical report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), an average of seven out of every 1,000 births results in injury. Out of the 4.3 million childbirths which took place in U.S. hospitals in the year studied, an estimated 157,700 mothers and newborns sustained potentially avoidable injuries.
The statistics provide a picture of the types of injuries and risks posed to newborn children during the delivery process. The highest injury rates were seen in vaginal births and were often caused by delivery room instruments, such as forceps and metal or soft ventouse cups.
Almost one out of every 9,714 people born in the United States has suffered a birth injury. This rate equates to 28,000 birth injuries per year, 2,300 per month, 538 per week, 76 per day and three every single hour. Newborn males have a greater chance of being injured at birth than females.
Common Birth Injuries
The extent of physical, mental and emotional disabilities which can be sustained as a result of a birth injury can be life-changing. Some children may suffer relatively soft tissue damage. Others may experience serious injuries, including skeletal fractures, hemorrhages, nerve damage or brain injuries. Common birth injuries include:
Brachial plexus injuries, which involve damage to the nerves that extend from the upper spine, through the neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Injury can lead to temporary or permanent disability, including paralysis.
A clavicle injury (collarbone), which is often caused when delivery becomes difficult or complicated. If forceps or other tools are required to assist in a vaginal delivery, it may result in a fracture or break to the collarbone. In many instances, the injury will heal on its own but may require temporary immobilization.
Spinal cord injuries, which generally occur during complicated vaginal deliveries when birthing instruments are used. Spinal cord injuries during birth can cause temporary or permanent paralysis, as well as other neurological problems.
Cerebral palsy, which can result when trauma during labor or delivery leads to brain damage or head trauma. CP is a permanent disorder affecting muscle control, coordination, tone, reflex, posture, balance, speech and learning abilities.
Erb’s palsy, which may occur in deliveries when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone. When this happens, severe nerve damage to the neck and arm can be caused. The ability to move one arm but not the other is often a sign that temporary or permanent damage has occurred.
Traumatic brain injury, which can result when forceps, vacuum extractors and other birthing tools are used to expedite or assist during delivery. If the baby’s head is pulled too hard, twisted, or too much pressure is applied while trying to adjust the position of the fetus, it may lead to fractures or traumatic brain injuries with long-lasting effects.
Medical Errors Capable of Increasing the Risk of Injury
Some mothers and newborn children will be more at risk of injury during childbirth due to certain hereditary factors. Others could find themselves facing a higher risk of injury as a result of medical errors. If the medical professional responsible for providing you and your child with adequate care before, during and after birth commits any of the following medical errors, it can dramatically increase the risk of birth injury:
- Failure to provide proper and timely diagnosis or treatment of pregnancy disorders or high-risk conditions
- Medication or prescription errors
- Failure to recognize the signs of fetal distress and act accordingly
- Delayed Cesarean section (C-section) delivery
- Improper technique when performing resuscitation
- Erroneous or incompetent use of forceps or vacuum during delivery
Signs Your Child May Have Sustained Injury During Birth
Being able to recognize signs your child may have sustained injury during birth is essential to diagnosis and treatment. It can also play an important role in you being able to pursue the compensation to meet your child’s immediate and future care needs.
- Breathing difficulties
- Cranial swelling, seizures
- Organ failure
- Incessant irritability
These are a few indications your child may have sustained a birth injury.
If you believe your child has suffered a birth injury, seek medical care at once. Write down all you remember about what happened while your memory is fresh. Retain legal representation. Let our Pennsylvania birth injury attorneys help you investigate your case. If you have a viable claim, our firm can help you compile the evidence necessary to prove medical malpractice and assist you in pursing compensatory damages on behalf of your child. Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation.