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Birth Injuries

Birth is a traumatic experience for any baby and most birth injuries are minor, such as swelling, bruising or minor bleeding. Yet for 27 out of every 1,000 babies born, severe birth injuries occur. These severe birth injuries may involve hemorrhage, paralysis, broken bones and other serious injuries.

 

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Contributing factors to the birth injuries include high birth weight (over 9 lbs), the shape of the mother's pelvis and size of vaginal opening, a breech birth (feet first) or an abnormally long or short labor.

While each of these situations can contribute to a birth injury, there are steps that every doctor can take to prevent most injuries from occurring. Failure to diagnose, take preventative measures or respond to injury-causing events can result in birth injuries where doctors can be held liable.

Some of the more common severe birth injuries include brain injury, spinal cord trauma, cerebral palsy, spastic, athetoid and ataxic cerebral palsy, Klumpke and Erb's palsey, Group-B Strep, Horner syndrome and shoulder dystocia.

Brain injury can occur if the baby is deprived of oxygen because of twisting or compression of the umbilical cord or from blood loss. This type of brain injury typically results in cerebral palsy, seizure disorders or other mental impairment.

Spinal cord trauma and injury during birth can be caused by excessive traction or rotation of the infant. For breech deliveries the cervical and upper thoracic region account for most injuries. For vertex deliveries the upper and mid-cervical region account for most spinal cord injuries. Spinal cord trauma may account for stillbirth or for rapid neonatal death of the infant. Infants that do survive may experience neuromuscular disorder and spasticity that may be mistaken for cerebral palsy.

Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form of cerebral palsy. It accounts for approximately 70-percent of the cases and is characterized by contracted muscles that are in constant involuntary reflex and sometimes paralysis.

Athetoid palsy affects 10 to 20-percent of the cerebral palsy patients. It is characterized by slow and uncontrolled involuntary movement of the hands, feet, arms and legs. Some patients also experience speech problems and drooling as the result of partial face paralysis.

Ataxic palsy is the rarest form of cerebral palsy affecting just 5 to 10 percent of the patients. It is characterized by lack of coordination, balance and depth perception. Patients may have a hard time using fine motor skills and dexterity to write or tie objects.

Klumpke palsy is a birth injury due to traction on the arm in the abducted position during birth. It involves damage to the eight cervical and first thoracic roots or the lower portion of the brachial plexus nerve group. Klumpke palsy is characterized by paralysis of the muscles in the hand and forearm.

Erb's palsy is a birth injury involving the brachial plexus nerve group. This group of nerves is responsible for movement of the hand, arm and shoulders. Erb's palsy can cause a gradual loss of movement in these body parts and in same cases paralysis.

Group-B Strep is short for Group B Streptococcal Disease. Group-B Strep is a life-threatening bacterial infection in newborns. Pregnant women can transmit Group-B Strep to their newborns but the disease can be prevented in babies by giving the mother's antibiotics during labor.

Horner's syndrome can be caused by a neck trauma during birth or from an injury to the brachial plexus nerve group. Horner's syndrome is characterized by an abnormally small pupil and droopy eyelid in the infant and is an indication of damage to the sympathetic nerves of the face.

Shoulder dystocia occurs during difficult births with large babies when the infant's head is delivered but the shoulders are stuck behind the mother's pubic bone or in the birth canal. Shoulder dystocia injuries may go away with time or they may be permanent resulting in paralysis of the arm. Other injuries include a broken arm or collarbone. Doctors can prepare themselves ahead of time for the possibility of shoulder dystocia with an ultrasound of the mother before labor. A C-section can be performed to alleviate this potential problem. If the situation happens without warning, certain procedures such as the McRoberts maneuver can be performed to avoid complications.

While many birth injuries heal with time or additional medical treatment, many others will last a lifetime. Besides the emotional implications, parents may be burdened with years of medical bills because of the birth injuries. If a parent suspects a birth injury is due to medical malpractice it is wise to seek representation as soon as possible so that documentation may be accumulated and the facts of what happened can be sorted out. For additional information, see the page on birth injury lawyers.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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