Although birth injuries in general are rare, some babies are injured during delivery. The baby’s size or position during labour often contributes to birth injuries. A premature baby may be more fragile and more susceptible to injury during delivery. Difficult or prolonged labour may also be responsible for certain birth injuries.
The more common birth injuries include:
- Bone fractures (primarily fractures of the collarbone). Fractures often occur when the fetus enters the birth canal in an awkward position or becomes lodged in the birth canal.
- Brachial Plexus Injury (Erb’s Palsy). This injury involves an impairment of the group of nerves that supplies the arm and is often caused by shoulder dystocia, which is when the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged on the mother’s pelvis bone.
- Bruising, injuries and marks around the head. These include cephalohematoma (a bruise or blood blister on the skull), burst blood vessels in the eyes, and caput succedaneum (a swelling or bruising of the scalp). Minor scrapes, bruises, swelling or cuts around the head and face are quite common. These injuries may be caused by the pressure on the baby’s head as it passes through the birth canal. They may also be caused by the use of forceps or a vacuum to help speed up the delivery. These injuries are often mild and resolve on their own.
- Facial Paralysis. The pressure on the baby’s head as it travels through the birth canal may cause injury to the sensitive nerves in the baby’s face. Paralysis may also be caused by the use of forceps. The damage to the nerves may be mild, in which case it will usually resolve on its own. More severe damage may require surgery.
- Cerebral Palsy. This birth injury, which can cause a variety of symptoms from muscle spasms and seizures to developmental delays, is caused by damage to the brain during delivery. This damage may be caused by a lack of oxygen during the birthing process or by direct physical trauma to the brain.
While the birth process itself causes many birth injuries, some birth injuries are avoidable with proper medical care. Some mothers show risk factors during pregnancy, which allow their health care providers to avoid risky deliveries and prevent birth injuries.
If your baby was injured during delivery, consult an experienced birth malpractice lawyer to determine if you or your child has a legal claim for medical malpractice.