Common Birth Injuries and What Causes Them

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There is a difference between birth injuries and birth defects. A birth defect is a congenital health condition, often hereditary, that develops while a fetus is still in the womb, absent negligence. A birth injury is an event that occurs during the prenatal period, labor, or in the process of delivery due to poor care that affects the newborn and/or the mother. While birth defects tend to be associated with genetic issues, birth injuries may be caused by mistakes and improper care.

Common birth injuries

Brachial plexus injury

The brachial plexus is a nerve bundle which carries impulses from the brain to the shoulders, arms, and hands. The brachial plexus is located at the base of the neck, between each collarbone and armpit. Improper pulling or turning of the fetal head during delivery may cause a plexus to stretch, rupture, or be torn from the spinal column (avulsion). Children with rupture or avulsion injuries most often need surgery to repair the damage. Brachial plexus injuries may cause paralysis or weakness of the upper arm, lower arm, wrist, and/or hand, as in Erb’s Palsy and Klumpke’s Palsy.

Brain damage during labor and delivery

Circumstances and conditions that may cause brain damage include:

  • Insufficient oxygen to the fetus by the mother’s blood
  • Premature separation of the placenta from the uterus
  • Strangulation of the baby by its umbilical cord during delivery
  • Serious maternal infection
  • High or low maternal blood pressure

Brain injury may also be caused by direct head trauma through incorrect use of obstetrical forceps or vacuum extractors.

Maternal infections that can result in fetal injury or death

These include:

  • Chorioamnionitis: A condition that affects the membranes surrounding the fetus and the amniotic fluid. Left untreated, it can lead to respiratory conditions, meningitis, brain damage, or sepsis, and may make it necessary to deliver the baby preterm.
  • Group B Strep (GBS): The most common cause among newborns of septicemia (blood poisoning) and meningitis. It may be transmitted to the baby as it passes through the birth canal. Villitis, a complication of untreated GBS causes the surface of the placenta to become inflamed, ultimately destroying it and causing fetal death.

Improper induction of labor or delayed C-section

In some situations inducing labor by drugs may be the safest way to ensure the health of both mother and baby. However, induction of labor when the mother has previously undergone a caesarian section may cause rupture of the uterus.  Additionally, if a doctor fails to timely perform a C-section, the results could be deadly.

Top Maryland and Washington, D.C. medical malpractice attorneys are there for you when medical errors cause birth injuries

When parents are faced with the tragic result of malpractice-caused birth injury, the attorneys at Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A. are there to help see you through.  We understand the pain and heartache caused by seeing your child suffer, and will be strong advocates for child’s legal rights. For more information, call our Maryland medical malpractice attorneys today at 410-234-1000 or use our contact form.