What to do when your baby is harmed during labor or delivery
"THIS IS YOUR FAULT!" you scream as nurses help you pace back and forth, back and forth, endlessly. The hospital gown swirls around you as you march.
"Isn't this what you wanted?" your partner asks meekly.
"I HATE YOU!" Another contraction rips through your enormous belly, and you curl into yourself, gasping for air.
When going into labor, you have this beautiful, perfect picture in your head of how you will have a tiny healthy baby wrapped in your arms at the end of this grueling process. However, things do not always go as planned – and medical accidents can and do happen during childbirth, despite technological and medical advances.
There are usually various factors present in the pregnancy or labor that would signal to the medical staff whether a birth injury could occur. If these factors are not addressed immediately, they could lead to one of several different types of birth injuries.
What are the common types of birth injury?
There are five common types of birth injury that can occur, though these of course are not an exhaustive list. These injuries range from mild to severe.
The first type is brain injury:
- Bleeding in the brain (cerebral hemorrhage);
- Bleeding in the area where the spinal fluids are produced (interventricular hemorrhage), which often occurs in babies born early or born having a low birth weight;
- Bleeding in the area between the arachnoid membrane and the brain cover (subarachnoid hemorrhage);
- Bleeding between the skull and the skull cover (cephalohematoma); which causes a bump on the head that can last from two weeks to several months;
- A lack of oxygen or blood to the brain during labor and delivery, which can result in mental and physical issues. These problems can range in their severity depending on the amount of time the brain was deprived of oxygen or blood. This is called perinatal asphyxia. This can result in shock, labored breathing, seizures, coma or even death.
The second type of injury is damage to the peripheral nerve, also called a brachial plexus injury. This can prevent arm and hand movement, and it will usually improve in time unless the nerve was torn during the birthing process.
The third type of injury is damage to the cranial nerve and the spinal cord, which can result because of improper rotating, pulling and stretching of the baby during birth. This can result in facial paralysis or other spinal cord injuries – sometimes paralysis of other parts of the body as well.
The fourth type of injury is bone fractures, which usually occur during breech births or when the infants are large in size. Babies are born with 300 bones as opposed to adults' 206 and they fuse together as they age; these bones are soft, especially in the head where they have yet to set, and break easily. Clavicles are known to break during labor.
The fifth and most uncommon injury is an intra-abdominal wound, which is essentially a blunt abdominal injury. It does a lot of damage to the baby's liver and other internal organs.
Many or all of these injuries can be prevented with proper care and attention from your medical providers. However, if your baby has been harmed and you believe it was because of medical malpractice, please contact a birth injury lawyer immediately.
There are certain factors that occur during pregnancy or labor that should be addressed by medical personnel. If they are not addressed, they can lead to birth injuries. Some of these factors are:
- Infants that have grown too large for their due date. If a child has reached 8 lbs. 13 oz., they are considered too large. The medical term for this is macrosomia.
- Prolonged labor
- The mother's uterus cannot handle vaginal birth (e.g., it is too small or not correctly shaped)
- Premature births (e.g., those that occur before week 37)
- Instrumental deliveries (e.g., those that use forceps or a vacuum to help remove the baby from the vaginal canal)
- Nontraditional delivery positions (e.g., a breeched position or when the baby is facing down)
- Pulling or excessive stress on the baby during delivery
How to find the best medical malpractice attorney for your case
It is extremely important to conduct plenty of research and choose a medical malpractice lawyer with many years of experience in this line of legal work. It is a very specialized area of law that requires a lot of experience. This is because there is a lot of overlap between medical and legal matters, and there are also unique procedural matters that come up in medical malpractice cases.
Most attorneys in medical malpractice law practice one of two kinds:
- They defend doctors from medical malpractice suits, or
- They represent patients who have been injured.
It can be helpful to have a lawyer who has worked on both sides, because they will know how the other side thinks. You might feel more comfortable with someone who only works with plaintiffs. In the end, it is entirely up to you, and neither side is more correct than the other.
Read more and see where to find a lawyer in How to Find the Right Medical Malpractice Attorney for Your Case.
Resources to help you hire the best lawyer
- Guide to Cerebral Palsy and Birth Injury Law
- Erb’s Palsy Birth Injury Lawsuits
- Fetal Macrosomia & Medical Malpractice
- Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) and Medical Malpractice
- Legal Ramifications of Midwife-Assisted Childbirth
- Proving Medical Negligence in a Birth Injury Lawsuit
- Shoulder Dystocia Birth Injuries
- Stillbirths: Medical Malpractice During Childbirth
- Torticollis Birth Injury Claims & Medical Malpractice
- Umbilical Cord Compression Birth Injury Lawsuits
- Uterine Rupture Lawsuits for Medical Malpractice
- What the Apgar Score Says About Your Baby’s Health
- What’s the Difference Between a Birth Defect & a Birth Injury?
- When is Birth Asphyxia Medical Malpractice?