Birth Injury Malpractice: Risks, Types, and Prevention September 27, 2023.

Doctor and little girl holding a newborn baby.

A birth injury is a physical injury that a baby suffers before, during, or after birth. Birth injuries range from minor, temporary, injuries to major injuries that will have lifelong effects, like nerve damage or brain injuries. Birth injuries affect around 3 newborns every hour in the United States or 7 out of 1,000 deliveries.

What Are the Risk Factors of Birth Injury?

Several risk factors could increase the chances of a baby having complications during birth. Many of these risk factors can not be controlled by the mother, but the doctors should be aware of the risk factors so they can be prepared if there are complications.

The Birth Injury Help Center states several risk factors that could increase the chance of a birth injury, these include:

  • The size of the mother and baby
  • Preeclampsia
  • Maternal Infections
  • Diabetes
  • Prolonged birth

How Are Birth Injuries Prevented?

Unfortunately, birth injuries can’t be entirely prevented. However, there are several things that expectant mothers can do to decrease the risk of injuries.

  • Asking their doctor about genetic risk factors they may have
  • Getting regular checkups throughout the pregnancy
  • Staying active and eating healthy, whole foods
  • Managing current health issues

What Are the Common Types of Birth Injuries?

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Spinal Damage
  • Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
  • Birth Asphyxia 
  • Fractured Collarbone
  • Shoulder Dystocia

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in children. 8,000-10,000 children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year. It is defined as a condition that causes a permanent lack of motor skills like body movement or coordination. It could be caused by excessive pulling of the head, failing to treat maternal infections, or failing to detect the baby having low oxygen. According to the Mayo Clinic, early symptoms that could indicate cerebral palsy are that the child feels floppy or stiff, their legs get stiff when picked up, or their head “lags” when picked up off their back. Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition, families may spend millions of dollars to take care of a child with this condition. The Mellino Law Firm has experience with cerebral palsy cases as a result of a birth injury. In 2014 we won $28,000,000 for a family whose child was born with cerebral palsy.

Spinal Damage

Spinal damage is caused by excessive rotation or pulling of the baby’s neck during birth. Several factors could increase the risk of spinal damage during birth. Some risk factors include the baby weighing more than 8 pounds, the head being bent backward in the womb, or the baby having spina bifida.

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, or HIE, is brain damage caused by the lack of oxygen to the brain before or during birth. In some cases, the child may not experience any symptoms, but in severe cases the child may develop a permanent disability such as cerebral palsy or epilepsy.

Birth Asphyxia

Birth asphyxia occurs when the baby does not receive enough oxygen before, during, or after birth. In mild cases, the baby may have a full recovery, but in severe cases it could cause permanent damage. Causes of birth asphyxia include the umbilical cord around the neck, infection during labor, premature birth, and the placenta separating from the uterus.

Fractured Collarbone

The collarbone is one of the most commonly injured bones while passing through the birth canal. This type of injury does not require any treatment and usually resolves itself on its own.

Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder Dystocia occurs when the baby's shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “By the age of 18 months, 82% of babies' shoulders are functioning properly.”

Contact Our Cleveland Birth Injury Attorneys

If your child experienced a birth injury due to a negligent healthcare professional, seek legal help. Contact our Cleveland-based birth injury attorneys to see what we can do for you. Call our office at (440) 333-3800 for a free consultation.