Types of Birth Injuries

By Law Office of Mark Bush  Jun. 4, 2012 3:06p

Understanding Birth Injuries

The birth of a child should be joyful and exciting, but this excitement could be discouraged by a birth injury. Any injury sustained by a mother or infant during labor or delivery is considered a birth injury. Birth injuries can be mild, such as light bruising, or more serious – even fatal. Sometimes, it is hard to know if a child is suffering from medical complications because it suffered an injury during birth (a birth injury) or while it was developing in its mother's womb (a birth defect).

There are many types of birth injuries. One common form of birth injury that affects the baby is called hypoxia, or fetal distress. Hypoxia occurs when the unborn child doesn't receive enough oxygen during labor and delivery. Many times, hypoxia occurs when the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around the baby's neck. It is imperative that doctors monitor the baby's heart rate during birth; a decreased heart rate is one of the first signs of hypoxia. If a doctor fails to identify or diagnose hypoxia, the child may e left of brain damage.

One of the most serious types of birth injury is cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy can refer to any number of brain injuries that happen just before, during, or shortly after labor and delivery. This type of birth injury might be considered the most serious because it is irreversible and leaves the child with medical complications that will endure for the rest of its life. Cerebral palsy can be caused by head trauma or hypoxia and its symptoms include limited motor skills, slow development, and seizures.

Brachial plexus injuries are one of the most common types of birth injury and involve the child's shoulder and nerves that connect the shoulder and spinal cord. Brachial plexus injuries typically happen when the child's head and shoulder becomes stuck on the mother's pelvic bone, inhibiting a normal delivery. This is call shoulder dystocia. If the delivery doctor does not dislodge the baby's shoulder correctly (by using too much force, mishandling forceps, or using a vacuum incorrectly), the child may suffer stretching, bruising, or even ruptured nerves. In extreme cases, brachial plexus injuries leave the child with loss of muscle control or sensation in the arm. Some children require surgery to correct brachial plexus injuries.

Jaundice is extremely common in newborn infants, but extreme cases of jaundice can result in injury or illness. Jaundice is caused by increased bilirubin levels in the child's system and is produced by the liver to break down red blood cells. If bilirubin levels are too high, then it will seep from the baby's blood stream into its brain tissue, resulting in a rare form of brain damage called kernicterus. Severe cases of jaundice must be monitored closely so that they do not develop into kernicterus. When a baby develops kernicterus, it will alternate between hypotonic (decreased muscle tone) and hypertonic (increased muscle tone) states. As soon as these symptoms appear, doctors must take immediate action or the infant could suffer lasting damage.

Avoidable Birth Injuries

Although many birth injuries occur naturally, some are the result of doctor negligence. Avoidable birth injuries can happen in a variety of ways – usually because a doctor uses excessive force when delivering the child or failed to perform a necessary cesarean section on time. If an infant experiences shoulder dystocia during delivery, doctors may use forceps or a vacuum to help the child down the birth canal. If too much force is used, the baby may become injured. Although many birth injuries are the result of natural, unavoidable causes, no child or new mother should suffer because a medical professional is negligent. If your child has suffered an avoidable birth injury and you believe that the careless doctor is to blame, talking to an experienced personal injury lawyer in San Diego may be your best option.

Contact a San Diego birth injury attorney for a free initial case consultation to see how a lawyer from our firm can help your case.

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