Understanding Birth Injuries and How They Occur

David W. Hodges
David Hodges is a founding partner of Kennedy Hodges. He focuses his practice on personal injury claims.

Expecting the birth of a child is an exciting time in a family's life. After preparing for nine months, you anxiously await your baby’s arrival. During those nine months, you’ve entrusted your health and the health of your baby to your doctor with confidence that he’ll ensure a safe delivery.

Modern medicine and medical technology have improved over the years, and giving birth is often uneventful. However, it’s possible for unexpected complications to occur during childbirth. Most often, these complications are met with expert care and have no lasting effects on the mother or the baby. But when medical professionals don’t address these complications quickly and skillfully, the results can be catastrophic. Your child can suffer birth injuries that may impact the rest of his life.

It’s not uncommon during childbirth for a newborn to experience a bit of bruising and swelling around the head. This is fairly normal and not a cause for concern because both usually resolve themselves on their own. However, there are instances when the injuries are much more severe because trusted doctors and medical staff may be negligent during your labor. When this happens, it can sometimes result in potentially lifelong injuries to your child that can create developmental delays and other medical conditions.

What Is a Birth Injury?

A birth injury can be defined as any type of physical impairment a baby experiences when being born. In order to prevent a birth injury, doctors must take great care to closely monitor the health of the mother and infant throughout the entire labor and delivery process. It’s important that physicians and staff must pay close attention to heart rate, blood pressure, positioning, umbilical cord placement, duration of labor, and stress level.

This type of expert observation is vital in order to ensure a safe delivery. When a doctor fails to follow these protocols, the potential for a serious birth injury greatly increases.

There are many types of birth injuries, including an intracranial brain hemorrhage—also known as bleeding of the brain. This is usually the result of a stroke caused by lack of sufficient oxygen to the baby's brain during birth. A brain hemorrhage can lead to many complications, including a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and cerebral palsy. When an infant suffers an intracranial brain hemorrhage during birth, the lasting effects can have a devastating impact on both his cognitive and physical development, in addition to posing a tremendous emotional and financial strain on the family as a whole.

Typical risk factors for this type of birth injury include:

  • Cephalopelvic disproportion. This is seen when the baby's head is too large to safely pass through the mother's pelvis.
  • Prolonged Labor. This is seen when labor lasts longer than 20 hours for the first child or 16 hours for each child thereafter.
  • Macrosomia. This is seen when the baby's growth does not match his gestational age, resulting in an abnormally larger weight and body size for a typical newborn.
  • Abnormal presentation. This is seen when the baby presents himself feet first (breech) or face up instead of down (sunny-side up).

Any one of these risk factors has the potential to cause serious post-birth crises if the doctor fails to actively intervene. And although certain brain bleeds are unavoidable, those which are the result of poor medical attention should not be ignored.

Some Causes of Birth Injuries

If you suffer complications during child birth, a quick and skillful response from medical professionals is key to protecting your newborn from birth injuries. Here is a brief list of medical actions that may result in serious physical and mental repercussions for your child:

  • Improper delivery techniques. Applying too much pressure on the infant's fragile head during delivery can cause a birth injury.
  • Improper handling of the baby. Improper treatment of the baby once he has been born such as dropping, squeezing, or bumping the head can cause injuries.
  • Improper use of tools. Prolonged misuse of forceps or a suctioning vacuum to extract a baby "stuck" in the birth canal can cause injuries.

If you experienced a difficult labor, and your child has been diagnosed with an intracranial brain hemorrhage, cerebral palsy, seizures, or any other physical or intellectual limitation, contact Kennedy Hodges today for a free case consultation. Call our offices at 855-947-0707 to receive the expert advice you deserve from an experienced birth injury attorney.