What you should know about childbirth injuries

The birth of a new baby should be an exciting time for the expectant parents. As long as everything goes as planned, that is usually the case. But every year, thousands of newborns suffer injuries during the course of the birth.

These birth injuries can range in type and severity – some temporary with little to no lasting impact, others far more serious and resulting in a lifelong health concern. In some cases, the injury may even be the result of doctor negligence.

Types of birth injuries

There are many different types of birth injuries. Some newborns bruise as a result of passing through the birth canal, or from the use of forceps to aid in the delivery. Other babies may suffer a broken bone – often a clavicle – during the birthing process. Sometimes temporary facial paralysis occurs due to pressure on the nerves.

Many of those injuries listed above may clear up. There are other serious complications that can occur, including:

  • Nerve damage that requires surgery
  • Infections
  • Paralysis
  • Brain injuries (such as cerebral palsy) due to lack of oxygen
  • Meconium aspiration syndrome
  • Skull fractures

A number of factors can make birth injuries more likely. Large babies, or babies born premature, may be more susceptible to injury. The size and shape of a mother’s pelvis or an abnormal birthing presentation can also lead to issues. But in some cases, a birth injury may be the result of a doctor’s error.

When a birth injury is medical malpractice

A birth that doesn’t go perfectly does not, in and of itself, constitute medical malpractice. In order for something to be considered medical malpractice, at least two key elements need to be true.

One, the doctor needs to have violated what is referred to as the “standard of care.” Basically, it’s a term that refers to what a minimally competent doctor with the same resources would have done in the same situation. Two, the doctor’s failure to meet the standard of care ultimately harmed the patient.

During a birth, this may include a doctor missing clear signs that a baby isn’t getting enough oxygen and not taking action, resulting in brain damage to the child. Or it could be misuse of an instrument that injures a newborn and necessitates further surgery.

One mistake can lead to years of pain, difficulty and expensive health care. While the hope is that this never happens, unfortunately, there are parents and children for whom this is the reality.

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