When families have a baby, they want their child to be healthy and happy. However, injuries can happen in the delivery room that make this impossible. Tragically, injuries occur in 6 to 8 of every 1,000 live births. These injuries can lead to life-altering or costly conditions, including broken bones, permanent nerve damage, emotional and cognitive impairment, and cerebral palsy. Even more tragically, 2 percent of all neonatal deaths are due to birth injuries.
GENETIC ISSUES & BIRTH INJURIES
All kinds of genetic issues, such as chromosomal abnormalities and single-gene defects, can cause birth defects and health issues with a newborn baby. However, in some cases, health care providers blame genetic issues for birth injuries that were actually caused by negligence during the pregnancy, labor, or delivery.
For instance, a multifactorial birth defect is due to both genetics and medications taken during pregnancy. In fact, 28 percent of babies whose mothers took the anti-seizure medication Depakote experienced birth defects and developmental delays.
NATURAL RISK FACTORS FOR BIRTH INJURY
A range of natural factors can make an infant more likely to face birth trauma.
The following conditions increase an infant’s chances of being injured during labor or delivery:
- Birth weight over 8 pounds 13 ounces
- Low birth weight
- Premature labor
- Birth after 40 weeks gestation
- Difficult or prolonged labor
- Breech presentation at the time of delivery
- Cephalopelvic distortion or abnormal uterine shape
Babies who weigh over 8 pounds 13 ounces have a higher risk of facing a birth injury related to shoulder dystocia. On the other side of the spectrum, low birth weight babies also have a heightened risk of facing certain health problems or developing infections. In fact, babies who weigh less than 3.5 pounds are 14 to 39 times more likely to face cerebral palsy than average weight babies.
Babies who are born before 37 weeks gestation are more likely to suffer a birth injury than full-term infants, but babies born after their due date also tend to face issues. This includes fetal macrosomia (overly large size), placental insufficiency (placenta fails to deliver adequate nutrients to the baby), or meconium aspiration (inhaling infant feces from the amniotic fluid).
Additionally, issues such as prolonged labor, breech presentation, and cephalopelvic disproportion (when the baby is too large for the mother’s pelvis) are also linked to birth injuries. A physician or nurse should discuss these risk factors, as well as what measures the hospital will take to compensate for them, prior to the labor and delivery.
BIRTH INJURIES RELATED TO MEDICAL INTERVENTION
In some cases, birth injuries are unavoidable, but in many cases, the tools obstetricians and midwives use lead to higher rates of injuries. In particular, birth by cesarean section (C-section) or deliveries using forceps, vacuum extraction, or internal fetal monitoring all have an increased risk of injury.
When healthcare providers use forceps or a vacuum during delivery, the baby has a five to ten times higher rate of birth trauma than a baby born by cesarean section. Forceps are used in about 1 percent of all births and of every 1,000 live births using forceps, 1.2 babies suffer seizures and 1.4 have subdural hemorrhages. In contrast, vacuum extractions are used in 2.8-6 percent of all births and of every 1,000 live births involving vacuums, 3 babies have seizures and 1.9 have subdural hemorrhages.
Finally, roughly 29 percent of births involve C-sections and when delivered at 37 to 39 weeks gestation, these infants are two- to four times more likely to have respiratory issues than usual. Additionally, of every 1,000 C-section deliveries, 10 to 20 infants face serious cuts and lacerations, 3 infants have seizures, and 1 suffers a subdural hemorrhage. Nearly half of all infants delivered by C-section have lower than usual APGAR scores.
BIRTH INJURIES RELATED TO NEGLIGENCE
Beyond using medical intervention incorrectly, all of the following situations are examples of potential medical negligence that can lead to birth injuries:
- Poor Communication – Birth injuries can result from poor communication between the physician and the hospital staff. When accurate information is not given to everyone involved in the delivery, it is more likely that someone will fail to follow the established protocol for that case. The result can lead to complications, increasing the chance of oxygen deprivation or physical trauma.
- Improper Training – Lack of proper training in the use of medical equipment is another common cause of birth injury. Doctors and nurses need to be able to read fetal monitoring equipment accurately in order to check small changes in the infant’s health during labor and delivery and staff must have complete knowledge of the steps to follow in any given scenario.
- Failure to Administer Routine Monitoring – Some doctors and clinics fail to perform an ultrasound or other routine tests prior to delivery. In some cases, this oversight stems from poor communication; other times, the necessary equipment is simply not available. A failure to perform these tests can lead doctors and nurses to fail to recognize risk factors until too late, causing delays and increasing the chance of injury.
- Not Understanding Heart Rate Monitor – Doctors and nurses are responsible for understanding and interpreting what the heart tracings on the monitor are showing. Through lack of knowledge or training, sometimes warnings signs that the baby is not getting enough oxygen during labor or other warning signs are missed. When the monitoring is done correctly, it allows the caregivers to give treatment in time to prevent any long-term injuries.
For help understanding your rights after a birth injury or other accident, call the Mellino Law Firm to schedule a free consultation. We can help you fight for the justice and compensation your family deserves.