Birth trauma is defined as organ or tissue damage to a newborn child caused by physical pressure or other injuries during labor. Damage may be permanent or temporary, and is usually associated with nerve or brain injury. Medical experts make a crucial distinction between birth injury and birth trauma. A birth injury refers to all systemic damages incurred during delivery, including hemorrhaging, infections, hypoxia, and the displacement of bones. Birth trauma on the other hand focuses on the enduring side effects of those injuries, including developmental difficulties experienced in later life.
For nearly 50 years, the law firm of Eisbrouch Marsh has pursued justice on behalf of the children and families whose lives have been impacted by birth injuries of this magnitude. In our experience, these injuries are too often the result of medical negligence that could likely have been avoided had attending healthcare providers acted according to proper medical standards. We believe that those who cause the harm are liable to the families who must live with the outcome of their mistakes. And it is our mission as birth injury lawyers to see that they are properly compensated for their terrible ordeal.
Birth trauma risk factors
Every birth presents its own special considerations to be managed by the team of healthcare providers chosen by the mother including her obstetrician, general practitioner, midwife, and other qualified care givers from gestation through birth. Yet, no matter how much planning goes into the prenatal care, any number of factors may serve to complicate the actual delivery. Competent medical providers however should be able to handle such factors in stride in the normal course of childbirth.
Risk factors for birth trauma include:
- The baby is unusually large
- A long and complicated labor
- The pregnancy has gone beyond full term
- An epidural is used
- Pitocin is administered to initiate stronger contractions
- Breech presentation
- Forceps or vacuums are used for extraction
Common types of birth trauma
In the latest International Classification of Diseases, birth trauma encompasses 49 individual codes.
Some of the most common types of birth trauma are:
- Head Trauma: This can occur during a difficult delivery, and may result in caput succedaneum, cephalohematoma, epidural hemorrhage and other bleeding events.
- Cerebral Palsy: A permanent neurological disorder, cerebral palsy is characterized by abnormal control of movement and posture. The most common cause of birth trauma-related cerebral palsy is hypoxia – a lack of oxygen to the fetal brain that results in irreparable brain damage. When this occurs in full term babies, the newborn will have a severe pH abnormality and neurologic abnormalities that present shortly after birth.
- Perinatal Asphyxia: This condition describes hypoxia that occurs long enough to cause harm. It can arise as a result of sudden drops in the mother’s blood pressure or interference with the infant’s blood flow during delivery.
- Erb’s Palsy: Erb’s Palsy can occur as a result of a difficult labor. It often manifests as paralysis in the arm caused by injury to the brachial plexus nerve system. This may be due to the infant’s head or neck being pulled to the side while the shoulders pass through the birth canal. During a normal vaginal delivery, excessive pulling on the shoulders may result in Erb’s Palsy. During a breech delivery, pressure applied to the raised arms can also lead to the condition.
- Brachial Plexus Palsy: Around one in every 2,000 children suffers a brachial plexus injury during birth. It may be caused by shoulder trauma or inflammation, and is most common after severe stretching of the shoulder during delivery. Forceps, vacuums and other medical instruments may cause brachial plexus injuries.
- Meconium Aspiration Syndrome: Meconium aspiration syndrome is a leading cause of severe illness and death in newborns. Meconium is the medical term for a mixture of amniotic fluid and the baby’s first stool. The condition occurs when the newborn inhales the mixture during birth, typically during a stressed labor. The risk is higher in larger infants and those that have passed their due date.
Minimizing traumatic birth risks
Medical mistakes made before, during or shortly after labor can result in enduring health problems for the baby. Victims of birth trauma often require lifelong care. If appropriate, a medical malpractice lawsuit can help victims cover the costs of this care. A birth trauma lawyer will offer advice on the best approach to pursuing compensation in the event of doctor or hospital negligence.
Ideally, birth trauma will never occur in the first place. There are a few steps to take in the months leading up to childbirth that can reduce the risk of traumatic births.
Mothers should be sure to:
- Start prenatal care early in the pregnancy
- Choose a well-regarded, qualified obstetrician
- Follow all advice from their doctor regarding diet and supplements
- Immediately consult the doctor in the event of sickness
- Consult the doctor before taking medications they have not prescribed
- Register with the hospital well before the due date to avoid filling out paperwork during labor
Upon arrival at the hospital, it’s sensible to ask a nurse to explain the protocols and demonstrate how fetal monitoring devices and other medical equipment works. If you spot any problems, or feel something isn’t right, alert a doctor or other health care provider. The quicker they can react, the less chance there is of a preventable trauma to the baby.
Birth trauma attorneys
Any type of birth trauma is an emotional, daunting experience for parents. If you have a child who has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or has suffered any kind of birth trauma as a result of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation. Note that malpractice cases are governed by statutes of limitation, so it’s wise to get the legal process started as soon as possible.
Contact a birth trauma attorney at Eisbrouch Marsh for a free case evaluation. Legal fees are contingent on winning or settling the case, so there are upfront costs to you.
- Medline Plus, Facial nerve palsy due to birth trauma, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001425.htm
- Medscape, Birth Trauma, http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/980112-overview
- Mayo Clinic, Brachial Plexus Injury, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/brachial-plexus-injury/DS00897
- Medline Plus, Meconium aspiration syndrome, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001596.htm
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Erb's Palsy, http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00077
- Johns Hopkins Children Center, Perinatal Asphyxia, http://www.hopkinschildrens.org/perinatal-asphyxia.aspx