Medical Malpractice and Birth Injuries

Every birth has a chance of causing a birth injury due to complications during the labor and delivery of the baby. The severity of injuries can start as something minor such as minor bruising and can range all the way to nerve or brain damage. Most cases of birth injuries are not caused by medical malpractice. Factors that cause a greater chance of a birth injury to occur includes the baby’s size, the size and shape of the mother’s pelvis, prolonged labor or having a ‘breech birth’ in which the baby is born bottom or legs first. It has been learned that complications in a prior birth, may signify possible complications in future births as well.

As mentioned earlier, most birth injuries are not caused by medical malpractice, but do you know what constitutes as medical malpractice in these situations. In order for medical malpractice to be filed, you will need to show that medical error caused the birth injury. The following should be considered when accessing a case for medical malpractice:

  • failing to anticipate birth complications when signs are shown
  • failure to respond appropriately to bleeding during the birth
  • failing to observe or respond to umbilical cord issues
  • failure to respond to fetal distress
  • delay in ordering C-Section when it is know that one will be medically necessary
  • misuse of forceps or vacuum during delivery
  • and inappropriate use of Pitocin, the synthesized hormone used to induce and speed up labor

Also consider the care of the baby after the delivery as issues during circumcision and failing to attend to infection or other issues can cause injury as well.
Common injuries that could be caused by the above issues can include:

  • Bruising and forceps marks on the face or head. This type of injury should be temporary, but in extreme cases may require surgical elevation due to depressed skull fractures.
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage is a common injury in which a bright red band appears around the iris of the baby’s eyes. It does not require medical care to correct itself.
  • Cephalohematoma occurs when there is bleeding between the bones and there fibrous covering. A baby may turn jaundiced if the injury is large due to red blood cells breaking down.
  • Facial paralysis will need surgical repair in cases with severe nerve damage.
  • Brachial Palsy injuries can occur when the group of nerves that controls movement in arms and hands is injured during passage through the birth canal. Severe cases may cause permanent damage and require both physical therapy and surgery.
  • Brain injuries can occur when the baby is deprived of oxygen through due to blood loss or issues with the umbilical cord. Brain injuries during birth commonly cause seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, or mental impairment.