Medical negligence and medical malpractice are responsible for most birth-related injuries. Either can occur when a doctor or other healthcare provider does not meet their duty of care for an expecting mother or her fetus before birth or in the delivery room. There are primarily three forms of birthing-related negligence;
- Negligent Prenatal Care: During pregnancy, many of the most typical birth injuries to mothers and fetuses can be traced to drug interactions or the failure of the mother’s OBGYN to appropriately monitor the mother and the child.
- Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose: When the delivery doctor or a member of the birthing team fails to detect a potentially harmful condition, or improperly performed a procedure during the delivery. (Victims can be the baby, mother, or both.)
- Labor and Delivery Negligence: In some instances, a doctor, healthcare provider, or birthing team member misused instruments or did not properly monitor the vital signs of mother or baby, causing a needless and foreseeable injury to the baby or mother. In other instances, a monitoring device may have malfunctioned, leading to a birthing injury to either the mother or the baby.
Some Typical Birth Injuries:
- Brain-related birth injuries often develop from oxygen deprivation, such as anoxia, hypoxia, birth asphyxia, and perinatal asphyxia. The leading traumatic oxygen-deprivation brain-related injury is cerebral palsy (CP). It can develop after maternal infections, oxygen deprivation during delivery, infant stroke, or infant infection. In many cases, it is later determined that CP could have been prevented through proper protocol and appropriate care.
- Muscle-related injuries: These may accompany other signs of medical malpractice, such as lacerations, bruises, or broken bones. They are typically caused by misuse of instruments like delivery forceps or cranial clamps. This can produce physical birth injuries such as skull fractures or cephalohematoma – the bruising of the area between the brain and the outer layers of skin. Common muscle-related and physical injuries include the following:
- Brachial Plexus occurs when the upper extremity of the arm is injured, usually during delivery. Symptoms include arm weakness and the inability to use certain muscles. The shoulder and hands may also be affected. Electrical-type shocks and burning sensations down the affected arm are also common symptoms.
- Erb’s Palsy is a type of brachial plexus which affect nerves of the upper arm after a birth injury. Infants with Erb’s palsy may experience the loss of feeling and weakness in the affected arm and, in some cases, total paralysis.
- Klumpke’s Palsy is another form of brachial plexus, but primarily affects the lower nerves in the arm (usually wrists and fingers). Often, an infant with Klumpke’s palsy experiences total paralysis in the affected area, and their hand typically takes on a permanent, claw-like shape.
- Shoulder Dystocia occurs when an infant’s head and shoulders become trapped behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. Though this condition occurs in only 0.3% to 1% of all vaginal deliveries, shoulder dystocia’s complications can be severe. In addition to the mother being at risk for hemorrhaging or uterine rupture, the baby may experience a collarbone fracture, a brachial plexus fracture, breathing difficulties, and possibly even cerebral palsy if the brain becomes oxygen-starved due to the baby’s head being wedged in the birth canal for an extended period of time.
Prenatal Injuries and Those That Can Happen to the Mother
Sometimes, a birth injury occurs through passage from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy. When this is not properly detected or treated, the physician may be guilty of medical malpractice. Though most of these afflictions are transferred from mother to child during the delivery, the conditions for transference are typically created during pregnancy. Such injuries include:
- Group B strep infection
- Folic acid deficiency
- Spina bifida
Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
PPHN occurs when the process for delivering oxygen to a fetus becomes restricted. This can lead to rapid heartbeats, cyanosis, heart murmurs, and more due to intrauterine hypoxia. PPHN’s causes are mostly traced back to medical negligence. Doctor-prescribed medications such as Zoloft, Celexa, and Paxil have increased blood pressure, placing unnecessary stress on the fetus during pregnancy. Other causes of PPHN include failure to treat maternal infections, failure to detect and prevent infant asphyxia, and, on occasion, performing an unnecessary C-section.
Birthing injuries which occur to the mother during delivery are usually caused by ripping, tearing, and disfigurement when the baby passes through the birth canal. On their own, these injuries are not always a result of medical negligence. But vaginal injuries due to improper diagnosis or treatment can have life-long effects on the mother’s ability to bear more children or to have normal intimate relations.
Whether there were complications during your pregnancy or trauma to you or your child during delivery, those injuries may have been preventable. The birth injury lawyers at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law want to help. If you and/or your child have experienced one of the above conditions, a preventable birth injury may be the cause. Call our Houston birth injury lawyers at Terry Bryant today at 1 (800) 444-5000 or complete the online form to arrange a free initial consultation.