Birth injuries resulting from negligent care by obstetricians, physicians or nurses are known as “obstetrical errors”. The health care professional may not have intentionally harmed the child, but, regardless, birth injuries can be catastrophic for both the infant and parents. An obstetrician is compelled to provide a certain standard of care expected of all physicians. If the care given is not within these standards, the obstetrician may be liable for obstetrical malpractice.
Statistics reveal that 7 in 1,000 births will have an incident of birth injuries. In the U.S., this means there are approximately 28,000 birth injuries per year, which equals a birth injury occurrence every 3 hours. These statistics also show a higher rate of birth injuries in private not-for-profit hospitals and hospitals with more than 300 beds. Birth injury errors are the cause of a large number of medical malpractice lawsuits.
Birth injuries usually happen during a difficulty delivery. Often the birth trauma is of a minor nature and heals without sequela within a short period of time. However, some birth injuries are permanent and cause serious impairment for the infant. Risk factors during a difficult delivery include the baby’s weight, whether the mother’s pelvic structure is adequate for vaginal delivery, prolonged labor and the baby’s position, such as a breech presentation.
Frequent types of obstetrical errors resulting in a medical malpractice case are:
- Improper insertion and monitoring of IUDS
- Failure to conduct proper physical examinations
- Failure to ascertain medical history
- Improper use of Pitocin, a hormone utilized for labor induction
- Failure to recognize and diagnose complications during the pregnancy
- Failure to recognize and respond to umbilical cord entrapment
- Failure to respond to fetal distress
- Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractor
- Failure to undertake a necessary caesarean section
Common birth injuries, which range from short-term to permanent, include:
Forceps Marks: Forceps used during delivery may leave bruising or marks on the baby’s head. These usually heal within a short period of time. Surgical evaluation may be required in situations where the forceps have caused depressed skull fractures.
Caput Succedaneum: This is a condition where the baby’s scalp severely swells, usually caused by vacuum extraction, and generally dissipates within days.
Subconjunctival Hemorrhage: One or both of the baby’s eyes will have a bright red band around the iris. A subconjunctival hemorrhage does not cause eye damage and will disappear within approximately ten days.
Cephalohematoma: This is when bleeding occurs between a bone and its fibrous covering, usually on the baby’s head. The baby may become jaundiced if the cephalohematoma is large while it gradually dissolves. Dissolution of a cephalohematoma takes approximately two weeks to three months, depending on the size.
Facial Paralysis: Forceps used during delivery can injure a baby’s facial nerves. Bruised nerves will recover within a few weeks, however, if the nerves are damaged, surgery may be necessary.
Fractured Bones:The collarbone has the highest incidence of breaking during a difficult birth.
Erb’s Palsy: Erb’s palsy is when the brachial plexus nerves, which control shoulder, arm and hand movement, are damaged. These nerves are injured when the baby’s shoulder becomes trapped behind the mother’s pelvic bone and proper maneuvers are not performed to free the baby. Residual impairment can be arm paralysis and loss of muscle control in the arms and hands. There are risk factors for shoulder entrapment which the doctor should assess during pregnancy, labor and delivery.
Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral Palsy occurs when the baby’s brain is starved of oxygen or forceps are incorrectly used during delivery. Catastrophic brain damage can occur causing permanent muscle control loss and mental impairment.
Brain Injury: Blood loss or umbilical cord entrapment causing oxygen deprivation can result in seizure disorders or mental impairment.
If you suspect your child suffered birth injuries or know someone whose child may have, it is recommended that an experienced medical malpractice attorney evaluate your claim immediately. Contact our team at 888-244-5480 today for a free consultation, and to make sure your rights are fully protected.