What are the Most Common Birth Injuries?
Every parent hopes for a healthy baby. With so many medical advancements, it can be easy to assume that a baby will be born safely with minimal complications. However, many parents find that this isn’t realistic. Birth injuries occur in as many as six to eight babies in every 1,000 births. Having a birth injury can affect a child for the rest of their life and the impact can have heartbreaking effects on their families. Although some birth injuries are unavoidable, they are often caused by a medical professional’s negligence.
There are a wide variety of birth injuries that children might suffer from. The severity of them can be different in each child as well. These are ten of the most common birth injuries:
1. Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is the most common developmental disorder in children. Cerebral palsy is most often caused by a baby suffering from a brain injury. Injury to a baby’s brain can be something out of the control of the medical professionals involved, but these injuries may also be caused by negligence. There are a variety of different types of cerebral palsy, but many of them have similar symptoms. Most often, this affects a child’s or adult’s balance and control of their muscles. Cerebral palsy may also lead to additional health conditions. Treatments are available, but currently there is no cure for any form of cerebral palsy.
2. Facial Paralysis
Facial paralysis causes a baby to lose control over part or all of their facial movements. This is caused when there is too much pressure on a baby’s face during the time of their delivery. This injury occurs most frequently when vacuums and forceps are used to deliver a baby. If a baby has facial paralysis, they may not be able to move one side of their face, often including their eyelid. Facial paralysis may resolve itself in a few months, but it can sometimes be more long term depending on the severity and type of paralysis.
A baby’s bones are more fragile and at greater risk of being broken than an adult’s bones, making bone fractures a common birth injury. Collar bone fractures are among the types of fractures that occur most often. Treatment for fractures in babies typically involves bandaging and securing the area to prevent it from moving too much. Fractures usually heal on their own over time, but it’s important to find the cause of the injury and to rule out medical negligence.
4. Brachial Plexus Palsy
Babies lose the ability to move their arm and hand on one side of their body when they suffer from brachial plexus palsy, a birth injury caused when the brachial plexus nerve is damaged. Brachial plexus palsy occurs in difficult pregnancies when a baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone during birth. Depending on the severity of the nerve damage, brachial plexus palsy may go away on its own, but in some cases children may never regain movement of their arm, hand, and shoulder.
5. Subconjunctival Hemorrhages
During difficult deliveries, subconjunctival hemorrhages can occur. When this happens, a blood vessel in the eye bursts and causes blood to spread throughout the white area of the baby’s eye. Subconjunctival hemorrhages typically clear up on their own with a few weeks and leave no lasting damage. In rare, extreme cases, there could be permanent damage to the baby’s eye.
6. Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are among the most serious birth injuries. Injuries to the spinal cord include bruising, partial tears, and complete tears most often near the neck and upper to mid-back. These injuries can be caused during stressful deliveries, deliveries when the baby is in an abnormal position, or deliveries with improper use of forceps. Many of the symptoms of spinal cord injuries in infants are difficult to notice immediately. Spinal cord injuries affect children for the rest of their lives and cause permanent paralysis, as well as cause problems related to eating, breathing, and digestion.
7. Perinatal Asphyxia
Babies who suffer from perinatal asphyxia are not able to get enough oxygen due to breathing issues before, during, or after their birth. This can be caused by insufficient blood flow, as well as if a baby suffers from an oxygen deficiency in their blood. When babies with perinatal asphyxia are born, they are often quiet and limp. This condition can cause babies to have seizures and go into shock. Perinatal asphyxia doesn’t always cause long term damage, but if a baby goes too long without breathing the child could suffer from long term brain damage.
8. Caput Succedaneum
Caput succedaneum is defined as swelling in the baby’s scalp. This is often caused when a delivery is especially difficult or when vacuums are used during the delivery. Caput succedaneum can occur before labor begins and can be detected by ultrasound. This generally doesn’t require any treatment and can clear up within a few days with no lasting effects.
Babies who suffer from cephalohematoma develop bleeding in the cranium or under the scalp hours after they’re born. A bump may often be seen on their scalp soon after the birth that may get larger over several hours. Babies who are delivered with the use of forceps are more at risk of cephalohematoma. This typically heals on its own, but in some more severe cases, doctors may need to drain the excess blood. Cephalohematoma may lead to other conditions such as jaundice and anemia so it is important to monitor just as you would other potential birth injuries.
10. Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s palsy is the most common type of brachial plexus palsy and is caused by damage to the upper group of the arm’s main nerves, specifically the severing of the upper trunk C5–C6 nerves. Like other types of brachial plexus palsy, this affects a child’s ability to move their shoulder, arm, and hand on one side of their body. Treatments are available for Erb’s palsy and some children may regain control of their arm, although it may remain slightly weaker.
If you suspect that your child has suffered from any of the birth injuries above that could have been caused by medical negligence, please fill out the form below.