Having a child is the most wonderful thing in the world. Sometimes that moment is ruined, however, by the negligence or malpractice of a doctor, nurse or other health care provider. What begins as a routine pregnancy or delivery may turn into a lifetime of struggle for a child and his parents. Injuries caused to a baby during pregnancy, delivery or shortly thereafter, can devastate an entire family. Someone else’s negligence can turn your joy into depression and your celebration into fear of what lies ahead.
During this emotional time, you may want to consult with someone experienced to help make decisions on how to proceed and to determine who is responsible for the injury to your baby. The childbirth injury attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt have successfully helped families like yours to navigate the complex world of medical malpractice and negligence. We have the experts and knowledge you need to help secure compensation and damages from the professionals responsible for injuring your child.
What is a Birth Injury?
Babies occasionally suffer a physical injury just by the ordinary process of labor and delivery. When a healthy baby is injured during delivery, this is called a birth trauma or birth injury. A rough or long labor, having a large baby or the baby’s position during labor can contribute to a birth injury. The size and shape of the mother and prematurity of the baby can also increase the risk of injury to a newborn. Injuries such as trauma to the brain, lack of oxygen to the brain, severe infection, deprivation of oxygen to internal organs, bruising, nerve injury, and fractured bones happen to otherwise healthy babies. Sometimes these injuries are avoidable.
Birth injuries include brain and head injuries, nerve damage, breathing problems, blood infections and bone injuries. Here are some of the most common or severe birth injuries:
Erb’s Palsy or Brachial Plexus Injury. All of the arm’s nerves are connected in a group near the neck, called the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus nerves are responsible for feeling and motion in the hand, fingers and arms. Erb’s palsy and brachial palsy are characterized by arm paralysis or weakness. According to brainandspinalcord.org, the brachial nerves can be injured if the baby’s neck and head are drawn to the side when the shoulders exit the birth canal. Pulling excessively on the shoulders as the baby comes out can also lead to a brachial nerve injury. During a breech birth (feet first), the arms are usually raised and may be injured from excess pressure.
Shoulder Dystocia. This occurs when the baby’s shoulder sticks in the birth canal. After delivery of the baby’s head, the rear shoulder wedges behind the mother’s pubic bone. Shoulder dystocia is likely to cause injury to the brachial plexus. An injured brachial plexus causes impaired movement of the arm. If the nerves tear, an injury to the baby may be permanent.
Brain damage, Hypoxia or Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). – Any time the brain does not receive oxygen, it is called hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Hypoxia means insufficiently oxygenated blood. After 4 minutes with no oxygen, brain cells can begin dying. There are many causes of HIE that are particular to childbirth. A trauma to the baby’s head, asphyxiation from an umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck, or a torn placenta are just some of the medical conditions that can cause HIE in an infant. Depending on the length of time a baby is without oxygen, symptoms can range from mild learning disabilities to cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and severe motor and cognitive impairment. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy from fetal or neonatal asphyxia is a leading cause of death or severe impairment among infants according to cerebralpalsy.org.
Cerebral Palsy. This birth injury is caused by brain damage. Cerebral palsy affects body movement, muscle control, coordination and tone, reflex, and posture and balance. It can also affect fine and gross motor skills and speech. The brain damage that causes cerebral palsy stems from a trauma to the brain or abnormal development of the brain that occurs while the child’s brain is still developing. This damage may occurbe before, during, or immediately after birth. Complications during labor and delivery can cause cerebral palsy.
Umbilical Cord Prolapse. Cord prolapse is a complication that occurs before to or during delivery of the baby. In a prolapse, the umbilical cord drops through the open cervix in front of the baby. The cord then becomes trapped against the baby’s body during delivery. During delivery, the baby can put stress on the cord that can lead to a loss of oxygen to the baby. The loss of oxygen can result in brain damage or even death. A nuchal cord, or cord wrapped around the baby’s neck can also cause complications and injury.
Caput Succedaneum. Sometimes a baby can develop scalp swelling as he travels down the birth canal. The swelling can cause bruising, but can disappear quickly and without incident. Babies delivered with the help of vacuum suction are more likely to have this condition.
Cephalohematoma. Cephalohematoma is an area of bleeding underneath one of the cranial bones. It often appears as a lump on your baby’s head several hours after birth. Typically, over time, the body reabsorbs the blood.
Bruising. A baby may develop bruising on the face or head from contact with the mother’s pelvic bones and tissues. Forceps used with delivery can leave temporary marks or bruises on the baby’s face and head. Babies delivered by vacuum extraction may have some scalp bruising or cuts.
Sub-Conjunctival Hemorrhage. This is the breakage of small blood vessels in the baby’s eye and creates a red band in the whites. This is quite common and does not cause permanent damage. The redness usually disappears within a few days.
Facial Paralysis. During labor or birth, pressure on the baby’s face may cause the facial nerves to be injured. The use of forceps can also cause facial paralysis in a newborn. When paralysis happens, there is no movement on one side of the face, and that eye cannot close. If there is a bruised nerve, the paralysis usually improves in a few weeks. If there is a torn nerve, surgery may be required to repair the damage.
Fractures. The most common fracture that occurs during labor and delivery is of the collarbone or clavicle. Difficulty delivering the baby’s shoulder (dystocia) or delivering a breech baby may cause the bone to break. These fractures often heal quickly.
Group B strep and other infections. When a woman carries a group B strep infection, which her doctor should test her for during pregnancy, she may pass it on to her newborn during labor and delivery. A newborn baby that contracts Group B strep can become critically ill. A baby may show symptoms immediately or up to a few months after birth. If your baby tests positive for group B strep, he or she will be given intravenous IV antibiotics to help fight the bacteria. In some cases, IV fluids, oxygen or other medications, may be needed as well.
Neonatal Sepsis. A newborn baby can develop sepsis or blood infection from the herpes virus, listeria and E-coli if passed from the mother during labor. Symptoms of sepsis in newborns include:-bBody temperature changes, breathing problems, diarrhea or bowel disruptions, reduced movement, reduced sucking seizures, swelling, vomiting and jaundice.
Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH). IVH in a newborn is when there is bleeding into the fluid-filled areas of the brain (ventricles). IVH occurs most often in premature babies and babies that have other medical problems at birth. There is no way to stop this type of bleeding though doctors can use transfusions and shunts to try to minimize damage. How well the baby does depends on the severity of the bleeding and swelling in each case. IVH often leads to developmental delays and disabilities and up to 1 in 5 babies with severe bleeding may die.
Premature Birth. A baby is premature when they are born too soon-before 37 weeks. According to the March of Dimes, 1 in 9 babies in the United States, is born prematurely. Prematurity can cause problems for babies and their families throughout their lives and include neurological and behavioral problems. Premature babies are at risk for certain intestinal illnesses, asthma, and vision problems. Some of these problems may not show up for several years, even into adulthood. Preventing premature birth can help babies lead longer, healthier lives.
Medication injuries. Medication prescribed to the mother can cause injury to a fetus. Certain medications can harm the fetus directly. Others may cause damage to the placenta that, in turn, hurts the baby. Medication can also cause premature labor and the risks associated with a preterm delivery.
Did Medical Malpractice or Negligence Cause Injury to Your Baby?
Any injury caused to your baby during labor and delivery should be investigated to make sure that your child is not permanently debilitated. Some birth injuries can be avoided. Injuries to your otherwise healthy newborn may be from negligence or medical malpractice. Your obstetrician, nurse midwife, family practitioner, nurse, nurse practitioner, paramedic, anesthesiologist, pediatrician, delivery doctor, or neonatologist may be responsible for your baby’s injuries.
There are several ways that negligence or malpractice can play a role in causing injury to your baby. The following checklist will help you determine if this occurred.Did anyone improperly or completely fail to:
- Respond efficiently to a fetal monitor strip or baby monitor?
- Control high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, or seizures in the mother?
- Stop a premature labor?
- Treat an infection or administer appropriate antibiotics?
- Give oxygen to the mother during labor when needed?
- Reposition the mother during labor?
- Use forceps or a vacuum to help with delivery?
- Treat a shoulder dystocia to prevent Erb’s palsy?
- Administer medication?
- Recognize or treat a placental tear?
- Diagnose and treat a compressed or trapped cord?
- Relieve pressure from a prolapsed umbilical cord?
- Delay in performing a cesarean section?
- Allow the mother to be in labor too long?
- Respond to fetal distress?
- Respond to increased bleeding or hemorrhage?
When a doctor delays in performing a C-section, neglects to detect an umbilical cord around your baby’s neck or fails to respond quickly to fetal distress of any kind, your newborn may be deprived of badly needed oxygen. These are called asphyxia birth injuries. Deprivation of oxygen can cause serious loss of brain function in newborns and include cerebral palsy and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Traumatic brain injury can also cause bleeding. Any injury from lack of oxygen or brain trauma can cause lifelong developmental delays and disabilities, physical impairments and even death.
Contact an Alabama Childbirth Injury Lawyer
If your baby is injured during or after labor and delivery, you need to find out why. The joy of having a child should not be obscured by questions about what went wrong. Contact our attorneys at Farris, Riley & Pitt for help. We are familiar with the Alabama laws that pertain to birth injuries and can help determine who is responsible for your newborn’s injury. We have experience navigating the world of medical malpractice and have experts who are familiar with the language of doctors, hospitals and insurance companies.
The childbirth injury attorneys at Farris, Riley and Pitt, can help those in Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham and other areas get compensated for your child’s injuries. Caring for a disabled child can cost a fortune, and while no amount of money can make you whole, you may be able to get monetary damages for medical costs, pain and suffering and emotional distress. It will help you provide the support your child will need in life.