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Common Birth Injuries: The Baby

Childbirth can be a strenuous, painful process for both mother and child. After the delivery, it’s common to see injuries and recovery times for both parties. Natural injuries are to be expected during this process, but when doctors get involved, medical injuries can occur.

Medical Malpractice During Childbirth

It may become necessary for doctors to intervene and help speed up the childbirth process. At some point, the labor may be taking too long. The mother may have exhausted herself and can no longer push. Sometimes, the baby is stuck inside the birth canal. The mother is pushing, but no progress is being made.

Long labors can put the mother or the baby at risk. If the mother already has heart issues or high blood pressure, a long labor is not healthy. The baby can experience fetal distress and start having heart rate problems of their own.

When doctors need to step in and use medical tools, they may choose a vacuum or forceps. This step is usually taken during stage two, the “pushing” phase. Both procedures require the mother’s legal consent to be performed. Unfortunately, both procedures also come with their own set of potential complications for the newborn if performed incorrectly.

Vacuums

The use of vacuums to extract babies is rare. Only about 5 in 200 – 2.5% – of babies is delivered this way. A special vacuum is applied to the baby’s head with a suction cup. The pressure locks the head onto the cup, where the doctor can then ease the baby’s head out. Once the head is exposed, the birth continues naturally, or the baby is manually pulled the rest of the way.

When performed incorrectly, vacuum suction can lead to injuries. These injuries range from minor malformities that go away on their own to serious damage that requires surgical attention.

Forceps

Forceps are a kind of clamp that closes around the baby’s head to help guide them out of the birth canal. They look and sound frightening, but when used properly, they are very gentle and effective. There should be no injuries to the baby when artificial extraction becomes necessary. However, accidents and complications happen.

Poor use of both vacuums and forceps has similar, damaging effects on an infant. Below is a list of common injuries that can be caused by either method.

Head Injury

By placing the vacuum directly onto the baby’s head, there is always risk of damage to the skull. The same is true for forceps, which wrap around the skull. Sometimes this injury presents itself in hard patches around the baby’s soft spots, other times it can lead to bleeding in or around the brain. In cases where brain bleeding causes symptoms, the baby can be sluggish, have trouble eating, or even have seizures. Permanent brain damage can happen when a medical extraction goes very wrong.

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Premature babies are the most susceptible to bleeding around the brain, but it can happen to full-term babies as well. This bleeding takes place below the two membranes that surround the brain.

Babies with this condition have a hard time during the first few days of birth. Symptoms include trouble breathing or having seizures. They will need extra care to develop well. This care will take time and money. Paying for more doctor visits and procedures puts a strain on new parents. As a result, they may be entitled to compensation for the injuries inflected on their babies.

Epidural Hematoma

Epidural hematoma happens between the tissue surrounding the brain and the skull. A skull fracture sustained during birth may cause this issue. It can cause pressure in the brain, making the soft spots on a baby’s head protrude. Like a subarachnoid hemorrhage, the baby may have breathing problems and seizures. Treating these problems will cause medical bills to pile up. Parents may seek damages when the delivery has harmed their little one.

Nerve Injury

Vacuums applied too forcefully can stretch the baby’s nerves. Located between the neck and shoulder, the brachial plexus is a group of nerves controlling the arms and hands. A poorly performed vacuum extraction, usually involving a large baby, may cause damage to this area, which affects arm movement. Treated properly, usually by keeping movement limited, it can go away on its own. When it leads to permanent damage or requires extra care, doctors can be held liable for the injury.

Forceps may cause bruising and nerve damage to the face. During the birthing process, a baby’s facial nerves can get pressed against the mother’s body or forceps. When this happens, nerve damage will cause part of the baby’s face to become immobile or lopsided. This kind of nerve damage is fairly common and should go away within a few months. In extreme situations, mishandling of forceps can cause serious damage to the brain or cerebral palsy. A lawyer is helpful when parents are going to need long-term care for their injured baby.

Bone Injury

When guiding the baby out with medical tools, it’s possible to bump them up against hard parts of the mother, causing injury. A clavicle – or collarbone – fracture is the most common bone fracture for babies during childbirth. The canal can press up against the bone during the strain of birth, causing the injury. While this is technically an injury, there doesn’t appear to be much discomfort for the baby. Also, it almost always heals itself with no treatment.

Leg or arm bones may be fractured, and they are treated with splints. Shoulder damage may occur if, during the extraction, the baby is caught while its head is exposed.

Baby’s bodies are good at bouncing back and healing themselves. Even so, the extra care required to treat bone injuries costs time and money. If these bone injuries are the result of medical malpractice, or if they lead to long-term problems, it may be necessary to hold doctors accountable for damages.

Neonatal Jaundice

Medical extraction sometimes leads to jaundice in the infant, where their skin takes on a yellowing complexion. Jaundiced babies can suffer from seizures, cerebral palsy, or kernicterus, a serious brain disorder.

While most of a baby’s birth injuries aren’t serious and go away on their own, malpractice in the hospital can lead to expensive, life-long issues. When this happens, it’s time to find a good lawyer who will fight for the rights and long-term health of your child.

If your baby was injured due to medical malpractice, we want to help. There is no risk involved, and consultations are free. Call today at (850) 764-0383 or contact us online.

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