Unfortunately, some birth injuries occur despite the best care. Others occur because signs and symptoms were missed prenatally or the delivery staff failed to respond promptly to signs of a difficult delivery. No parent can know with certainty whether a birth injury was preventable without expert guidance.
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Birth Injury Statistics
Approximately 87,000 babies are born each year in Indiana hospitals and birthing centers. Most deliveries are a cause for celebration. But sometimes a baby may suffer a serious birth injury during delivery or as a result of negligent prenatal care. New parents who have experienced the trauma of a birth injury may wonder what they could have done to prevent the injury and whether the doctor or delivery team was at fault.
Common Types of Birth Injuries
- Bone Fractures
When a delivery becomes complicated or difficult, the doctor may use forceps or other birth-assisting tools to help get the baby out. Although these tools have been common practice in delivery rooms for years, it is not uncommon for mothers and their newborns to sustain an injury from their use. Newborns are most likely to suffer broken collarbones or similar injuries. Bone fractures during delivery will generally heal on their own with proper treatment and care.
- Brachial Plexus Injury (BPI)
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, brachial plexus injury (BPI) is a term used to describe a series of conditions affecting the brachial plexus nerve network in the upper limbs. The majority of BPIs are caused as a result of trauma such as shoulder dystocia which can occur during the delivery process. If a baby’s shoulder becomes stuck or lodged on the mother’s pubic bone (shoulder dystocia) it may lead to the brachial plexus nerves being stretched, torn, compressed, or separated during delivery.
Damage to the brachial plexus can cause a loss of feeling or motion in the child’s neck, shoulder, arm or hand. In some instances, this injury might lead to permanent paralysis.
- Caput Succedaneum
When too much pressure is applied to the top of a baby’s head during a difficult or long delivery, it may cause bruising, discoloration, swelling or a lump on the scalp. This condition is known as Caput Succedaneum. Although it may cause temporary discomfort to the child, Caput Succedaneum is not generally life-threatening. However, in certain circumstances, it can lead to further health issues or complications.
Cephalohematoma is a medical condition which can develop after a delivery in which birth-assisting tools were used or trauma was sustained. While not considered by doctors to be serious, this condition does involve damaged blood vessels and the pooling of blood between the inner layers of the baby’s skin and his or her skull. The child may also be at an increased risk of developing jaundice.
- Cerebral Palsy
Facial paralysis may occur during delivery as a result of trauma. The nerve damage sustained can be either temporary or permanent, and symptoms are generally seen when the baby cries. Facial paralysis involves an inhibited ability or lack of control over facial muscles. In many cases, the child will regain mobility over time.
- Intracranial or Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
An intracranial hemorrhage is a life-threatening condition caused by bleeding inside the skull. This type of hemorrhage is commonly broken down into the subarachnoid hemorrhage, which involves bleeding between the brain and the tissue covering the brain, and the intracerebral hemorrhage caused by bleeding on the brain. Hemorrhages can be caused when excessive pressure is applied or other injury is sustained before, during or shortly after birth.
- Perinatal Asphyxia
Babies who do not receive sufficient oxygen, either as a result of an oxygen deficiency in the blood or an insufficient flow to blood to the fetus or newborn, can develop Perinatal Asphyxia. This condition can cause breathing difficulties, a pale complexion, seizures, shock or put the baby in a coma. In some instances, it will resolve on its own; however this birth injury is capable of leaving a child with permanent neurological damage.
- Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are one of the most severe birth injuries caused by traumatic damage to the spinal nerves, cord or as a result of meningeal tears. Spinal cord injuries are generally suffering in difficult or complex deliveries in which forceps or other birth-assisting tools were used. Injuries to the spinal cord can cause temporary or permanent paralysis and significant neurological problems.
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