Learning after challenging labor and delivery that your newborn has a birth injury can be overwhelming, leaving families angered, saddened, and confused over something that went wrong. Having unanswered questions is expected in understanding why your baby was injured and if it could have been prevented.
Did your baby suffer a birth injury, or were they diagnosed with a congenital disability? Do you need a legal advocate to find out what went wrong? Contact our birth injury attorneys today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or through the contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Here, our attorneys have compiled some birth injury statistics to give you a sense of how pervasive this issue is and help put these injuries in context.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there are over 3.7 million births in the U.S. every year. Approximately 8.3% of all births result in low birth weight, where a newborn weighs less than 5.5 pounds.
Over 10% of all births are pre-term, meaning childbirth occurs before the thirty-seventh week of gestation
Approximately 21,000 infants die every year, including 558.3 deaths for every 100,000 live births.
The leading causes of infant death include unintentional injuries (accidents), low birth weight, short gestation, chromosomal abnormalities, deformations, and congenital defects and malformations
What are Birth Injuries?
According to the Merck Manual , a brain injury involves damage “that occurs as a result of physical pressure during the birthing process, usually during transit to the birth canal.” Statistically, many babies suffer a minor injury during the birthing process, where broken bones and damage to the nervous system occur infrequently.
Difficult childbirth, especially birthing extremely large fetuses, runs the risk of injuring the baby. Most birth injuries are the result of the natural forces occurring during the labor and delivery process.
Some doctors use surgical instruments (forceps) around the fetus’s head to extract the child from the birth canal. This procedure can cause significant injury. The most common types of birth injuries from natural birth include:
- Birth Asphyxia
- Brain Swelling or Hemorrhaging (Bleeding)
- Cerebral Palsy
- Erb’s palsy (also known as Brachial Plexus Palsy)
- Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) or Hypoxia
- Skull Fractures or Bone Fractures
- Another Birth Injury
Cerebral Palsy Statistics
The Cerebral Palsy Foundation  statistics reveal that approximately three out of every 1000 newborns suffer cerebral palsy (CP), typically caused by the use of birthing tools (medical malpractice). The delivery-related condition typically affects the muscle-control area of the brain (cerebral), leading to weakness (palsy).
Cerebral palsy is often the result of a birthing mistake in the delivery room, leading to the baby’s brain abnormally developing. Severe forms of CP may affect the baby’s ability to control their movement, coordination, posture, reflexes, mobility, basic motor skills, and balance.
Some children with cerebral palsy struggle with the ability to hear, see or speak. While the condition is often not life-threatening, children with CP typically have a shorter lifespan between 30 and 70 years on average. Other cerebral palsy statistics include:
- Cerebral palsy remains the most typical physical childhood disability in the United States
- More than 17 million individuals worldwide have CP, with most cases involving medical malpractice
- Low birthweight (less than 5.5 pounds) increases the child’s chances of acquiring CP
- Approximately 50% of all individuals with CP experience chronic pain
- Nearly 33% of individuals with CP cannot walk without assistance
- About 20% of all children with CP lack the ability to speak
- More than 20% of children with CP live with chronic sleep disorders
- Displays of CP and children six months or younger might include stiff body/muscles, underdeveloped neck muscles, sister, cross, or stiff legs, and overextension of the baby up off his back muscles when held
- Displays of cerebral palsy in children six months and older include a failure to roll over, lopsided crawling, the inability to bring the hands to the mouth or put hands together, and hopping on needs are scooting on their bottom instead of crawling
Erb’s Palsy Statistics
Mistakes during the birthing process can paralyze the arm’s primary nerves, including severing the C5-C6 nerves in the upper trunk, leading to Erb’s palsy. Doctors refer to this part of the body as the brachial plexus comprising the thoracic nerve T-1, C5-C6 spinal nerves, and the ventral rami.
- Statistics reveal that approximately 1 out of every 1000 newborns have Erb’s palsy
- A Kent Hospital study revealed that doctors diagnose Erb’s palsy in less than 1% of births
- Erb’s palsy is often caused by the neck being stretched too far on one side during childbirth that causes permanent or temporary nerve damage
- Damage to the upper nurse through a challenging birth could result in permanent damage or paralysis
- Erb’s palsy might be caused by the baby’s position in the birth canal when the mother’s pubic bone holds one shoulder back
- Sometimes, Erb’s palsy cannot be diagnosed until the child was between three and six months of age and could show nerve damage and limited mobility
- Treating Erb’s palsy within the first four weeks after birth increases the rate of recovery to nearly 100%
- The different types of Erb’s palsy injuries include neuropraxia, neuroma, rupture, and avulsions
Common risk factors involving Erb’s palsy involve:
- The mother’s abnormally small pelvis shape
- Breech delivery
- The mothers’ excessive weight gain
- Large infant size or high weight at birth
- The mother’s diabetic condition
- Second-stage labor takes longer than an hour
- Substandard pediatric healthcare
- The use of extraction tools like forceps and other surgical instruments during childbirth
The child may experience numbness in the arms, one arm weakness, partial or complete arm paralysis, impaired circulatory, nervous, and muscular development, and limited range of motion in the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, bicep, or shoulder.
Sometimes, the baby’s paralysis will resolve without treatment in a few months. However, surgery or therapy might be required in treating severe cases. Most Erb’s palsy cases involve medical malpractice.
Typical United States Birth Injury Statistics and Facts
Improving prenatal assessment using ultrasound equipment has reduced the rate of birth injuries in the United States. Doctors now limit their use of forceps to minimize the risk of birth injury during childbirth.
Other birth injury statistics and facts involving newborns in the United States include:
- Many obstetricians will perform cesarean deliveries when predicting and increasing the risk of a birth injury to the natural birth process
- Medical science does not identify molding caused by pressure on the birth canal as a birth-related injury
- Scalp bruising and swelling is a common but not severe occurrence and is often not the result of medical malpractice
- Vacuum extraction tools, forceps, and scalp-attached monitor leads can cause scratches during the vaginal delivery
- Blood accumulation either below or above the periosteum (skull bone’s thick fibrous covering) is typically the result of bleeding outside of the baby’s skull bones
- Doctors diagnose accumulating blood below the periosteum as a cephalhematoma
- Doctors diagnose acute lending blood above the periosteum as a subgaleal hemorrhage
- An intracranial hemorrhage or blood vessels rupture could be caused by various contributing factors, including blood clotting, birth injury, oxygen deprivation, or significant illness
- Prematurely delivered babies are at increased risk of intracranial hemorrhage
- Bleeding disorders, including hemophilia, can increase the newborn’s risk of brain bleeding
- Approximately 28,000 newborns are injured during or shortly following birth every year. This averages to over 530 per week or 3 per hour
- 7 out of every 1,000 children born in the United States suffer some form of birth injury
- Males are much more likely to suffer an injury or birth trauma than females
- 6 out of 1,000 children are born with moderate to severe injuries, including fractured bones, cerebral palsy, and developmental or neurological disorders
- 20% of infant fatalities are the result of an injury at birth
- 134 children of every 100,000 born will die due to a birth injury
- Of the 38 different clinical forms of birth injuries, 27 have seen an increase in frequency, 9 have maintained the same frequency rate, and only 2 have shown a decrease since 1989
- Up to 14% of birth injuries do not surface until the child is of school-age
- 7% of birth injuries surface within the first year of the injured child’s life
- 10% of birth injuries result from alcohol and drug abuse during pregnancy or insufficient dietary considerations on the part of the mother
- Low birth weight is the leading factor involved in the deaths of children under one year of age
- Smoking is linked to 10% of infant deaths and 25% of cases involving low birth weight or premature birth
- Inadequate prenatal care is linked to 25% of infant deaths, and approximately 1.3 million women in the United States lack adequate prenatal care each year
Impact of Type of Facility on Birth Injury Cases
- 7.15 injuries per 1,000 births were reported in private non-profit hospitals
- 4.33 injuries per 1,000 births were reported in private for-profit hospitals
- 6.11 injuries per 1,000 births were reported in public hospitals
- Labor and delivery conducted in hospitals with a higher number of beds have reported a higher rate of birth injuries
- 5.36 injuries per 1,000 births were reported in facilities with fewer than 100 beds. These facilities record the lowest birth injury rates
- 5.45 injuries per 1,000 births occur in facilities with 100-299 beds
- 8.57 injuries per 1,000 births occur in facilities with 300-499 beds. These facilities have the highest reported birth injury rates
- Facilities with over 500 beds still report 7.1 birth injuries per 1,000 beds, slightly above the national average
Evidence suggests that the number of patients a hospital must serve has a more significant impact on birth injury rates than whether the facilities are publicly or privately owned and owned by a for-profit or non-profit organization.
Birth-Related Back and Brain Injuries
Labor and delivery can cause severe nerve injury to the fetus and baby, often resulting in muscle weakness in the head, face, neck, arms, torso, pelvis, and legs.
Facial Nerve Injury
Facial nerve injuries are often evident from the newborn’s asymmetric (lopsided) facial experience when crying. The damage is often the result of:
- The position of the fetus in the uterus before childbirth
- Pressure on the nerve against the mother’s pelvis during delivery could cause head trauma
- The use of forceps and other medical instruments when assisting the childbirth could cause trauma
Typically, doctors and other medical professionals will allow facial nerve trauma to heal without treatment, and muscle weakness associated with a facial nerve injury will heal within three months after birth. However, congenital birth defects-related typically does not resolve naturally.
Spinal Nerve Injury
During the delivery process, the obstetrician can pull on the baby, overstretching the spinal cord, causing severe injury or permanent damage. Spinal cord injuries are rare during birthing but usually occur high up on the baby’s neck.
Spinal cord injury during childbirth is typically a fatal condition when the baby cannot breeze properly. Other nurses radiating from the spinal cord can also be damaged during delivery, including the arm’s radial nerve, the lower back’s sciatic nerve, and the leg’s obturator nerve.
Not every spinal cord injury is the result of medical malpractice or mistake. A spinal cord injury at birth might be the result of a congenital defect.
Any restriction of blood flow to the babies can lead to perinatal asphyxia, where oxygen deprivation occurs before, during, or after childbirth. Some birth injury statistics involving the cause of perineal asphyxia include:
- Uterus separation from the placenta before the baby is delivered could lead to perineal asphyxia through placental abruption
- The fetus experiencing a severe infection could cause a restricted flow of blood
- Any obstruction of the umbilical cord could restrict blood flow
- The baby’s exposure to specific medications before birth could cause asphyxia
- Any severe maternal (mother) hemorrhage or illness could lead to perineal asphyxia
In many cases, the doctor cannot accurately diagnose the cause of perineal asphyxia. Except for the weak breathing and slow heart rate. Typically children experiencing perineal asphyxia require resuscitation (revival) after birth.
The doctor may use an air mask or resuscitation bag to push air into the lungs or insert a breathing tube (endotracheal intubation) into the baby’s throat. If the asphyxia occurred due to rapid blood loss, the baby could experience shock, necessitating a blood transfusion.
Common facts involving internal organs injured by asphyxia include:
- Any sign of lethargy, seizures, or coma may indicate damage to brain cells
- Low oxygen levels (oxygen deprivation) and difficulty breathing may indicate damaged lungs
- Low blood pressure and poor color may indicate heart damage
- Challenges making proteins necessary for blood clotting could indicate liver damage, as could jaundice
- Reduced urine output may indicate kidney damage
- Challenges in digesting milk may indicate damage to the intestines
- Uncontrolled bleeding and low platelet count may indicate damage to the blood-forming system
Pediatricians often recommend a mechanical ventilator to help the newborn’s breathing after suffering perineal asphyxia or medications to assist heart function.
In many incidences, organ damage caused by perinatal asphyxia, not birth defects, tends to heal completely in a week or more. However, brain damage is often permanent.
Bone and Skin Birth Injuries
Even normal labor and delivery can cause the baby’s bones to fracture (break), especially the clavicle (collarbone) in up to 2% of all deliveries. Sometimes, the doctors do not diagnose the fractured clavicle until seven days after the birthing process, when the healing fracture develops a lump of tissue.
- Newborns seem to be unfazed by a fractured clavicle that usually requires no treatment due to the bone healing entirely within a few weeks
- Humerus (upper arm bone) and femur (upper leg bone) fractures can occur during the delivery process requiring a loose splint that limits movement
- The baby may experience pain with moving a broken humerus or femur bone in the first few days after delivery
- The fractured humerus and femur bones usually heal without concern unless it affects the growth area (head of the bone)
- Fracturing multiple burns during the delivery process is a common occurrence in newborns that have specific genetic conditions that make bones very fragile
Even a typical delivery process can cause minor injuries to the newborn skin, especially when the baby is emerging from the birth canal. The doctor may use forceps or other surgical instruments that injure the skin.
The child may develop bruising and swelling around the genitals during breech deliveries or face during face-first deliveries.
- Delivery-related bruises typically do not require treatment
- Using surgical instruments during delivery can cause stress on the newborn, leading to subcutaneous fat necrosis
- Injured skin may appear firm, red, and raised on the buttocks, thighs, arms, or trunk
- Skin birth injuries typically resolve without treatment in the next few weeks or months after delivery
Don’t Be a Statistic. Let a Medical Malpractice Attorney Handle Your Birth Trauma Compensation Case
Insurance birth injury statistics and data reveal that many families filed liability claims against the hospital, birthing center, midwife, and doctors when the baby’s birth injuries are severe.
One study revealed that:
- Over 40% of all birth injury compensation claims involve neurological or brain damage
- Approximately 37% of all birth injury compensation claims involve shoulder injuries
- Nearly 34% of all birth injury compensation claims involve stillbirth or wrongful death
Many of these claims are built on miscommunication, inexperienced midwives, substandard management during labor and delivery, and insufficient monitoring of the fetus’s heart patterns.
Consulting with reputable birth injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can ensure you receive adequate financial compensation to cover your child’s lifetime health care costs. Our legal team serves as legal advocates for many families harmed by preventable situations caused by medical malpractice, negligence, or error.
Contact our birth injury attorneys at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) today or through the contact form to schedule a free case review. Let us review the evidence and build the case to ensure you receive the justice and financial compensation your family deserves.
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