What Situations During Labor & Delivery Can Cause an Injury to a Child?
Birth injuries are relatively common for infants, especially during long, difficult, or complicated deliveries. A birth injury can range from minor bruising to permanent brain damage. Determining the cause of your child’s birth injury can help you understand if you have a case against someone for medical malpractice. Many different situations during labor and delivery could result in a birth injury.
An especially long or difficult labor could put undue stress on the infant, resulting in birth injuries. Prolonged labor could mean the child is in breech position or the mother is experiencing weak contractions. Prolonged labor could cause health risks to mother and baby. An infant may suffer fetal distress or lack of oxygen to the brain, which could cause conditions such as cerebral palsy.
It is a doctor’s duty to manage the situation during prolonged labor. Physicians should monitor both the mother and child’s vital signs constantly. If signs of distress appear, the physician needs to take action – potentially by ordering an emergency cesarean section. Prolonged labor can lead to a lower score on the Apgar test, which gauges an infant’s reflexes, muscle tone, breathing, heart rate, and skin color. A low score could later lead to a cerebral palsy diagnosis.
Infants need as much time as possible in the womb to fully develop. Babies born prior to the 37th week of pregnancy are at risk of injuries and complications related to premature delivery. Premature delivery could lead to immature lungs, respiratory distress syndrome, shallow breathing, pneumonia, infection, jaundice, bleeding in the brain, digestive system issues, or anemia.
Preterm labor can arise for many reasons, including premature rupture of the amniotic sac, preeclampsia, drug abuse, or a maternal infection. Diagnosis of maternal conditions during pregnancy can help plan for the possibility of premature birth. If a doctor fails to notice red flags for a preterm baby, he or she could be liable for related damages.
Umbilical Cord Problems
Umbilical cord complications during labor or delivery could cause a serious or fatal birth injury. Umbilical cord prolapse, for example, could lead to the cord wrapping round the baby’s body or neck, which can cause lack of oxygen and long-term cognitive problems. Knots in the umbilical cord could cut off the baby’s supply of oxygen, blood, and nutrients if not treated immediately. Umbilical cord cysts could cause birth defects if not detected early.
An umbilical cord problem itself is not a birth injury, but it could cause an injury if a physician does not notice and react to the situation in time to prevent damage to the infant. It is a physician’s duty to carefully monitor the mother for umbilical cord complications. Properly monitoring the fetus and ordering ultrasounds can detect umbilical cord issues early enough to prevent birth injuries in most cases.
Fetal distress refers to a number of signs that show the infant is not faring well during labor or delivery. Fetal distress may occur during prolonged labor or because of other birth complications. Signs of fetal distress include an abnormal fetal heart rate pattern. Most birth centers keep track of heart rate using electronic monitoring or a handheld radar. Fetal distress can show that a fetus is not receiving enough blood or oxygen.
Upon detecting fetal distress, a physician should take immediate action to remedy the situation. Actions may include giving the mother oxygen or fluids, administering Pitocin to strengthen contractions, turning the mother on her side, or ordering an emergency cesarean section. Failing to react in time to fetal distress could cause permanent brain damage to the fetus – or, in severe cases, death.
Birth injuries may arise from medical malpractice during pregnancy or delivery when a doctor fails to fulfill his or her standards of care. Neglect to assess maternal and fetal conditions during pregnancy and delivery could result in preventable problems. Failure to adequately respond to emergency situations, such as fetal distress, can also cause birth injuries. Other forms of malpractice can include:
- Misdiagnosing or failing to diagnose maternal infections
- Prescribing an inappropriate or dangerous medication
- Failing to order an emergency cesarean section
- Misusing birthing tools, such as forceps
- Using the incorrect birthing techniques
- Injuring the child during or after delivery
- Failing to treat infant jaundice after birth
Negligence during pregnancy, labor, delivery, surgery, or post-delivery patient care could cause a preventable birth injury. If a doctor contributes to a birth injury by failing to prepare, coming to work under the influence, ignoring red flags during delivery, or otherwise acting incompetently, that physician could be liable for damages.
Contact a Lawyer About Your Child’s Birth Injury
When medical malpractice gives rise to birth injuries during labor or delivery, parents have the right to file civil lawsuits against the at-fault physician or hospital. A birth injury claim could hold the negligent party responsible and result in financial compensation for your family to move forward. Contact us today to find out if you have grounds for a claim.