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Types of Birth Injury

In the United States, it is estimated that 8 in every 1,000 children will sustain childbirth injuries. Even more devastating than that fact is that most birth injuries are entirely preventable.

Birth injuries can cause lifelong disabilities or illnesses. These injuries are detrimental to a child’s life, but they can also cause a significant economic, emotional, and mental toll on the parents.

Types Of Birth Injury

Did your child suffer from an injury during pregnancy or labor? Was it caused by the negligence of your doctor or another member of the medical staff? If so, you have the right to gain compensation for the damages caused by medical negligence or malpractice.

Our experienced personal injury lawyers at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can help you get the justice you and your child deserve. Contact our birth injury lawyers at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to receive legal advice or a free consultation.

Risk Factors for Birth Injury

Some types of birth trauma are challenging to prevent. Others are almost impossible to avoid. Nevertheless, your doctor and the rest of the medical team should be aware of these risk factors and take any steps necessary to mitigate them:

  • Medical Conditions: The mother may develop certain medical conditions (e.g., gestational diabetes), leading to severe injuries during pregnancy or labor. Their doctor must be able to diagnose these conditions properly and apply treatment as early as possible.
  • Macrosomia: Fetuses that are too large or too heavy are called macrosomic. Doctors must track the infant’s growth throughout the pregnancy and recommend a C-section if needed.
  • Infant’s Shape: In some cases, a mother’s pelvis is not the right shape to perform a standard delivery. Other times, the shape of the baby’s head can result in strenuous labor, which may call for an alternative delivery method.
  • Delivery Position: If the baby is in a position that would make standard delivery difficult or risky (e.g., curled against the mother’s pelvic bones or facing the vaginal opening face-first), the doctor must suggest alternative options to prevent severe injury.
  • Use of Instruments: Sometimes,tools like forceps or a vacuum can cause birth trauma. Mothers have the right to refuse any procedure they do not want during delivery, but if they're going to allow instruments, they have to give verbal or written consent.
  • Improper Pulling: Doctors and other attending medical staff must use proper methods when delivering infants. Inappropriate or excessive pulling during delivery can result in brain damage or more severe injuries.
  • Premature Birth: Babies born before 37 weeks are more at risk of birth injuries. Medical professionals must take proper precautions when delivering premature babies to mitigate the risk.
  • Obesity: Babies born to mothers who are obese have a higher risk of developing birth defects, such as neural tube defects or heart defects. The mothers themselves are also at risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, thrombosis, and difficult labor.

Types of Birth Injuries

Many injuries can occur from medical malpractice or negligence, but the most common birth injuries are listed below. Most of these birth injuries are entirely preventable with proper diagnosis and treatment.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy can be caused by perinatal asphyxia, which occurs when the blood flow to the baby’s brain is restricted or the blood getting to the infant does not have sufficient oxygen. Perinatal asphyxia can result from pressure on the umbilical cord, loss of blood, or a genetic abnormality.

Depending on the part of the brain affected, children with cerebral palsy may suffer from:

  • Stiff muscles and medically unexplained physical symptoms or mus (spastic CP)
  • Involuntary movements
  • Muscle spasms (dyskinetic CP)
  • Poor coordination and balance (ataxic CP)

Other children may experience mixed Cerebral Palsy, which comes with more than one symptom of Cerebral Palsy (ataxic-dyskinetic CP).

Complications of this neurological condition may also include:

  • Speech difficulties,
  • Learning disabilities,
  • Cognitive impairment, and
  • Low bone density, among others

There is currently no cure for Cerebral Palsy, but many treatments help individuals live as independently and as comfortably as possible. One example is physical therapy, although it can be quite expensive without legal compensation.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries obstruct the connection between the brain and the rest of the body. This type of birth injury can occur when the doctor pulls or twists the child’s neck or uses tools (vacuums or forceps) to remove the newborn from the birth canal.

A spinal cord injury can also occur when the doctor fails to diagnose Spina Bifida, a neural tube defect where the spine and spinal cord do not form properly, resulting in a gap in the spine. Performing standard delivery on a baby with this abnormal development can be dangerous.

Brachial Plexus Injury

Brachial plexus injuries occur when the nerves from the upper spine to the neck, shoulder, arm, and hand are damaged. This damage can result in Erb’s Palsy, which leads to weakness or loss of muscle function in the brachial plexus nerves (five nerves that connect the arm and hand to the spine).

If your child sustained Erb’s Palsy, the effect could be temporary or permanent. This birth injury can cause total paralysis of the shoulders, arms, and hands in worst cases.

Facial Nerve Paralysis

One of the most common childbirth nerve injuries is facial nerve damage. If the infant’s face experiences too much pressure during birth, it can damage facial nerves.

Babies who suffer from this condition may not be able to move the affected part of the face. However, mild cases can go away on their own.

Birth Trauma Due to Oxygen Deprivation

Oxygen deprivation (also known as Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy) during childbirth can cause brain injuries and fetal distress, which, in turn, can lead to Cerebral Palsy, intellectual disabilities, and chronic seizures, among many others.

Without enough oxygen, brain cells start to die. If the infant is not getting enough blood flow at the time of the birth (or the blood does not have enough oxygen), it can result in a brain injury that may or may not be permanent. Either way, even just a few minutes of oxygen deprivation can negatively affect a child’s well-being.

In most cases, oxygen deprivation during childbirth is preventable. The medical staff must monitor the mother and child’s condition and provide professional medical advice if certain risks are identified.

The attending staff should be able to act when complications arise, such as a prolapsed umbilical cord or an acute infection.

Intracranial Hemorrhages

An intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) refers to bleeding inside the skull. Here are the different types of ICH:

  • Subdural hemorrhage- caused by a rupture of blood vessels in the subdural area (area between the brain and the tissue separating it from the skull)
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage- bleeding in the subarachnoid area (area between the arachnoid membrane and the brain covering)
  • Cerebral hemorrhage- bleeding in the brain
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage- bleeding in the ventricular system of the brain; common in premature births and babies with low birth weights
  • Cephalohematoma- bleeding between the skull and its membrane, resulting in a bump lasting up to a few months after the birth.

Intracranial hemorrhages occur due to excessive mechanical force during delivery or oxygen deprivation. In mild cases, babies who suffer from intracranial hemorrhage at birth will have a full recovery. Severe cases, however, can cause brain damage and may even be fatal.


Fractures are a common birth injury in:

Fractures may also result from using forceps or a vacuum to remove the baby from the birth canal.

Common fractures include long-bone fractures, bone-cartilage separations, collarbone fractures, and skull fractures. Your baby will have to be immobilized for the fracture to heal, which can cause a great deal of stress for both mother and child.

In most cases, fractures heal entirely in a few months. However, if your baby sustained a skull fracture, there is a high risk of complications such as brain injuries, developmental disabilities, and physical impairments.

Caput Succedaneum

Caput Succedaneum refers to the swelling of a newborn’s scalp, which appears as a lump on the head after delivery. Often, it is caused by excessive pressure from the uterus or vaginal wall when the baby is born head-first.

Most infants recover from Caput Succedaneum on their own without long-lasting effects. But for some, Caput Succedaneum can result in newborn jaundice, a condition where the skin appears yellow due to the excess bilirubin in the blood. Nevertheless, jaundice typically goes away after 2 to 3 weeks.

Bruising or Forceps Marks

Stanford Children’s Health lists bruising or forceps marks as one of the most common birth injuries. Sometimes, babies are born with bruising on the face or head from passing through the birth canal.

Other times, this type of birth injury can result from using forceps or a vacuum to deliver the baby. Some babies may even experience a scalp cut due to vacuum extraction.

Most of these common birth injuries are 100% preventable. The medical staff must monitor the mother’s pregnancy to rule out possible complications and prepare for risks during childbirth. If the mother cannot afford prenatal check-ups, the team must monitor her condition throughout the labor to minimize any possible risks--at the very least.

Therefore, all of these birth injuries can be counted as medical malpractice. If your child has suffered a birth injury at the hands of medical professionals, you have the legal right to seek compensation to help you manage your child’s birth injury and help them live the life they deserve.

Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer To Resolve a Compensation Case

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can help you understand how and why your child has sustained a birth injury and ultimately recover compensation for such a devastating accident.

Contact us to schedule a free legal consultation with one of our experienced birth injury lawyers in Chicago. From collecting information to reviewing your legal options, you will have sufficient guidance throughout the whole process. If we do not win your case, you won’t pay any legal fees.


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