Welcoming a new child can be one of the happiest moments of a person’s life. But unfortunately, things don’t always go smoothly and babies are sometimes injured during childbirth. While some of these injuries are unavoidable, others are the result of medical malpractice, and therefore were preventable.
If your child has been injured during childbirth, read on to find out what your next steps should be.
Types of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries are a large category with many different types. Some are fairly mild, but some are much more severe, with lifelong consequences for the child and his or her parents. Here are some of the more common injuries:
Bruising or Forceps Injuries
Bruising doesn’t sound especially severe, but it can be. While the majority of bruises will heal on their own, bruising may indicate a rare clotting disorder that can be life-threatening, so any bruises should be watched carefully.
Forceps injuries, however, often do not heal quite so cleanly. Medical forceps are used in some cases to extract the baby from the birth canal. A doctor fits the forceps around the baby’s head and pulls as the mother is pushing. Forceps can cause medical issues for the baby, including temporary facial palsy, bleeding inside the skull, and scarring, which can be permanent.
Asphyxia occurs when someone is deprived of oxygen. If the deprivation lasts for too long, it can cause brain damage or even death. When a child is born, it goes from receiving its oxygen via the umbilical cord to breathing on its own. This is a critical time, and it’s also a time when things can go catastrophically wrong. If the umbilical cord is compressed during delivery, it can easily cause asphyxia.
Death is, unfortunately, a potential result of asphyxia. A recent study indicates that nearly one quarter of newborn deaths worldwide are the result of asphyxia. Although these deaths are not all preventable, some of them certainly might have been if medical staff had responded in a different way.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological disorder caused by brain injury (sometimes from asphyxia, as mentioned above). It can cause issues with body movement, including both fine and gross motor control. It can also affect speech. Around 8,000-10,000 babies and children in the United States are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year, most of them at birth. Cerebral palsy can be developed while in utero, but it can also happen during delivery.
It’s estimated that 10-20% of cases of cerebral palsy are the result of a birth injury. This means that 800-2,000 of the children who are born with cerebral palsy received it from a birth injury, and therefore many of those cases could have been avoided.
Erb’s palsy is a condition that causes weakness of the arm muscles. It’s sometimes known as brachial plexus palsy. It happens when a set of nerves between the neck and the arm are damaged. This can happen during delivery, particularly if the child experiences shoulder dystocia (when the shoulders get stuck in the birth canal). Although extensive physical therapy can help, people afflicted by Erb’s palsy may have permanent weakness in their arm.
Facial paralysis occurs when nerves that affect the face are damaged. There are a number of ways that this damage can show up, including drooping eyelids, facial unevenness, and full paralysis. Birth injury is not the only cause of potential facial paralysis (other causes include tumors and strokes), but it is the most common cause.
Fractures and Dislocations
Fractures occur when bones are damaged; dislocations occur when joints are pulled from their sockets. Both can occur during childbirth, particularly if a medical professional does not display the appropriate degree of care. Not every fracture or dislocation is caused by medical error, but many are, and those were entirely avoidable.
Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injuries can occur during childbirth if the baby’s neck or spine is twisted or tugged (potentially by pulling the child’s head while they are still in the birth canal). Spinal cord injuries have a wide range of severity. Some minor injuries may not cause long-lasting effects, while others can cause partial or total paralysis, or even death.
Birth Injuries in Ohio
A large-scale study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, conducted in the United States using data from 2005-2014, found that the prevalence of birth injuries (other than scalp injuries) is around 6.2 for every 1,000 hospital births.
In 2021, there were 129,862 babies born in Ohio. That means that around 805 babies are born with birth injuries in Ohio each year.
How many of those injuries are the result of medical error or malpractice? If even a fraction could have been prevented, there could be dozens to potentially hundreds of babies in Ohio who were injured due to negligence or malpractice.
What To Do If Your Child Has Suffered a Birth Injury
There are few things worse than seeing your child injured or in pain, particularly if you suspect it was avoidable. If you believe the medical staff present at your child’s delivery may have caused an injury, it’s important that you move quickly.
The statute of limitations, or the period of time in which you can bring a lawsuit, is only one year for medical malpractice in Ohio (although there may be some leeway if the injury was not immediately discovered). For your best chance of getting justice for your child, you should file your lawsuit before your child’s first birthday.
Medical malpractice suits can be very complex and extremely technical. You need an attorney like Plevin & Gallucci with decades of experience litigating Ohio birth injury lawsuits. We offer a free consultation, so it won’t cost you anything to speak with us about your case.