Although not all birth injuries stem from medical malpractice and negligence, unfortunately, a good majority of injuries could have been prevented with diligent medical care. A recent study performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) comprised a list of the most common types of birth injuries due to medical negligence, including the following:
Brachial Palsy Injuries
Brachial palsy injuries, including Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy, occurs when the bundle of nerves responsible for moving the arms and hands (brachial plexus) is injured. The most common reason for brachial plexus injuries is shoulder dystocia, a condition that occurs when an infant’s shoulders are trapped in the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. If a physician pulls too hard or incorrectly while attempting to deliver the baby, the brachial plexus can be damaged.
During the delivery period, an infant’s face may have too much pressure on it, resulting in damaged nerves. This type of injury is common when physicians use forceps or a vacuum extraction to pull the baby out. Symptoms include the inability to close the eye on the affected side of the face and there is usually no movement at all on the side of the affected face. If the injury is not too severe, it can clear up within a few weeks. More serious cases may lead to total paralysis on the side of the affected face.
Oxygen deprivation, unfortunately, happens often during delivery, and can lead to a host of problems, with the most severe being a brain injury. When an infant suffers from a brain injury, a host of medical disorders may follow, including cerebral palsy and chronic seizures. Oxygen deprivation can happen when a physician fails to correctly monitor an infant immediately after birth, from umbilical cord issues such as a prolapsed cord, allowing the baby to remain too long in the birth canal. Experts suggest that even mild oxygen deprivation can lead to serious consequences, including intellectual disabilities and long-term physical problems.
A fracture to the clavicle is the most typical type of fracture during delivery. This type of birth injury usually occurs when a delivering physician pulls on the infant too hard while in the breech position. It can also happen when the shoulder is forcefully pulled during a prolonged, difficult delivery. Infants usually can’t move the arm on the side of the fracture. The good news, however, is that these types of fractures almost always heal, usually within 10 days.
Cephalohematoma is an injury marked by bleeding bleeding underneath the cranium, usually directly under one of the cranial bones. It most often appears several hours after birth when a raised bump appears on the top of the infant’s head. The use of birth-assisting tools have been known to cause cephalohematoma. The bump usually clears up within a few months, but not without causing other risks, including jaundice, anemia, hypotension, and in rare cases, meningitis.
Caput succedaneum is an injury marked by intense swelling of the soft tissues in an infant’s scalp. It usually develops as infants make their down the birth canal. The most common reason for caput succedaneum is improper use of a vacuum extraction tool. Swelling typically reduces within a days after the injury.