What are the Causes of a Birth Injury?

The labor and delivery process is frightening and traumatic for mother and child. While science and medicine have come a long way in detecting complications and resolving problems during the labor and delivery process, birth injuries are still a prevalent concern for expectant parents. An unfortunate reality is that many parents move through the pregnancy process without ever understanding the possible risks or causes of a birth injury. This lack of knowledge and awareness can result in stress and confusion if an error is made, or if the delivery process becomes challenged.

What are the Causes of a Birth Injury?

There are numerous factors that may contribute to a birth injury, with the most devastating and preventable factors being negligence or errors on the part of healthcare providers and medical staff. Some of the most common causes of a birth injury and the resulting effects include:

  • Head Trauma during Delivery: Trauma to the head and brain during delivery can result in damage to the brain and nervous system, including hematomas. Injury to the head during delivery is one of the most common injuries leading to cerebral palsy and long-term physical and developmental delays.
  • Forcible Delivery: Some deliveries require more effort than the mother can provide, thus resulting in the doctor’s decision to use forceps, a vacuum, or forced pressure to help aid delivery. When this happens, there is an increased risk of injury to the infant, including brachial plexus injuries and Erb’s palsy, which cause mobility, weakness, or paralysis in the infant.
  • Delayed Delivery: Because labor and delivery is such a traumatic process, complications must be quickly resolved to avoid further injury or illness. Common complications during delivery include macrosomia (large baby), cephalopelvic disproportion (mother’s pelvis is small compared to the infant), breech, or other maternal illness. When these complications or injuries are not diagnosed and treated quickly, the infant can suffer from any variety of birth injuries. Additionally, delayed emergent delivery could risk the lives of both mother and child.
  • Oxygen Deprivation: Oxygen deprivation is one of the more common complications resulting in birth injury. When the infant’s brain is deprived of oxygen, it can result in what is known as Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which means that brain tissue begins to die. If the infant is not delivered quickly enough, he or she can suffer from permanent brain damage. Oxygen deprivation may be caused by a variety of health conditions affecting the womb, which must be diagnosed and treated immediately to ensure the safety of mother and child.
  • Prematurity: Prematurity is a significant concern for any expectant parent. Healthcare providers are required to monitor fetal growth throughout the pregnancy, as well as the health of the mother in an attempt to prevent premature birth. Unfortunately, complications may occur making a premature birth imminent, such as preeclampsia or eclampsia (hypertension), weakened cervix, or a decline in overall maternal and fetal health.

Get Help for Birth Injuries

Birth injuries are among the most devastating, complicated injuries families can experience. In a time that should be joyful, the stress and worry of an injured newborn can be overwhelming. Anyone who feels that they or someone they love has experienced the devastating effects of a preventable birth injury should contact a birth injury attorney right away. Many birth injuries are preventable, and parents have the right to speak up and demand that their rights are upheld.

Related Resources


Cerebral Palsy Causes

Birth Injury FAQs