Common Birth Injuries Due to Malpractice

Although not all birth injuries stem from medical malpractice and negligence. However, a significant number of injuries are preventable with diligent medical care.  A study performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a list of the most common birth injuries that may be due to medical negligence. The list includes the following:

Brachial Plexus Injuries

Brachial plexus injuries, including Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy, occur when the bundle of nerves responsible for moving the arm and hand (brachial plexus) is injured.  The most common reason for this injury is shoulder dystocia.  What causes shoulder dystocia is the infant’s shoulder getting caught behind or under the mother’s pubic bone.  If a physician pulls too hard or incorrectly while attempting to deliver the baby, the brachial plexus may be injured.

Facial Paralysis

During delivery, too much pressure may be placed on the infant’s face.  This can cause nerve damage. These common birth injuries occur when physicians use forceps or a vacuum extraction to pull the baby out.  Sometimes the infant is unable to close the eye on the affected side of the face. In other cases, there may be no movement at all on the affected side of the face.  If the injury is not too severe, symptoms may subside over time.  More serious injuries, however, may lead to total paralysis.

Brain Injuries

When an infant suffers a brain injury, a host of medical disorders may follow, including cerebral palsy and chronic seizures.  Oxygen deprivation is one of the most common causes of brain damage, and can happen when a physician fails to correctly monitor an infant during or after birth.  Brain injuries may result from umbilical cord issues such as a prolapsed cord, allowing the baby to remain too long in the birth canal or failing to order a necessary Cesarean section (c-section).  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 injury usually occurs when a physician pulls on the infant too hard while in the breech position.  It can also happen if the physician fulls on the infant’s shoulder forcefully 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 without complication.


Cephalohematoma is an injury marked by bleeding underneath the cranium (hematoma), 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 is a known cause of 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. If your baby has a hematoma, it can be scary, and it should be treated right away.

Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum is another of the most common birth injuries marked by intense swelling of the soft tissues in an infant’s scalp.  It usually develops as infants make their way down the birth canal.  The most common reason for caput succedaneum is improper use of a vacuum extraction tool.  Swelling typically reduces within a few days after the injury.  However, there are risks to infants who develop Caput succedaneum, including jaundice and kernicterus, which can cause brain damage.

Meagan Cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She lends her expertise to the team at Birth Injury Guide to provide up-to-date and relevant content that clients can count on.