Delivery Dangers That Cause Birth Injuries

Giving birth is a very special experience in a woman’s life, but it is also fraught with danger.  Delivery dangers make pregnancy and birth the most statistically dangerous things a woman can do.  The peril extends to the newborn child as well.  Birth injuries are a rare but serious complication that can have a life-long impact on a family.

Pregnancy and Birth Mortality Rates

Regardless of age, race, or other demographic factors, all women face the same causes of danger associated with labor and delivery:

About 14 women per 100,000 live births will die from pregnancy or birth-related complications.  Among developed countries, the United States is one of two with maternal death rates getting worse.  Between 1990 and 2015,  maternal death rates increased, including deaths in the 6-week postpartum period.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 60 percent of maternal deaths are preventable.  Delivery dangers and unprepared or negligent medical professionals are largely to blame for the disgraceful rate of maternal demise in our country.

Deadly Delivery Dangers

Some aspects of pregnancy and birth are so dangerous that they can result in loss of life.  Sometimes unforeseeable events cause complications.   Other times, risks should be assessed and mitigated in order to prevent harm.  Some of the most commonly reported delivery dangers include:


Almost all mothers share the risk of catastrophic hemorrhage or profuse bleeding after birth.  Approximately 18 percent of births result in dangerous hemorrhaging.  Doctors and medical staff can usually get the bleeding under control, but at times a complete hysterectomy is necessary to save her life.  Short of death, mothers who hemorrhage face the potential for emergency surgery, unsafe drops in blood pressure, and emotional trauma.

Umbilical Cord Compression or Prolapse

In this rare complication, the umbilical cord, which delivers oxygen and nutrient to the baby, compresses and becomes misshapen to the point of depriving the baby of oxygen.  Usually, the first indication of this danger is a scary one – a sudden drop in the baby’s heart rate.

Prolapse means that the umbilical cord passes into the birth canal before the baby does.  This can cause compression, or place stress on the umbilical cord.  Prolapse is a common cause of oxygen deprivation, and occurs in around one out of every 300 births.

Less severe cases of umbilical cord compression or prolapse can cause brain damage to the child and be responsible for developmental delays or poor physical development.  Severe cases, or improperly diagnosed cases, can cause death.

Failure to diagnose and treat an umbilical cord compression or prolapse is an unacceptable medical mistake. Compressed or prolapsed cord treatment is crucial to preventing severe injuries.


Preeclampsia is a condition in which pregnancy causes a mother to have dangerously high blood pressure.  It is said that preeclampsia affects 5-8 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S.  Symptoms include fluid retention (edema), headaches, vision changes, and high levels of protein in the mother’s urine.  Severe cases of preeclampsia can develop into HELLP syndrome, which is a breakdown of red blood cells, elevated liver enzymes, and a low platelet count.

Preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome have high mortality rates.  Preeclampsia is estimated to be responsible for 76,000 maternal deaths, and 500,000 infant deaths each year worldwide.  The mortality rate for HELLP syndrome is estimated to be as high as 30 percent.  Untreated, preeclampsia can be deadly, and its only treatment is to deliver the baby.

Responsible medical providers closely monitor mothers throughout pregnancy for signs of preeclampsia.  Without proper diagnosis and treatment, preeclampsia can escalate to the point of seizures or stroke, or death.  Sadly, many women are not educated about preeclampsia, the risks, or warning signs before or during pregnancy.


Pregnant women have depressed immune systems that help their bodies cope with the tiny invader growing in the womb.  This decreased immunity makes them vulnerable to otherwise harmless infections.  Infection during pregnancy can cause serious complications, such as infant brain damage or cerebral palsy.  It can also be fatal for the mother.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition normally diagnosed in the second trimester.  Pregnancy hormones can produce too much glucose for the mother’s pancreas to handle efficiently, thus resulting in diabetes.  Uncontrolled or undiagnosed gestational diabetes can result in a baby being extremely large, which carries numerous risks.  It also puts mothers at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.


A pregnancy of two or more babies at once is not a condition, per se, but delivery of multiples comes with special considerations.  Healthcare providers must be diligent in monitoring mothers of multiples for complications.

delivery dangers

Mothers of multiples have a higher risk of complications like anemia, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and hyperemesis gravardium than mothers of single infants.  All of these complications require close monitoring and timely treatment.  Many can be prevented through frequent prenatal visits and routine monitoring.

Failure of medical professionals to responsibly treat the special needs of a multiple pregnancy can result in debilitating birth injuries for both the mother and her children.

Obstructed Labor

Obstructed labor occurs when a mother’s body presents a physical barrier to a healthy vaginal birth.  Long before labor begins, a doctor or midwife should be familiar enough with the mother’s body to anticipate an obstructed labor and counsel parents regarding a c-section.  Failure to perform a c-section on a mother whose pelvis is too narrow for delivery is dangerously irresponsible.

The inherent unpredictability of birth means there is a certain element of danger.  However, aside from the unforeseen, there are certain conditions or special circumstances a woman can develop during pregnancy that can endanger her life, and that of her child.

Abrupt and Unanticipated Delivery Dangers

Sometimes, mothers and doctors do every responsible thing during pregnancy, but delivery dangers crop up anyway.  Because this can happen, labor and delivery doctors and nurses must be alert, capable, and constantly prepared to intervene in case of an emergency.  Some abrupt delivery dangers include:

Rapid Labor

Sometimes, labor begins so quickly that the mother doesn’t even make it to the delivery room before giving birth.  Mothers who don’t have the benefit of slow and gradual labor are at risk of tearing and hemorrhaging.

Babies who are delivered precipitously have increased risk of breathing in amniotic fluid and developing infection.  Medical professionals need to be present and focused to help with rapid labor in order to minimize complications

Abnormal Fetal Presentation

The best position for babies to pass through the birth canal is head-first with their face toward the mother’s spine.  Babies who descend in a different position are classified as having an abnormal fetal presentation.  Babies who present abnormally are in danger until they are born.  Abnormal presentation increases the risk of oxygen deprivation, and may lead to the doctor performing a forceful delivery.

dangerous delivery

Not all abnormally presenting babies can be born vaginally.  Many require delivery via c-section.  It is important that a c-section is ordered as quickly as necessary.

Shoulder Dystocia

What is shoulder dystocia? Shoulder dystocia occurs when a baby’s shoulders cannot pass beyond the mother’s pubic bone.  This is often due to the baby’s size, and sometimes the baby’s position.  Shoulder dystocia is more common in baby’s who are in the breech position.

Shoulder dystocia places infants are at risk of injury to their upper extremities, such as brachial plexus injuries, or trauma-related injuries if delivery assistance tools are used.  Mothers are at risk for uterine rupturing and hemorrhaging.

Nuchal Cord

Nuchal cord occurs in approximately one out of every three births.  This is a condition in which the umbilical cord wraps around the baby’s neck during labor and delivery.  Many babies survive a cord wrapped around the neck as long as their oxygen and nutrients supplied through the cord are not interrupted.  Labor and delivery staff members who fail to diagnose and swiftly attend to a nuchal cord put the baby’s life at risk.

Perinatal Asphyxia

An umbrella term for when a baby cannot breathe normally or unassisted before, during, or after birth.  Solicitous doctors should diagnose birth asphyxia during routine fetal monitoring.  Usually, the best treatment option is an emergency c-section followed by respiratory care.  Failing to perform a timely c-section can result in severe brain damage or death.

Birth Injury Attorneys Who Care

Delivery dangers range from those that can be overcome with responsible preventative care to the completely unforeseen emergency.  In either case, medical professionals who are responsible for safely guiding labor and delivery must be attentive, active and engaged, present, and fully prepared to intervene when delivery dangers appear.  Anything less is grossly irresponsible behavior and may be the cause of life-long birth injuries.

If you or your child suffered a traumatic birth injury, Birth Injury Guide attorneys want to help you.  We can help you determine if your birth injury was the result of negligence.  If so, you may be entitled to compensation.  Contact us online or call 1-877-415-6603.

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.