Birth Injury Lawyers and Birth Injury Attorneys serving Michigan, Ohio, Washington DC and the 50 states
Birth injuries are any injuries or trauma that occur to a baby during the labor and delivery process. These can range from mild bruising and lacerations which resolve on their own, to severe injuries that result in permanent physical disabilities like cerebral palsy and/or cognitive disabilities such as mental retardation or learning problems. Birth injuries are often due to medical errors or negligence.
Some injuries are evident immediately after birth. Typical signs and symptoms that a birth injury may have occurred, include: the baby is pale or blue in color; breathing and/or heart rate is slow or resuscitation efforts are required; the infant is sluggish or lethargic; no interest in or difficulty feeding; odd movements in the face, arms, or legs (seizures) or favoring one side of the body; low APGAR scores at one minute and/or later.
Often, the injury is not identified for years until the child misses key developmental milestones or reaches school age and learning disabilities become apparent.
Types of birth injuries
Some of the most common types of birth injuries include:
Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) or birth asphyxia. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (birth asphyxia) occurs when there is a lack of oxygen to the baby's brain. While tragic, it is a preventable birth injury, resulting from doctors or other medical professionals failing to take swift and appropriate action – like performing an emergency C-section -- during obstetrical emergencies such as:
- umbilical cord compression or prolapse (blood and oxygen to the baby is diminished or cut off)
- uterine rupture
- placental abruption (placenta separates from the uterine wall)
Traumatic Birth Injuries. Injuries that occur to an infant during delivery that are a result of mechanical forces like compression or traction are classified as traumatic birth injuries. The most common areas affected are the brain, spine, nerves and bones. A baby’s size [eg: macrosomic (too large); cephalopelvic disproportion (baby’s head is too large to fit through pelvis)], position (eg: breech) and neurological fragility can complicate the birthing process. If not handled appropriately, traumatic injury can result. Some types of traumatic birth injuries:
- Intracranial hemorrhages (brain bleeds). This is any type of bleeding that occurs within the baby’s skull or brain. There are several types of brain bleeds:
- cerebral hemorrhage (form of stroke where bleeding occurs within the brain itself)
- subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the area between the innermost of the two membranes that cover the brain)
- intraventricular hemorrhage (bleeding into the brain’s ventricular system, where spinal fluid is produced)
- subdural hemorrhage or subdural hematoma (ruptured blood vessel in the area between the surface of the brain and the thin layer of tissue that separates the brain from the skull)
- cephalohematoma (bleeding that occurs between the skull and its covering)
- Erb’s palsy (or brachial plexus injury) is a condition resulting from injury to the brachial plexus nerves near the neck, and is often a result of a medical practitioner pulling on a baby’s head when the baby is stuck in the birth canal.
Premature birth. Medical professionals are required to diagnose preterm labor and must follow standards to prevent premature birth, when possible. This may include administration of medications to stop contractions, mature the baby’s lungs and prevent infection and sometimes a cervical cerclage (a stitch in the cervix to prevent birth). Some common causes of prematurity:
- Incompetent or weakened cervix (pressure from the baby’s weight causes the cervix to start to open before the baby is ready to be born).
- Infection. Some infections, if untreated in the mother, can be transmitted to the baby through the birth canal. Sepsis, meningitis and encephalitis are the most serious and can result in permanent brain damage.
Treatments for birth injuries
A serious birth injury can result in lifelong disability. For example, a child afflicted with cerebral palsy may require many different types of treatments and therapies. Likewise, an infant suffering from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (lack of oxygen) during birth may require hypothermia (cooling) treatments to minimize brain damage.
Below are some of the most common treatments prescribed for birth injured children.
- Hypothermia (Brain Cooling)
- Physical Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Speech Therapy
When labor and delivery problems become negligence
When delivery complications arise, it is the responsibility of the nurses, doctors or other medical professionals to act quickly and appropriately to minimize the risks to the mother and baby. Medical malpractice occurs when this does not happen. Some examples of medical negligence include:
- a failure to identify and plan for complicated births such as a larger baby
- a failure to diagnose and treat problems prior to delivery like placenta previa or maternal infection
- a failure to recognize problems with the umbilical cord
- a failure to order a timely c-section when necessary
- a failure to identify and adequately respond to fetal distress/ non-reassuring fetal monitor results
- a failure to diagnose and/or stop preterm birth
- medication errors
- incorrect use of delivery instruments (forceps, vacuum extractors)
At Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers, our attorneys are dedicated exclusively to birth injury cases. We will research your case, determine the cause of injury and find out whether or not it could have been prevented. If the hospital, physician, or staff was negligent, we will help you to obtain fair compensation. Even if the injury occurred years ago, you may still be able to pursue a lawsuit. Contact our firm located in the Detroit, Michigan-area, for birth injury lawyers who can effectively represent your case. We assist clients in Michigan, Ohio, Washington DC and throughout the nation.
By Jesse Reiter