breech birth injury attorneys serving clients in Michigan, Ohio, washington, D.C. and throughout the nation
Under normal circumstances, a baby is born head first. This position allows the infant to easily pass through the birth canal without injury to the head or limbs. Sometimes, however, the baby is in a breech position, where either the feet or buttocks are positioned to descend the birth canal first. Breech presentation occurs in about 3-4% of all deliveries in the United States. Serious complications and potential birth injuries can result from a breech presentation.
It is the physician’s responsibility to identify a breech baby, make appropriate attempts at turning the child, if possible, and safely deliver the baby, by C-section in most cases. If you gave birth to an infant that was breech and is now physically or mentally impaired, you may be able to file a personal injury claim on behalf of your child. Call Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers toll-free 1-888-419-BABY for a free consultation and review of your case. We serve clients throughout the nation.
Types and causes of breech positions
There are three types of breech presentations:
- Frank breech. This position occurs in about 50-70% of the breech cases. It resembles a pike position where the baby’s buttocks are pointed toward the birth canal and the knees are extended.
- Complete breech. This position is similar to a cannonball position where the baby’s buttocks are pointed down toward the birth canal and the legs are folded at the knees. A complete breech occurs in about 5-10% of the breech cases.
- Incomplete or footling breech. As the name implies, this is where a foot presents first and one or both of the baby’s hips are extended. It occurs in about 10-30% of breech presentations.
Although the causes of breech presentations are not fully understood, there are predisposing factors that appear to make breech more likely in some cases. These include:
- Premature births or a history of premature delivery
- Previous breech presentation
- Multiples pregnancy
- Too much (polyhydramnios) or too little amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios)
- Uterine anomalies such as an unusual shape or fibroids
- Placenta previa (the placenta grows in the lowest part of the uterus and covers all or part of the opening to the cervix)
- Small pelvis or uterus
- Fetal abnormalities
Diagnosis & Treatment
When a breech position is diagnosed, every effort should be made to turn the baby into the proper head first position. Physicians use manual techniques to push the baby into place from outside the mother’s abdomen. If the baby cannot be turned, then the physician must assess whether the conditions exist that will allow a vaginal birth (eg: baby is full-term and in the frank position; baby does not show signs of distress while its heart rate is closely monitored; x-rays and ultrasound show the size of the mother’s pelvis would allow a safe vaginal birth; a stat C-section is possible on short notice).
However, today, most health care providers and the current medical literature recommend C-sections as they are the safest method of breech delivery to avoid potential birth injuries.
Breech Birth Injuries
Injuries associated with breech deliveries include:
- Umbilical cord prolapse. This is an obstetrical emergency that occurs when the cord becomes compressed by the baby’s body as the infant moves through the birth canal cutting off the baby's oxygen (hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy) and blood supply. The baby must be delivered immediately to avoid brain damage or death.
- Nuchal cord (cord wrapped around baby’s neck). This is also an obstetrical emergency. If not corrected, oxygen to the baby may be diminished.
- Fetal distress. Sometimes the stress and pressure of a breech delivery causes heart rate changes in the infant that could lead to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (a lack of oxygen or birth asphyxia).
- Nerve damage. If a baby’s head gets caught in the birth canal or if one or both of the arms are wrapped around the back of the neck, there is a risk for nerve damage. A doctor’s attempt to dislodge the baby (excessive twisting or pulling) can cause Brachial plexus injury or Erb's palsy (injury to the shoulder nerves).
- Head trauma. Also a result of the head becoming caught in the birth canal. This is estimated to occur in up to 8.5% of vaginal breech deliveries. Types of injuries include bruising, lacerations, hemorrhages (brain bleeds), and brain damage.
- Cervical spine injury. This can occur if the fetus has a hyperextended head prior to delivery.
- Lower Apgar scores.
What to do if your breech baby was injured
If your baby was in the breech position and was later diagnosed with a permanent and serious injury such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities or Erb's palsy, negligence may have occurred. Your doctor or medical staff may have failed to recognize the breech position, may have failed to try rotating maneuvers, may have mistakenly proceeded with a vaginal breech delivery, or may have failed to timely order or perform a necessary caesarean section.
The delivery injury lawyers at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers serve clients throughout the nation. We will evaluate your case for free to determine if your newborn suffered injuries due to the negligence of the doctor or medical staff. Email or call us at 1-888-419-BABY.
Related Articles and Blogs from Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers
- "C-section is safest delivery method for preterm breech infants."
- "Cerebral palsy caused by breech presentation."
By Jesse Reiter