What Are the Different Birth Injury Types?
If you are pregnant or you have recently given birth, you may be concerned that your baby will suffer (or has suffered) a birth injury. To help you understand what birth injuries are and who may be responsible, we’ve compiled a list of the most common birth injury types.
Injuries to the Brain vs. Injuries to Muscles or Nerves
Essentially, there are two basic categories of birth injuries – those related to the brain and those related to muscles and/or nerves. Brain injuries often occur due to oxygen deprivation during childbirth, or they may occur due to brain trauma from the use of certain tools, such as forceps or vacuums. If the brain gets too much blood flow, a hemorrhage may also occur. Cerebral palsy is one of the most common results of a brain-related birth injury.
Muscle and nerve injuries may include broken bones, lacerations, bruising, and/or damage to the brachial plexus nerves, which govern the nerves of the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers. These types of injuries can result in such conditions as Erb’s palsy and other brachial stretch injuries.
Injuries Developed During Pregnancy
Some birth injury types may be passed from the mother to the baby via an infection or some other circumstances during pregnancy. In these cases, you might think that no one is legally at fault, but it is your doctor’s job to identify and diagnose infections that could affect your baby during or after childbirth. If for example, your doctor fails to identify and treat a meningitis infection in the mother, then the baby could suffer brain damage and develop cerebral palsy, which could have been prevented with treatment during pregnancy.
Other birth injury types that can be passed from the mother to the baby may also be preventable, such as a folic acid deficiency or anemia. Likewise, certain defective drugs may harm women during pregnancy and have negative effects on a baby’s health. Your doctor should be aware of potential risks involved with your pregnancy so that they may do all they can to prevent them.
Cerebral palsy has often been mistaken for a muscle or nerve injury, as it affects the child’s ability to control their motor functions. For example, if your baby is having difficulty with fine motor skills in their hands or arms, then you might at first think that this is a sign of Erb’s palsy or another brachial stretch injury. However, it is actually the result of damage to the brain during childbirth, which could be due to a number of issues, including your doctor’s:
- Failure to detect and/or treat maternal infections during pregnancy.
- Failure to perform a cesarean section in a timely fashion when needed.
- Failure to correctly use assisting tools during labor.
- Failure to treat a prolapsed umbilical cord.
Erb’s Palsy and Other Brachial Plexus Injuries
Brachial plexus injuries occur when the network of nerves that make up the brachial plexus near the upper arm are damaged, causing weakness, numbness, and/or lack of mobility in the affected arm. A type of brachial plexus injury, Erb’s palsy occurs when the brachial plexus nerves are stretched to the point of damage, and after birth, the infant will display symptoms such as loss of feeling in the affected arm, as well as weakness. In severe cases of Erb’s palsy, the infant will have partial or total paralysis in this arm.
If an infant’s head passes through the birth canal but one or both shoulders are trapped behind the pelvic bone, shoulder dystocia can occur. This can result in a number of problems for both the baby and the mother. The baby may be unable to breathe, and the brain may not get enough oxygen, which could lead to cerebral palsy. Likewise, other injuries including broken collar bone, brachial stretch injuries, and death may occur if the labor continues for too long and the baby’s shoulders are not freed.
In the case of shoulder dystocia, the mother may also experience uterine rupture and/or hemorrhage.
Another form of brachial stretch injury, Klumpke’s palsy is marked by nerve damage in one or both arms that affect the arm, wrist, and fingers. Klumpke’s palsy typically results in total paralysis of the affected arm or hand, causing the hand to curl in a claw-like manner, and it is almost always a permanent injury.
Are you worried that your baby has suffered from one of these birth injury types? Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your options.