Understanding the Different Types of Birth Injuries
Every childbirth is different, and even the most low-risk pregnancy can result in birth injury or other complications. That said, many birth injuries are preventable if your doctor is observant and vigilant. It’s important to understand these types of birth injuries, how they occur, and what can be done to avoid them.
Brachial Plexus Injuries
The brachial plexus is the nerve network located near the neck that controls the nerves of the arm on that side of the body. If one arm or shoulder is pulled or wrenched during or just after childbirth, a brachial plexus injury can occur, which can lead to a variety of problems, the most notable of which are Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy.
In the case of Erb’s palsy, one or more of the upper three nerves of the brachial plexus are damaged, causing numbness, pain, motor skills disabilities, and/or partial or full paralysis of the shoulder and arm. Erb’s palsy generally affects the upper arm more than the lower arm, which is more affected when the lower two nerves of the brachial plexus are damaged, resulting in Klumpke’s palsy.
Klumpke’s palsy can result in paralysis of the hand, which may curl into a claw-like shape. The wrist, forearm, hand, and/or fingers may be affected either mildly or severely, and it can affect vision, as well.
Infant brain damage can occur due to a number of circumstances, the most common of which are oxygen deprivation, physical trauma, or exposure to maternal infection. Any of these circumstances can lead to the development of cerebral palsy, the most common brain disorder in infants in the US, which affects the baby’s ability to move, control their limbs, speak, eat, and/or develop normally. Cerebral palsy and other types of infant brain damage can also result in the slower mental development and permanent physical and intellectual disabilities.
A fractured clavicle is an, unfortunately, common birth injury in the case of shoulder dystocia and other birth injuries. In the case of shoulder dystocia, the infant’s head will be able to pass out of the birth canal, but its shoulders will be too wide or approach at the wrong angle. As a result, one or both shoulders will become impacted against the pelvic bone and will not be able to pass.
Broken bones can also occur due to misuse of forceps, vacuum equipment, and other birth-assisting equipment. Doctors must be very careful and gentle when using these devices and when trying to maneuver a baby out of the birth canal in order to avoid the trauma of any kind. In many cases, a good doctor will see ahead of time that birth injury is likely, and they’ll call for a cesarean section procedure to avoid it.
When a vacuum extraction tool is used improperly to help a baby out of the birth canal, it can result in swelling of the soft tissue of the scalp. This condition is called caput succedaneum, and it is usually a temporary problem that resolves itself with in a few days. However, if birth-assisting tools are used properly, the condition can usually be avoided altogether.
Treating Birth Injuries
Because they span a wide variety of injuries, traumas, and disorders, there is no single treatment for all birth injuries. Some injuries, like caput succedaneum or very mild brachial plexus nerve damage, will resolve themselves with no treatment. Others will fade away over time with the proper physical therapy, surgery, and/or medication. Still, others will result in permanent physical and/or mental disabilities that could have been prevented by better medical care during childbirth.
If your child has suffered a birth injury with temporary or lasting effects on their health, wellbeing, and/or physical or mental development, it’s important to understand your rights and your case. You may have a medical malpractice case against your doctor, another medical professional, and/or medical institution.
At Birth Injury Center, we’re here for you to help you understand your child’s birth injury, its implications, and any compensation you may be owed due to medical malpractice. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation so that you can get a better understanding of your case.