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What Are the Most Common Types of Birth Injury?

Close-up portrait shot of a newborn baby while crying.

When you are about to give birth, chances are that you are imagining the birth of a healthy child, and not anticipating birth injuries. Indeed, most births do go relatively smoothly, or at least end with a healthy, uninjured baby. Birth injuries in the U.S. occur in about 6-8 births out of a thousand, which seems like very few—until one of those children is yours. What are the most common types of birth injury? And what should you do if your child is affected?

Actually, those 6-8 births per thousand add up to 28,000 babies per year in the United States who suffer an injury during or around the time of birth. While some injuries are mild, others are life-altering, sometimes leading to lifelong disability. If your child was injured at birth, you are not alone. Here are the most common types of birth trauma

Fractures and Bruises

The most common type of birth injury is fractures, or broken bones. The risk of fracture is higher for breech (feet-first) births and for larger babies. As you can imagine, treating a fracture in a newborn is challenging. Commonly, splints or soft bandages are used. Clavicle (collarbone) fractures are the most common type of birth-related fracture. A parent whose infant has a fractured clavicle may notice swelling in the affected area, or the baby may cry in pain when the area is even lightly touched.

Bruises are also very common due to the fragility of a newborn’s skin. Bruises may occur due to the stress on the baby’s body of passing through the birth canal, but may also be caused by the improper use of medical equipment such as forceps. Most commonly, bruises are found on the baby’s head, face, and extremities.

Bell’s Palsy and Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy and Bell’s palsy are also common birth injuries. Erb’s palsy results from an injury to the brachial plexus, a network of nerves near the neck that give rise to the nerves of the arm. Erb’s palsy may cause an infant to be unable to rotate or move its arm. The condition may resolve, but may be permanent if the affected nerve is torn.

Bell’s palsy stems from the injury of a facial nerve during birth. It is often detected when the baby cries, and one side of the face does not move. Depending on the severity of the injury, Bell’s palsy may resolve on its own or may need surgery to correct the problem.

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy

Also known as birth asphyxia, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy results from a lack of oxygen to the brain or impaired blood flow during the delivery process. The condition can range from mild to severe, depending on how long the brain was deprived of oxygen. In the worst case, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy can mean lifelong physical and mental impairment for the child. HIE is more common in premature births than in full-term births.

Intracranial Hemorrhage

Intracranial hemorrhage is the medical term for bleeding in the skull. It may be caused by trauma to a baby’s very fragile head during the birth process, such as by improper use of forceps or vacuum extractor.

There are a number of types of intracranial hemorrhage. Intraventricular hemorrhage is the most severe. As the name suggests, the bleeding begins in the ventricular system of the brain, where spinal fluid is produced. This type of hemorrhage is most common in premature babies and those with a low birth weight.

Cerebral hemorrhage simply means bleeding in the brain, as from a stroke. Less serious types of hemorrhage include cephalohematoma, which is bleeding between the skull and the skin covering it. This type of bleed appears as a bump on the head, and typically resolves on its own within a few weeks or months. Subconjunctival hemorrhage involves broken blood vessels in a baby’s eye. Although the hallmark of this type of bleeding, red bands around the eye’s iris, can be upsetting, the condition typically resolves on its own within days with no permanent damage.

Not all birth injuries are serious, and many are not the fault of a doctor or other medical professional. Some, however, are the result of medical malpractice. Those injuries which are caused by negligence and have serious, long-lasting consequences may be entitled to compensation. If your child suffered a birth injury, you owe it to him or her to find out if compensation is available, so that your child can receive needed treatment or therapy. We invite you to contact our law office to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Categories: Medical Malpractice

Blog Disclaimer

The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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