Common Birth Injuries and Their Causes

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were 3,855,500 babies born in the US in 2018. We like to think of a child’s birth as a wonderful time of celebration, but all too often that celebration is dampened by fear and concern caused by birth injuries. Temporary facial paralysis, a broken collarbone, or the aftereffects of hypoxia are horrifying to the parents, and rightly so. What makes such birth injuries even more distressing is when they could have been avoided altogether.

Birth Injuries

A birth injury, also known as birth trauma, is a physical injury experienced by a baby during the birthing process. Birth injuries are, sadly, not that uncommon, but there are certain cases where injuries occur that could have been avoided. While any type of injury to a baby is disturbing, those that result from negligence are doubly so.

Common Birth Injuries That Result from Negligence

sleeping baby

There are some birth injuries that are likely, but not always, the result of medical negligence. Cerebral palsy, which is a family of neuromuscular disorders caused by brain damage, is one such example. Another is an extreme form of jaundice known as kernicterus, which can lead to brain damage in the baby if the jaundice is not properly treated. Facial paralysis can result if pressure is applied to the baby’s face via forceps. Forceps can also result in bruising, forceps marks, or a cut on the baby’s skull. Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy is brain damage that results from oxygen deprivation of the baby during labor or delivery. Brachial plexus injuries (including Erb’s palsy) are another common birth injury and are caused by damage to the nerves in the baby’s shoulder. These nerves form a network that controls the hands and arms. Fractures can also occur, with the collarbone and clavicle being the most likely bones to be broken (especially during a breech delivery). In some cases, skull fractures can also occur.

Medical Negligence Resulting in Birth Injuries

Obstetrical healthcare providers are responsible for anticipating reasonably foreseeable problems and intervening in a timely manner to minimize the impact of those problems on both the mother and the child. That is a major part of the standard of care when it comes to labor and delivery, and negligence is legally defined as the failure to act in accordance with a reasonable standard of care.

Common Causes of Negligent Birth Injuries

tired baby

Common incidences of negligence that lead to birth injuries comprise quite a long list. Among the most common are the improper use of delivery instruments such as forceps (typically responsible for facial injuries, nerve damage, and broken clavicles), failing to provide a timely c-section, or miscalculation of the size of the fetus that results in serious delivery issues and a host of complications. Medical professionals may fail to correctly monitor the fetus, thus failing to respond in a timely manner to signs of fetal distress or failure to provide oxygen to a newborn, and both actions can result in hypoxia and brain damage. There can also be issues with infections or other medical problems that if not treated properly can lead to birth injuries.

Do You Suspect Birth Injury?

baby in a blanket

If you suspect that your baby suffered a preventable birth injury due to negligence, your first step is to get appropriate medical treatment for your child. Depending on the seriousness of the injury, your child may require extensive medical care or physical therapy. In some of the worst cases, a lifetime of therapy and medical attention may be necessary. Such medical costs can quickly become excessive and exceed what your private insurance or Medicaid can supply. If your child needs medical care because of someone else’s negligence, you do have the legal right to file a birth injury lawsuit to get your baby treated now and into the future.

Birth Injury Lawsuits

A birth injury lawsuit can be filed when there is evidence that negligence led to the birth injury sustained by your baby. Such a lawsuit makes a claim against the responsible parties for damages, allowing you to seek compensation to pay for the best care possible for your child. Responsible parties may include doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, emergency room staff, or other hospital staff if they played a role in the negligence that led to your child’s injury. If your baby did not survive the birth injury caused by medical negligence, you can still file a lawsuit; in such cases, it would be a wrongful death lawsuit.


baby feet

From broken collarbones caused by poor use of forceps to a child suffering permanent brain damage because a C-section was not performed fast enough, birth injuries can vary from recoverable to life-changing. Birth injuries are not uncommon, however, and while many are not serious, there are some that result in a child needing a lifetime of medical supervision and therapy. A significant number of birth injuries are caused by negligence on the part of medical staff, and the parents of children who suffer as a result of another’s negligence have a right to file a birth injury lawsuit against those responsible.

Donaghue & Labrum Can Help

If you believe your child, or the child of a loved one, has suffered a birth injury due to medical negligence, contact Donaghue & Labrum right away. We have over 25 years of experience in helping people get the compensation they deserve under the law, including medical malpractice and wrongful death claims. Contact us today for a free consultation. Donaghue & Labrum are on your side!