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Common birth injuries

If you have been following our blog, you may have read answers to frequently asked questions regarding childbirth injuries. While studies indicate that the percentage of infants injured during the course of delivery is small, five children for every 1,000 babies born, the long-term consequences associated with the resulting disabilities may be severe. Some birth injuries have symptoms that can be linked to complications during delivery while others manifest symptoms that could have developed during the pregnancy.

As they are unexpected, such injuries can overwhelm new parents who may have had a problem-free pregnancy. Mothers who have attended required doctor's appointments, had healthy screenings, followed the appropriate dietary regimen do not expect that their newborns may still be at risk for developing disabilities. Regardless of the dietary and health schedule followed by parents during pregnancy, however, no babies should be delivered in a way that injures them.

When malpractice occurs during delivery, there may be signs that reveal the physician failed to recognize a problem or responded to urgent conditions in an improper way. Common birth injuries that have been documented and studied are listed below.

1. Shoulder dystocia

This birth injury occurs when the baby's shoulders become lodged inside the mother's body during delivery. The term is derived from a Greek word that means "difficult childbirth." While there is no screening to accurately determine which infants will be impacted by shoulder dystocia, there are maternal risk factors such as being diabetic, carrying more than one baby, being obese and having induced labor. After birth, infants suffering from shoulder dystocia experience nerve damage that radiates from their shoulders to their hands. In more life-threatening situations, the newborn's oxygen supply may be cut off, resulting in oxygen starvation in the child's organs.

2. Erb's palsy

Another complication arising from shoulder dystocia is Erb's palsy, which is the name given the damage that results when a cluster of nerves that relays information to the arm is injured. Referenced as Brachial palsy for the type of nerve damage that occurs within the spinal cord, this injury develops as when the nerves stretch excessively during the difficult childbirth. The damaged nerves cannot deliver signals to the shoulder or arms, resulting in paralysis or limpness in the impacted appendage.

While there may not be prenatal screenings for shoulder dystocia or Erb's palsy, the complications that arise as a result of these injuries can be prevented. In assessing the mother's health and labor history, physicians should recommend performing a Caesarian section as a means to negate the risk of shoulder dystocia or Erb's palsy.

A knowledgeable attorney can review the circumstances surrounding a difficult childbirth to determine if the injuries that occurred during childbirth could have been prevented.

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