Birth injuries are preventable and should never happen. Sadly, however, thousands of birth injuries (also called birth trauma), continue to happen in the United States every year. Our infographic below illustrates the prevalence of these devastating injuries. This is how common birth injuries really are:
How Common Are Birth Injuries?
Approximately 1.9 per 1,000 live births in the U.S. involve a birth injury.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 3,613,647 live births in the United States in 2020. A little more than 10 percent of those were born preterm, defined as less than 37 weeks gestation, and 8.24 percent had a low birth weight, in other words, less than 2400 grams or 5 pounds, 8 ounces.
These are not necessarily birth injuries, but these incidences could be related to medical malpractice (and could co-occur with injuries). Three common causes of birth injuries include:
- Failing to monitor an infant
- Using birth assistance tools improperly
- Pulling or twisting an infant too hard
What Kinds of Birth Injuries Often Occur?
Three birth injuries our firm often sees include cerebral palsy, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), and brachial plexus injuries.
Mayo Clinic reports that the most common cause of cerebral palsy is a brain injury that occurred during pregnancy/delivery. The CDC states that one in 345 American children have cerebral palsy (CP), which is a lifelong motor disability that can cause many different problems for people with this condition, for example:
- Chronic pain is 4.5 times more prevalent in children with CP (JAMA Network Open).
- More than half of children with CP can walk independently.
Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals define hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) as a type of brain injury caused by the brain not getting enough oxygen. When this trauma happens during labor or delivery, cerebral palsy is one of the most common conditions that develop as a result.
HIE is also called oxygen deprivation or intrapartum asphyxia. HIE often causes significant cognitive or developmental delays or motor impairments.
Brachial Plexus Injuries
Volpe’s Neurology of the Newborn states that brachial plexus injuries happen in less than 1% of births. This trauma happens when the cervical nerve roots get stretched during delivery. The damage is usually to one side of the body, affecting one arm and shoulder. Some brachial plexus trauma results in total paralysis of the arm.
Three Common Locations of Birth Trauma
Our team sees birth injuries in many locations on infants’ bodies.
The head, neck, and shoulders are the most common locations where birth injuries occur on babies. Some of the more frequent types of traumatic injuries to the head our team sees include:
- Superficial lesions
- Extracranial and intracranial hemorrhages
- Skull fractures
Some head injuries from birth trauma resolve on their own, but some others can cause:
- Alopecia (a lack of hair in the injured area)
- Deformities of the skull
- Organ failure
- Infant death
- Altered consciousness
- Facial nerve injuries
Birth trauma head injuries are higher with forceps-assisted or vacuum-assisted deliveries. For example, StatPearls reports that subgaleal hemorrhages occur in only “4 of 10,000 spontaneous vaginal deliveries and in 59 out of 10,000 vacuum-assisted deliveries,” which is nearly 15 times higher.
Causes of Infant Mortality
Out of the 3,613,647 live births in the US in 2020, the CDC reports 19,582 infant deaths. The three most common causes of infant mortality in our country in 2020 were:
- Sudden infant death syndrome
- Congenital and chromosomal abnormalities
- Premature birth or low birth that was not included in the other categories
Can Birth Injuries Be Prevented?
Three steps doctors can take:
- Monitor mother and infant for signs of distress.
- Use birth assistance tools properly, when required.
- Order a C-section when necessary.
StatPearls says that there has been a decrease in birth injuries in the last few decades. Researchers correlate that drop with a similar decrease in the use of instruments like forceps and vacuum devices to assist in deliveries in the last 30 years.
Did Your Child Suffer a Birth Injury? Contact Us Today
If your child was injured during the labor and delivery process, our team at Brown & Barron could help you seek justice. We’re well-versed in this area of the law, and we have the skills and experience needed to take on large hospitals and insurance companies. Call us today for advice and aid.