Childbirth should be one of the happiest moments of our lives, but for some, there are complications that can have a lasting impact on the newborn’s development and quality of life. Many of these birth injuries are unavoidable, but they can also arise when an attending physician or medical professional is negligent. Here are three birth injuries you might not be familiar with:
Cephalohematomas are lumps on a newborn’s head caused by an accumulation of blood between the layer of blood vessels (called the periosteum) and the skull of the baby. They occur when the baby’s head undergoes intense pressure against the mother or the doctor’s equipment during delivery, rupturing blood vessels in the periosteum and causing blood to pool up. This leads to a painful-looking lump with discoloration or bruising. It can take days after the baby is born to form. If you suspect cephalohematoma, you should contact your doctor immediately as it can be a sign of a skull fracture. There is another, less serious, type of lump, called a Caput succedaneum. With these injuries, the blood is pooling between the periosteum and the scalp instead of the skull. In this case, the bump tends to be more skin-colored. These are very common, and although they can look scary, they are rarely serious and tend to resolve on their own.
When a baby is delivered, getting the head and shoulders through the mother’s cervix can be a major challenge. Our neck contains crucial nerves, called the brachial plexus, and if the baby is delivered in a way that puts too much pressure on the neck, it can cause damage to these nerves. Palsy means weakness, and Erb’s palsy is weakness and/or loss of motion of the arms due to an injury of the brachial plexus. The degree to which the nerves of the brachial plexus are stretched or torn during delivery dictates the seriousness of the Erb’s palsy, including how long the recovery process will take, and whether there will be permanent loss of arm functionality.
Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy
Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is when the brain is deprived of oxygen for a dangerous period of time, such as during a problematic delivery. In layman’s terms: Hypoxic (not enough oxygen) + ischemic (not enough blood flow) + encephalopathy (damage to the brain). HIE can occur in situations other than during childbirth, such as drowning, which is why it is sometimes referred to as birth asphyxia. HIE can be caused by accidental strangulation from the umbilical cord, rupture of the placenta, prolonged labor, or delivery that presents challenges due to the baby being in an unusual position. It can also be caused by a misdiagnosed medical issue with the fetus or the mother, such as very low blood pressure or vascular disease in the mother. The prognosis of HIE can vary greatly, from mild with a short recovery time to disastrous long-term developmental issues, depending on the amount of time the brain is deprived of oxygen.
Fighting for Infants Harmed by Negligence
With more than 75 years of combined legal experience, Brown & Barron has fought for many children and parents harmed by negligent medical professionals. If your infant developed HIE, cerebral palsy, or other birth injury, you may be able to file a legal claim to recover compensation and hold the at-fault party accountable for the harm they have done to your family. Moreover, bringing these parties to justice can prevent them from harming families for years to come.