Some birth injuries are simply unavoidable, but when the doctor or other medical professional acts in a way that deviates from the established standard of care, it can fit the legal criteria for medical malpractice or negligence. This means the doctor failed to identify a problem, failed to take the correct course of action, or failed to act quickly enough, resulting in harm to the baby.
Some of the most common causes of birth injuries include:
- The improper use of assistive birthing devices
“Operative vaginal birth” is the medical term for the use of tools to help extract a baby during labor, usually when the baby’s head becomes stuck or the baby’s safety is in jeopardy. These tools include forceps (medical tongs) and vacuum extractors (a head-cupping device that applies suction), both of which help grip the baby’s head to ease it out of the birth canal. The established standard of care for labor and delivery has changed significantly over the past decades, but operative vaginal birth is still relatively common (around 3% of births). Because of the prevalence of C-sections for complex deliveries, some doctors are less experienced with these tools, and if not used properly, a baby can suffer serious birth injuries. For instance, too much pressure on the baby’s delicate skull with these tools can result in skull or brain injuries, some of which can be life-threatening or can cause life-long disability, such as cerebral palsy. The misuse of these tools can also put intense stress on the baby’s shoulder or arm during delivery, resulting in nerve damage. Depending on the severity of the injury to these nerves, it can mean long-term physical disability, such as brachial plexus injuries. Operative vaginal birth tools can also cause short-term injuries, such as bruising, broken bones, and bleeding.
- Failure to order a cesarean delivery (C-section)
Roughly a third of all births are by cesarean delivery (C-section), and preventable birth injuries can occur if the C-section is not done in a timely manner or if mistakes are made during the procedure. If certain complications are detected during birth (see below), a prompt decision to perform a c-section can be the difference between a healthy baby and preventable birth injury, some of which can mean life-long disability. Failure to order a timely cesarean section can result in serious birth injury to the child, especially oxygen deprivation, which can cause permanent brain damage, disability, or even death.
- Inadequate or inappropriate response to birth complications
When complications occur during labor and delivery, the correct response by the medical professional is critical to ensure the health of the mother and baby. Some of these complications occur suddenly, such as the woman’s water breaking early (before 34 weeks), uterine rupture, labor dystocia (when the passage of the baby through the pelvis is blocked), problems with the umbilical cord, or abnormal/indeterminate fetal heart rate (when the baby’s heart rate suggests the baby’s health is in danger). Some complications are known in advance, such as fetal malpresentation (e.g., a breech position of the baby), placenta previa (when the placenta is attached to the uterus in a location that blocks the cervix), multiple gestation (e.g., twins), and fetal macrosomia (a larger than average baby). In many of these situations, a cesarean delivery is required to ensure the baby’s safety.
- Failure to monitor the infant for signs of fetal distress.
The signs of fetal distress include abnormal/indeterminate fetal heart rate, amniotic fluid volume, and abnormal or nonexistent pattern of fetal movement. Fetal distress can occur when the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen because of birth complications (see above). Medical professionals must continuously monitor the baby to detect the signs of fetal distress. Even a short period of oxygen deprivation can cause long-term physical or developmental disabilities or even death.
- Medication errors made before, during, or after birth
Medical professionals have a duty to understand their patient’s complete medical history, including other medications, before prescribing medication and should monitor patients to see how they are tolerating new medications. Medication errors have four main causes, according to Contemporary OB/GYN, “…prescribing (physician ordering) errors, transcription and verification errors, pharmacy dispensing and delivery errors, and administration (nurse-to-patient) errors.”
If you suspect a preventable birth injury…
Brown & Barron fights for a better future for children who are the victims of preventable birth injuries with our team of trusted, experienced, and skilled birth injury attorneys. We know nothing is quite as heartbreaking as realizing your baby was harmed before, during, or after birth, which is why we are passionate in our pursuit of justice on your behalf. Our legal team has a proven track record of success, so you can rest assured you are in more than capable hands when you have us on your side.
If you believe you could receive compensation due to a birth injury, you must understand how much time you have left to pursue your case. After all, the deadline is far shorter for a mother seeking justice than her injured infant. Therefore, let a Baltimore birth injury attorney advise you on your options. Call as soon as possible for your free consultation at (410) 698-1717 or by clicking here.