Birth injury and birth trauma usually mean the same thing. Stanford Children’s Health notes that these terms are frequently used interchangeably. Similarly, an article in the National Library of Medicine uses both terms without distinction.
These terms denote the possible injuries a child can suffer during birth. Sometimes compounding risk factors make these conditions impossible to avoid. However, negligence or medical malpractice can also play a role in birth injury or trauma.
Common Forms of Birth Injuries and Trauma
Over the past 30 years, death and injury rates during childbirth have decreased. Today, roughly 1.9 out of 1000 births end in injury in the United States.
Despite this positive development, childbirth remains risky. During birth, a child could experience the following injuries:
- Skull fractures
- Brachial plexus injuries
- Scalp swelling
- Spinal cord injuries
- Cuts and scrapes
- Broken bones
What Is a Brachial Plexus Injury?
The brachial plexus is a collection of nerves that stem from the neck and spread into the arms and shoulders. These nerves carry signals that allow for arm and shoulder movement.
If a child’s brachial plexus is injured during birth, they can experience medical complications like:
- Erb’s Palsy
- Brachial Palsy
- Klumpke’s Palsy
These birth injuries can affect a child’s ability to move their hands, arms, and shoulders. While Erb’s Palsy or Klumkpe’s often resolve themselves without intervention, some sufferers are left without normal arm function into adulthood.
Understanding the Difference Between Birth Injuries and Birth Defects
As previously noted, birth injury and trauma are often used interchangeably. However, birth defects should not be lumped into the same category.
Birth defects have their own unique traits:
- They occur in the womb before birth
- They are not usually caused by malpractice
- They are less preventable than birth injury or birth trauma
Common birth defects include:
- Cleft palate
- Down syndrome
- Generalized learning disabilities
- Muscular dystrophy
- Neural tube defects
- Heart complications
If your child is suffering from a birth defect, it is unlikely that your provider is responsible. These conditions are typically genetic or related to unsafe environmental factors. Alcohol consumption or smoking before childbirth can also increase the risk of a birth defect.
Childbirth Risk Factors
Every childbirth faces its own set of risks. It is the responsibility of a medical practitioner to mitigate these challenges to ensure the child’s safety. Yet, even with the best preparation, some births will still end in trauma or injury.
These are a few common risk factors during birth:
- Abnormally high baby weight
- Abnormally low baby weight
- A breech birth
- Congenital anomalies
The condition of the mother can affect the riskiness of birth, too. These maternal risks can increase the chance of trauma or injury:
- Maternal diabetes
- Maternal obesity
- Use of birth tools, like a vacuum or forceps
- Prolonged or quick labor
- Low maternal weight
- Primiparity refers to a first-time birth for a mother
How Can Medical Malpractice Occur During Birth?
Medical malpractice can pose as much risk as the factors mentioned above. In addition, an improperly trained or negligent technician can traumatize or injure a child during birth.
There is a range of medical malpractice types that can negatively impact birth. They include:
- Error in medication administration
- Improper usage of birthing tools
- Failure to properly monitor the fetus
- Failure to perform a cesarean section (C-section) when needed
- Inadequate treatment of birth complications
These failures can create or complicate an injury or trauma. Without adequate medical attention, childbirth can become more dangerous than needed.
Who Can I Hold Liable for an Injury or Trauma at Birth?
In a birth injury or birth trauma case, you must establish that your care was below a certain standard. If the available evidence is lacking, you will not have a case.
You could file a claim against the hospital or doctor who provided you care if you have sufficient evidence. Common legal grounds for a claim are:
- Generalized medical malpractice
- The presence of inexperienced physicians during the birth
- Lack of adequate training
- Lack of a functional birth plan
- Poor medical equipment or facilities
Should I Hire a Birth Injury Lawyer?
While not required, legal representation has several benefits that should not be ignored.
A birth injury lawyer can help you determine if you have the grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. If they believe you do, they can work to connect the alleged negligence and your child’s injuries.
This evidence can be used to help you fight for:
- Loss of income if you are forced to take time off work to care for your child
- Medical expenses related to treating your child’s trauma or injury
- Pain and suffering that you or your child experienced
- A reduction in quality of life for the child
These services are joined by generalized legal know-how. An experienced lawyer will be intimately familiar with the codes that make up birth injury law. They can act as your guide and keep your questions at bay.
A Birth Injury Attorney from Our Firm Can Provide Legal Help to You Today
If you believe medical malpractice harmed your child, our lawyers can help. We can investigate the origin of your child’s birth injury or birth trauma. If these injuries stemmed from malpractice, you might have a legal case.
We offer free case evaluations. So if you have questions about birth injury or birth trauma, Brown & Barron has answers.