Birth injuries refer to any damage your baby may suffer before, during, or shortly after labor and delivery. They often result from preventable medical errors, like the use of excessive physical force, oxygen deprivation, misuse of instruments, or prolonged labor. Unlike birth defects, which develop naturally while the baby is within the womb, birth injuries may result from the medical negligence of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals.
Most birth injuries can self-heal, but some may linger for years or leave the baby with life-long complications. This article explores signs your child suffered a preventable birth injury. If you notice any of these symptoms in your newborn and suspect medical malpractice played a role, you and your family may be entitled to recover compensation through a birth injury lawsuit.
Abnormal Muscle Tone Is a Common Birth Injury Sign
Conditions such as hypertonia and hypotonia can restrict a baby’s movement by diminishing their ability to contract or flex their muscles.
Hypertonia refers to excessive muscle tone. This makes the muscles too stiff, preventing the baby from being able to stretch their muscles to do simple physical tasks. On the other hand, hypotonia refers to excessive flexibility or decreased muscle tone. It can cause the baby to appear limp or floppy. The baby may have difficulty lifting their limbs, sitting up on their own, or performing other movements that require control and coordination.
According to the Birth Injury Help Center, causes of these two conditions include lack of oxygen to the baby’s head during or after delivery, brain or spinal cord damage, or central nervous system infections.
Developmental Delays and Missed Milestones Could Signal a Birth Injury
While each child is unique and grows at their own pace, birth trauma may cause delays in their ability to meet a cluster of developmental milestones within the expected age ranges. For example, your baby should typically be able to do the following by the time they are four months old:
- Bring hand to their mouth
- Hold their heads upright and steady without support
- Hold a toy given to them
- Open their mouth when hungry
- Make sounds back when being talked to
- Turn their head to you if you are speaking to them
- Look at you or make sounds to catch your attention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lays out a detailed checklist of developmental milestones for children that you can use to track your own baby’s progress. Delays in one or multiple areas can manifest significant challenges later in life. Children may display problems with thinking and processing information or behavioral issues, impacting their performance in school and society.
Some birth injury causes that can result in developmental delays include traumatic blood or oxygen deprivation, which can cause Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), which has been linked to seizures, brain damage, and motor deficits.
Limited Arm Movement Could Indicate a Birth Trauma
If you observe limited arm movement in your child, they may be suffering from Erb’s palsy, which is a disorder that causes paralysis of the arm. According to ScienceDirect, it results from an injury to the spinal nerves C5 and C6 of the brachial plexus, which transmits sensory and motor signals from the spinal cord to the arms and hands.
According to Cleveland Clinic, Erb’s palsy is commonly caused by shoulder dystocia, which occurs when the baby’s shoulders become stuck inside the mother’s pelvis during labor and delivery. The doctor may pull the baby’s arm too hard to get the baby out, injuring nerves in the brachial plexus.
In most cases, babies with shoulder dystocia are safely removed from the birth canal, and any damages are resolved on their own. However, it may leave the baby with prolonged disabilities in some cases.
For those at risk for shoulder dystocia, the obstetrician may order an emergency C-section or maneuver the mother and the baby in different positions to make the birth easier. Failure to make prompt decisions on C-section, excessive force, or incorrect birthing techniques can place the baby and the mother in harm’s way.
Take Legal Action If Your Baby is Suffering from a Preventable Birth Injury
Not all birth injuries are preventable, and most may heal on their own shortly after the baby is born. But there are birth injuries with consequences that will significantly hinder your child’s life. The medical treatment for these injuries may also cause undue financial strain on your family.
If you notice signs that your child suffered a preventable birth injury, bring it to the pediatrician’s attention immediately so your child can receive prompt care. Your next step should be to contact Brown & Barron to schedule a free case review. We will inform you of your available legal options to hold the liable medical practitioners accountable for the negligence that caused your baby’s birth injuries.