A birth injury and the associated complications can have lifelong, devastating consequences for you and your family. At Goldberg & Osborne, we have been fighting to protect your rights and those of injured newborns for over 20 years. Our experienced birth injury attorneys are on your side during this difficult time.
Birth injury takes many forms and can involve complex legal issues with many interested parties, including health care professionals, hospitals, and large insurance companies. It is important to have a birth injury attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable and who can guide you through the complex legal system.
Although they may be subtle at first, birth injuries can become more noticeable as the infant develops, or fails to develop. Birth injury can occur before, during, or after actual labor and delivery. Some injuries occur in the womb due to improper prenatal care. Other injuries occur during the birth process itself, and still others occur due to a lack of proper neonatal care. Birth injuries can include the following conditions:
• Hematomas – These are caused by an abnormal collection of blood, generally in the head and scalp of a newborn. Several types of hematoma can occur, ranging from mild to life-threatening. Some affect only the top layers of the skin, but more serious birth injuries can affect the brain itself. Causes of infant hematomas vary, but they can occur due to improper use of vacuum delivery devices and forceps. Signs of hematoma-associated birth injury include noticeable head swelling and increased respiration.
• Hemorrhages – There is some evidence that the use of medical devices during delivery plays a role in the increased incidence of subgaleal hemorrhage. Birth injury due to hemorrhage is most often associated with vacuum extraction and forceps delivery. Nearly 78 percent of subgaleal hemorrhages occur during a vacuum delivery, which may occur when the vacuum extractor is incorrectly placed by an inexperienced medical professional. Hemorrhages are similar to hematomas in that there is a collection of blood, however hemorrhages can be potentially lethal. There can be severe swelling of the baby’s head as veins are damaged, as well as signs of shock.
• Brachial Plexus Injuries – In the lower part of the neck and the upper part of the shoulder there is a collection of nerves known as the brachial plexus. This important nerve bundle exits from the spinal vertebrae and controls signals to your shoulder, arm, and hand. During a particularly difficult birth, a birth injury can occur when these nerves are stretched or torn. Signs of brachial plexus injuries include weakness in a newborn’s hands and arms. While some minor brachial plexus birth injures may correct themselves over time, other more severe injuries may lead to long-term disability requiring physical and occupational therapy. The most severe brachial plexus injuries require surgical repair.
• Shoulder Dystocia and Erb’s Palsy – Another potential birth injury due to difficult labor and delivery is known as shoulder dystocia leading to Erb’s Palsy. Once the baby’s head has been delivered, its shoulder may be lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone. This type of delivery, if not handled properly, has the potential for causing significant birth injury. Damage to the nerves and tendons can lead to Erb’s Palsy, which can be a lifelong injury that causes arm paralysis. Sometimes this condition can resolve on its own; however, if this does not occur within the first few weeks of life, the infant may require long-term therapy and care or surgery.
• Oxygen Deprivation leading to Brain Injuries – Complications can occur during pregnancy or birth that threaten the oxygen supply to the fetus or newborn. When this occurs, the placenta and umbilical cord are unable to supply oxygen and nutrients that are essential to healthy development and birth. If the fetal heart is threatened, the body will automatically adjust and divert oxygen-rich blood from the head and brain to the heart to ensure survival. However, this can lead to brain damage and injury. In this scenario, time is of the essence, and medical professionals must act quickly to ensure adequate oxygen supply to the brain. If not, the newborn may suffer lifelong complications, including learning disabilities and delayed development.
• Injuries leading to Cerebral Palsy – Cerebral Palsy results when there is oxygen deprivation or injury to the brain during development or birth. Health care professionals who provide good care to pregnant mothers can identify dangerous conditions during pregnancy and birth that may lead to impaired oxygen supply to the brain. Cerebral palsy is a lifelong disorder that causes a range of issues, including intellectual disabilities, vision and hearing problems, and other complications.
Many birth injuries can be linked to the use of medical devices during labor and delivery. Over the past 20 years, there has been a shift away from forceps during delivery toward vacuum extractors as the primary method of assistance during birth. However, vacuum delivery has the potential to cause serious or even fatal birth injuries.
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a Public Health Advisory regarding the need for caution when using vacuum-assisted delivery devices. In addition, the FDA and other health care organizations have stressed the need to educate health professionals regarding precautions that must be taken when an infant is delivered with this type of assistance. Health care professionals are often not aware of the potential signs of harm to the infant following vacuum-assisted birth, including increased respiration, lethargy, irritability, convulsions, shock, and poor feeding. It is important that doctors and nurses are aware of these signs and symptoms and properly monitor newborns for device-related injuries.
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If you feel that you or your baby have been the victim of a birth injury, it is important to protect your rights and your family’s future. Get the help you need today. Simply call 1-800-THE-EAGLE (1-800-843-3245) or fill out our online case form for your free, no obligation evaluation.