Philadelphia Birth Injury Attorneys
Fighting for Your Family’s Future
Adding a new member to your family should be a time of joy and celebration. Unfortunately, the birthing process can lead to countless complications. If doctors do not predict these problems or handle them correctly when they come up, you or your child could be harmed or killed.
When a birth injury or wrongful death is the result of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation.
What Is a Birth Injury?
A birth injury is any physical injury that a child sustains at birth. Sometimes, these injuries are unavoidable and a natural result of being born. Other times, they are caused by trauma during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. When someone does not receive the correct care during pregnancy or their labor and/or delivery is mishandled, birth injuries can lead to lawsuits against the medical professionals involved.
In a legal sense, the term birth injury can also include injuries to the mother. The United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality (death) in a developed country, so these injuries and losses are not uncommon.
If you lost your child or a loved one to avoidable mistakes during birth, we encourage you to discuss your case with our experienced attorneys.
What Causes Birth Injuries?
Every year, close to 4 million childbirths occur in U.S. hospitals. Delivering a newborn is the most common reason for hospitalization in the United States. Still, more than 22,000 infants are lost in the delivery room and another 157,000 newborns and mothers sustain preventable injuries.
Birth injuries are most common when:
- The baby is premature (or born too early)
- The baby is born during a breech birth (feet first)
- The baby is not head-first in the birth canal (face, brow, or shoulder first)
- The baby is large (more than 10-11 pounds)
- The mother is very overweight
- The size or shape of the mother’s pelvis or birth canal complicates vaginal birth
- Dystocia (long or difficult labor) occurs
- Assistive devices (a vacuum or forceps) are used to deliver the baby
- The baby is delivered via an emergency cesarean section (C-section)
Many of the factors above can be predicted and planned for before trauma occurs. If the baby is large or the mother’s weight or pelvis might be a problem, for example, doctors can pre-plan a C-section and avoid trauma during delivery.
Breech births and other unpredictable situations in the delivery room are considered to be emergency medical procedures. While success is not guaranteed, doctors must act according to a “standard of care,” which means another doctor would have handled the same situation in a similar way.
Any time your doctor fails to take preventative care or meet a “standard of care,” they can be held responsible for the injuries and losses they cause or contribute to.
What Are the Most Common Birth Injuries?
Infants are very fragile and can be harmed in a number of ways during a traumatic birth. Birth injuries typically occur in the baby’s head, face, bones, spinal cord, nervous system, and respiratory system.
The most common birth injuries are below:
- Brachial plexus injuries occur when the bundle of nerves that controls the arms and hands (called the brachial plexus) is damaged. This type of injury can lead to weakness and paralysis of the arms and hands. Weakness or paralysis of the shoulder and elbow is called Erb’s palsy and weakness of the hand and wrist is called Klumpke’s palsy.
- Bone fractures are common during labor and delivery and occur most often at the clavicle or the collarbone. A baby may have trouble moving their arm, but these injuries usually heal quickly.
- Bleeding in and around the brain happens during complicated births. Sometimes this bleeding happens under the skin and outside of the skull (hematomas), but other times it can happen closer to the brain (hemorrhage) and cause seizures and permanent brain damage.
- Facial paralysis is caused by pressure on the face (sometimes from forceps or a vacuum) and becomes obvious when the baby cries. If the facial nerve was bruised, it will heal on its own. If it was torn, the baby may need surgery.
- Asphyxia (or lack of oxygen) is a form of suffocation that can occur during pregnancy (intrauterine hypoxia) or before, during, or after birth (perinatal asphyxia). The condition can cause unconsciousness, brain damage, or death.
- Spinal cord injuries can happen to any child and are most common in the neck area. For infants with undiagnosed or misdiagnosed spina bifida (raw spinal nerves), these injuries can occur when doctors touch or damage the exposed nerves. Spinal cord injuries can lead to permanent paralysis, breathing difficulties, and other complications.
Many of the injuries listed above, especially asphyxia and bleeding in or around the brain, can lead to temporary brain damage, mild learning disability, or cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a physical and sometimes intellectual disability caused by brain damage that occurs before, during, or shortly after birth.
If your child has been affected by any of the conditions above, contact our lawyers at (215) 564-4400 today.
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