Common Types of Birth Injuries
There are many types of birth-related injuries that can occur during the delivery of a baby.
What Are Brachial Plexus Nerve Injuries?
The brachial plexus is a grouping of nerves located in the shoulder and neck, which transmit signals between the spinal cord and the shoulder, arm and hand. Injuries to the brachial plexus can happen when the shoulder and the head are forcefully pushed away from one another. Brachial plexus nerve injuries (BPIs) are one of the more prevalent forms of injury that occur during childbirth, and a majority of BPIs that occur during birth come about because the baby became stuck during delivery and needed to be physically assisted by a doctor or midwife. When a baby becomes stuck during the birth process, it is considered to be an obstruction of labor, or a dystocia. One of the most common types of dystocia occurs when the baby’s head appears, but the baby’s shoulder gets stuck against the mother’s pelvis. This is called shoulder dystocia. Sometimes, if a doctor or midwife uses excessive force to extract the baby during delivery, it can accidentally cause damage to the brachial plexus nerves. BPIs are either classified by the type of BPI, or by the physical location of the BPI.
Classification of BPIs By Type
The least severe BPI is the stretch BPI. This type of injury occurs when the nerves are stretched. However, damage is usually reversible, healing within a few weeks time. Rupture BPIs occur when the nerves are stretched beyond their limits, thus tearing partially or ripping completely apart. A partial rupture BPI could possibly be repaired by reconnecting the torn nerves to reestablish a signal channel, although a completely torn rupture often never recovers any connectivity in the affected nerves. The most severe type of a BPI is an avulsion, in which the nerve is torn from the spinal cord, effectively leaving a hole. This hole disrupts signals that are being transmitted along the spinal cord. Babies who suffer from an avulsion BPI can have difficulty using their legs on the same side of their body as the injury, or could suffer from stunted grown on the affected side of their body.
Classification of BPIs By Location
As classification by type indicates the nature of the BPI and the extent of the damage, classification by location is indicative of what functions and abilities are impaired or lost. For example, when a BPI is located at the fifth, sixth and/or seventh cervical node in the spine, the injury is termed Erb’s Palsy. Erb’s Palsy typically affects the chest, shoulder, arm, and thumb on the injured side of the body. Klumpke’s Palsy is characterized by a BPI at the eighth cervical node, or first thoracic node in the spine, and primarily affects the mobility of the wrist and hand on the affected side. When damage spans the whole of the brachial nerve connections to the spinal cord, the injury is termed as a “pan injury.”
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a collection of conditions, all characterized by the same basic problem: brain damage sustained during birth from either a lack of oxygen to the brain or trauma. About two out of every one thousand babies is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and it occurs more frequently in premature babies. The injuries associated with cerebral palsy generally affect areas of the brain that control muscle control. As the child develops and grows, symptoms of the cerebral palsy will begin to manifest. The child may have impaired movement, muscle spasms and/or uncontrollable involuntary movements, or problems with ambulation (walking). There may also be an array of cognitive problems, ranging from learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, vision or hearing impairments, or difficulty with speech and the ability to communicate.
Severity of Cerebral Palsy
The severity of cerebral palsy can range from mild to moderate to severe. Severity is generally related to the extent of damage in the brain. It is a non-progressive condition, meaning it does not generally get worse as the child grows.
Four Types of Cerebral Palsy
There are four distinct types of cerebral palsy. The most common form is spastic cerebral palsy, comprising approximately 50-75% of all cases. Muscles that are overly tight, making movement rigid and awkward and making walking very difficult characterize this type of cerebral palsy. Athetoid cerebral palsy makes up between 10-20% of all cases, and is characterized by slow uncontrolled muscle movements and poor muscle control. Ataxic cerebral palsy, which makes up about 5-10% of all cerebral palsy cases, is characterized by poor balance, depth perception and coordination. Lastly, in very few instances, a child may have a mixed form of cerebral palsy, which is a combination of any or all of the previous three types.
Neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus
There are various injuries and illnesses that can mar the joys of childbirth. One such illness is neonatal herpes encephalitis or neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). HSV is a serious infection that can cause serious long-term damage to the baby’s health, and if left untreated, it can even cause death. This infection can be transmitted to the baby during delivery through an infected genital tract of the mother or can be transmitted from one newborn to another by the hospital staff. HSV can be classified into three forms:
- Skin, eyes and mouth simplex (SEM)
- Central Nervous System herpes (CNS)
- Disseminated Herpes (DIS)
In some cases, the infant may have all three forms of HSV. In this post, Chicago birth injury lawyer will discuss this condition is greater detail.
Common symptoms of neonatal Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)
Neonatal HSV can present a wide variety of symptoms that include, but are not limited to:
- Body stiffness
- Blisters on the surface of the skin
- Respiratory distress
- Rapid onset of fever or temperature instability fever
The symptoms displayed by the baby are indicative of the form of the HSV that he/she has. In most cases, the symptoms of HSV present themselves between the first and third week of life, but in some cases, they may not be noticeable until four weeks of life.
If you think that your newborn has some kind of an infection, you should immediately take the child to the doctor for complete examination. In case HSV is suspected, the doctor may perform a microscopy of the skin lesions or an HSV culture.
Can neonatal HSV be treated?
It is extremely important that neonatal HSV is treated promptly. The doctors must treat this infection with an acyclovir IV for two to three weeks. The dosage would depend on various factors including the form of infection that the baby has. Support therapy such as respiratory support and additional fluids may also be required. Constant monitoring is also required to ensure that the infant is stable.
Can medical negligence cause neonatal HSV?
There are some ways in which medical negligence can cause the baby to contract HSV. In most cases, negligence on the part of medical provider will hold them responsible for any long term damage sustained from HSV. Some ways in which the doctor can act negligently include:
- Failure to diagnose or treat Herpes Simplex Virus in a pregnant woman in a timely manner
- Failure to inform a pregnant woman on potential risks of delivery methods
- Failure to diagnose or treat Herpes Simplex Virus in the baby in a timely manner
- Failure to deliver the baby by cesarean section to avoid risks for infection
Understanding Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia
Folic acid deficiency anemia is the lack of red blood cells due to a lack of folate. It is not as common in the U.S. as it once was, thanks to the advances in medicine and easy access to foods rich in folic acid. Most pregnant women can easily avoid folic acid deficiency anemia. If folic acid deficiency is not treated properly and in a timely manner, it can lead to complications for both the mother and the child.
Folic Acid Deficiency
Folic acid deficiency is a condition in which the levels of folic acid in the body are low. The deficiency can be overcome by consuming foods high in folic acid and by taking folic acid supplements. The body does not store folic acid, so it has to be restored daily.
How Folic Acid Anemia Develops
Folic acid deficiency can occur any time. It commonly occurs during pregnancy, because the folic acid in the mother’s system is first used to support the growing infant, and if there is not sufficient levels of folic acid, the mother may become deficient. Serious medical conditions associated with folic acid deficiency include:
- Crohn’s disease
- sickle cell anemia
- celiac disease
Sources of Folic Acid
Doctors recommend that pregnant women and nursing mothers consume folic acid rich foods such as:
- green beans
- fortified cereal
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, pregnant women should take an extra dose of folic acid each day to accommodate a developing fetus. The recommended daily intake for an adult female who is not pregnant is 400 mcg, while for a pregnant woman it is 600 mcg. Breastfeeding mothers need 500 mcg of folic acid per day.
Symptoms of Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia
Anemia symptoms resulting from folic acid deficiency are due to a reduced amount of oxygen to the body. Women may experience symptoms such as:
- extreme tiredness
- feeling faint
- heart palpitations
- pale appearance
Folic Acid Deficency During Pregnancy
A developing fetus with a deficiency of folic acid are at a high risk of medical complications including:
- neural tube defects
- low birth weight
- nervous system damage
- brain damage
Infertility Treatments and the Risk for Birth Defects
While infertility treatments may be a blessing for couples who are having trouble conceiving a child, there is research that shows the possibility that in vitro fertilization (IVF) may result in birth defects. If you are unsure of the cause of your baby’s birth defect and used IVF to conceive, a Chicago birth injury lawyer may be able to help determine if your infertility specialist was negligent in your care.
An Increase in Birth Defects
There have been a number of studies done to help determine if IVF causes a higher incidence of birth defects. The British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study that was conducted over a period of 25 years. The study showed an increase in birth defects with children who were conceived using IVF to 10.7 per 10,000 births compared to 5.9. This was attributed to the 50% rise in multiple births during the same period. What was also noted in the study was that the types of defects found to have increased were not chromosome related, but physical defects that develop as a child grows in the womb, such as heart defects or abnormalities in the digestive tract.
The Risks of IVF Treatments
IVF also brings a greater possibility of multiple births, which is also a contributing factor in the development of birth defects and birth injury. Some specialists claim that the increase in birth defects is due to one of the techniques used in IVF, where the sperm is injected directly into the egg. The abnormalities associated with this procedure are typically minor and corrective with surgery. As potential parents, you should be warned of those risks and given the opportunity to make your decision for IVF only after being presented with all options. If your child required surgery to fix a birth defect after having been conceived using IVF, it is important that you speak with a Chicago birth injury lawyer to see if the doctor was negligent and you weren’t properly warned of the possible complications.
65 percent of infants diagnosed with Horner syndrome were the result of a birth injury.
Horner syndrome is a condition caused by damage to the nerve pathway leading from the brain to the eyes and face. It is a rare condition and effects only 1.42 in 100,000 people under the age of 19 years. 1 in 6,250 cases happen at birth and 65 percent of these cases result from birth injuries.
Symptoms of Horner Syndrome
Horner syndrome normally affects only one side of the face. Common symptoms of Horner syndrome include:
- different pupil sizes
- eye may appear sunken
- miosis – excessive constriction of the pupil
- eye may appear bloodshot
- drooping of the upper eyelid
- negative pupil dilation test
- isolated patch of skin on the side of the face
- little or no sweating on the side of the face
- iris in each eye may be a different color
Common Causes of Horner Syndrome
There can be a variety of causes of Horner syndrome; however, infants develop this condition congenitally or because of a birth injury or medical negligence. Congenital disorders that can lead to Horner syndrome include:
- carotid artery ischemia
- artery problems
Birth injuries that can lead to Horner syndrome include:
- improper use of forceps during delivery
- shoulder dystocia
- pulling the infant too hard, causing tears to the sympathetic nerves
- failure to respond to fetal distress in a timely and appropriate manner
- failure to detect an infant in breech position and perform timely delivery
- failure to perform a cesarean section surgery in time
Treatment for Horner Syndrome
Whenever a doctor suspects the infant to be suffering from Horner syndrome, they will administer a pupil dilation test to check how the pupil responds to stimuli. They may also perform a physical exam and order an MRI to determine if a birth injury has occured. There is no treatment for Horner syndrome but doctors can identify the underlying cause and treat it. In some cases, the nerve injuries causing Horner syndrome may heal on their own or medication or even surgery may be required.
Prognosis of Horner Syndrome
Some patients may experience lifelong problems on the affected side. The prognosis largely depends on the severity of the condition and how quickly it is diagnosed and treated. A delay in diagnosis or treatment of the underlying conditions can cause complications that can be life-threatening.
The Risks of Fetal Macrosomia
The slightest error can turn an otherwise simple and uneventful pregnancy into a complicated series of events that can turn disastrous. If an unborn baby weighs more than 9 pounds and 13 ounces, the risks to both the mother and child are increased. If the condition is not managed well, fetal macrosomia can lead to birth injuries.
Fetal macrosomia is a baby with a birth weight of more than 8 pounds and 13 ounces, regardless of its gestational age. The size of the baby makes him or her vulnerable to birth injury, trauma, or asphyxia during a vaginal delivery.
Risks of Macrosomia
A macrosomic baby is often delivered via a C-section. Vaginal deliveries for macrosomic babies can increase the risks, leading to a number of birth injuries.
- CPD – A macrosomic baby often cannot fit into the mother’s birth canal and may get stuck. This condition is called cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD), requiring the doctor to use force or pressure to deliver the baby.
- Shoulder dystocia – This is a condition where the baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the pelvic bone. If the doctor pulls too hard to get the baby out, the brachial plexus nerves in the baby’s neck and shoulders may tear, causing weakness or Erb’s palsy.
- Cord compression – Shoulder dystocia often causes the umbilical cord to be compressed or stuck in the pelvic bone or birth canal. The flow of oxygen to the baby can be reduced, leading to birth asphyxia, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or brain damage.
- Birthing tools – Doctors often use tools such as forceps or vacuum extractors that are attached to the head of the baby to pull the baby through the birth canal. These tools can cause injuries to the brain such as brain bleeds, hemorrhages, or conditions such as cerebral palsy and seizures.
- Ruptured uterus – A uterus rupture can result in significant loss of blood, leading to reduction in oxygen levels causing birth asphyxia.
- Prolonged labor – Macrosomic babies often experience prolonged labor because of their size. A prolonged labor makes the baby more susceptible to any infections that the mother has.
Umbilical Cord Strangulation
We often hear of cases where a baby is born with the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck, or of emergency deliveries conducted due to the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck, or in some unfortunate cases, babies getting strangulated during the birthing process due to the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck. Any umbilical cord complications that arise during pregnancy or labor, which if left undetected, or not monitored can cause distress to the baby as well as the mother, and cause birth injuries and even death. Chicago birth injury lawyer discusses the issue in detail.
The function of the umbilical cord – that connects the developing embryo to the placenta – is to provide the fetus with nutrient-rich blood. Due to the movement of the baby in the womb, the umbilical cord can get wrapped around the neck of the baby, a condition that is known as ‘nuchal cord’.
According to statistics, about six babies in every thousand babies born suffer birth injuries. Out of these, about 25% are born with umbilical cords wrapped around their necks. Nuchal cord condition is often seen in natural births. If it is not detected and treated in time, it could lead to brain damage, organ failure or even death.
During child birth, the doctor may be able to unwind the cord from the neck of the baby, however, nuchal cord conditions often require an emergency c-section, if the doctor is unable to do untangle the umbilical cord manually and if the condition poses a threat to the baby.
Nuchal cord conditions can be detected through ultrasound and doctors can use preventive measures to reduce complications during delivery and prevent injuries.
Liability in nuchal cord birth injuries
Considering the fact that nuchal cord conditions are preventable with timely and proper monitoring of the baby during pregnancy and delivery, inability to detect nuchal cord condition can amount to negligence on part of the doctors and medical practitioners.
Breach of Standard of Care during Pregnancy
All practicing obstetricians are trained to monitor and treat nuchal cord conditions and apply preventive methods, keeping in mind the associated risks. These are standards of care that all obstetricians are expected to meet. If nuchal cord strangulation occurs due to the doctor’s failure to monitor the fetal growth, movement, and conduct other check-ups, it can amount to medical malpractice and can be termed as breach of standard of care.
Breach of Standard of Care of Obstetrician during labor and delivery
It is also the responsibility of the obstetrician to keep a vigilant eye on the progress of the labor and delivery process. The doctor may need to intervene in the birthing process by either performing an emergency C-section, or by taking the decision to manually untangle the cord. Failure to make a proper and timely decision can lead to birth injuries or death of the infant, and can amount to breach of standard of care on part of the obstetrician.
Baby Deprived of Oxygen During Birth, Do I have an Injury Claim?
It is the hope and prayer of every parent that their child is born healthy and happy. Unfortunately, many babies suffer injuries during pregnancy, labor and delivery.
One of the most serious injuries that can occur to a baby is a lack of adequate oxygen.
During pregnancy, labor and delivery, it’s essential that the baby receives adequate oxygen.
Oxygen deprivation during labor is known as birth asphyxia. This means, the baby is suffocated inside the mother, which can cause serious injuries to the baby’s brain and other organs. In this post, Chicago birth injury lawyer will discuss some key details about oxygen deprivation and how it can cause birth injuries.
Some key terms related to oxygen deprivation
Hypoxia: Deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues, which means that the blood supply is adequate, but the blood lacks an adequate amount of oxygen.
Hypoxemia: Abnormally low level of oxygen in the blood. It can lead to hypoxia in the organs, and if not treated in time, it can lead to birth asphyxia and even permanent brain damage, and in worse cases, death.
Ischemia: Inadequate blood supply to the brain and other tissues and organs.
Key causes of oxygen deprivation in babies
Oxygen deprivation can be caused by various medical complications, some of which are completely preventable or treatable. Some common causes of oxygen deprivation include:
Umbilical cord problems: A compressed or kinked umbilical cord can reduce or stop the flow of blood to the baby. Some of these problems include:
- Umbilical cord compression
- Umbilical cord prolapse
- Nuchal cord (when the cord is wrapped around baby’s neck)
Uterus problems: There are various complications involving the uterus that can impact the flow of oxygen and blood to the baby. These include:
- Uterine rupture
- Uterine hyperstimulation or Tachysystole
- Uteroplacental Insufficiency (inability of placenta to deliver adequate amount of oxygen and blood)
Placental problems: The placenta is attached to the inside of the uterine wall and is connect to the baby by the umbilical cord. It is responsible for the exchange of oxygen, nutrient and carbon dioxide between the mother and baby. Some placental complications that can lead to oxygen deprivation in the baby are:
- Placental abruption (the placenta tears away from uterine wall)
- Placenta Previa (low lying placenta that blocks the cervix)
- Preeclampsia (high blood pressure in mother)
Oxygen deprivation can be prevented
It is the duty of the doctors to recognize any complications and to take necessary actions quickly to protect the baby from any injuries. When medical professionals fail to recognize the signs of oxygen deprivation, such as an abnormal fetal heart rate, it amounts to medical malpractice.
Can a Sick Mother Significantly Harm Her Unborn Child?
If a mother is infected with a certain class of disease, that disease can be passed to her child, either in utero, during child birth, or subsequent to the birth through breastfeeding.
Bringing a child into the world is an exciting endeavor, but one that is often fraught with uncertainty and anxiety. Expectant mothers often find themselves confronting concerns that they have never had before, like getting the correct proportion of vitamins per meal, avoiding certain types of cheese and fish, and sleeping in a way so as not to harm the baby. New mothers also find themselves consulting their doctors more frequently, and relying upon their advice on what to do.
Before future mothers even get pregnant, however, their doctors owe them a duty to correctly diagnose diseases and disorders. If a mother is infected with a certain class of disease, that disease can be passed to her child, either in utero, during child birth, or subsequent to the birth through breastfeeding. The phenomenon is called “vertical transmission,” and the effects can be minor, or devastating. If there is medical negligence in diagnosing a disease, or he or she diagnoses the disease but fails to warn against pregnancy, that doctor can be sued by the mother who must care for the child. An experienced birth injury attorney can confront the doctor, hospital, and insurance company on the mother’s behalf to fight for the compensation each responsible party owes to the injured.
Diseases Transmitted In Utero
There are a handful of diseases, called congenital diseases, which a mother can pass to her unborn child while it gestates in the womb. Some have become less common due to modern vaccinations. Others are quite common, and many mothers can carry the disease without exhibiting symptoms.
Rubella, or German measles as it used to be known, is a disease that resembles the measles. Symptoms include fever and an itchy rash covering the whole body. If a mother contracts the disease while she is pregnant, her child is at risk for congenital rubella syndrome. The symptoms for the child are much more severe, including deafness, low birth rate, and intellectual disability. Since the development of the MMR vaccine, congenital rubella syndrome is very rare. However, with a resurgence of the anti-vaccine movement, it is possible for a mother not to have been vaccinated against rubella.
A more common disease is toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite. While there are a number of ways to become infected, a common way is accidental transmission from an infected cat to humans. In a healthy adult, toxoplasmosis has no known symptoms. However, in those with compromised immune systems, as well as unborn babies, the effects can be devastating. Unborn babies infected with toxoplasmosis are at risk for prematurity, stillbirth, and mental retardation.
Common Questions Answered Regarding Chicago Birth Injury Lawsuits
When something goes wrong during the birth of a child, it is easy for parents to be confused about what occurred and what they are able to do it about. There are numerous questions as they also try and cope with caring for a newborn child with an injury. What follows are some of the most common concerns posed by new parents when discussing their baby’s injury with a Chicago birth injury attorney.
What Causes a Birth Injury?
A birth injury is caused by an unexpected complication during labor and/or delivery. The most common causes are a lack of oxygen and failure to perform a necessary cesarean section. This is sometimes the result of inattentive medical staff, and could be deemed medical malpractice by an Illinois court.
How Do I Know if my Child’s Birth Injury Warrants a Lawsuit?
The only way to know for sure is by speaking with an Illinois birth injury lawyer, and disclosing all medical records to them. Rarely will a medical professional admit to medical negligence during any procedure, and will likely try and reduce their responsibility by attributing the birth injury to complications.
Is the Baby’s Medical Care Taken Into Consideration as a Part of the Birth Injury Lawsuit?
There are a number of birth injuries that require a lifetime of treatment, such as cerebral palsy. Caring for a child with cerebral palsy will be expensive for the parents, and will be the priority when filing the birth injury claim. The main objective of a Chicago birth injury lawyer is to ensure that the future care of your child is provided for.
Who is Held Liable in a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
This will depend on the circumstances of your case, but the attending physician is usually the first medical professional an attorney will look into when trying to find the cause of your baby’s birth injury.
Will a Birth Injury Claim go to Trial?
While your Chicago birth injury attorney will make preparations for trial, in most cases the claim is settled through negotiation or mediation. This is the least expensive option for you, and the fastest way to put the case behind you and focus on the care of your child.
What About Temporary Birth Injuries?
Not every birth injury causes a lifetime of treatment. In some cases, such as with shoulder dislocation from aggressive forceps use, the injury will be corrected and your child will resume a healthy, normal life. Even so, they may have suffered unduly from the negligence of an individual who was entrusted to care for them, and they should receive compensation for that.
Contact Willens Injury Law Offices to Receive a Free Consultation from an Experienced Attorney
To discuss your Birth Injury case, call our Chicago Birth Injury Attorney today at (312) 957-4166 to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. Initially, we will listen to you and offer you guidance. We see this initial FREE consultation not only as a way for us to get to know you, but also for you to better understand who we are and what we can do, so you can feel comfortable making the decision as to which law firm to hire.
Request a Free Consultation