The Most Common Birth Injuries in the US

7 in 1,000 babies born in the US will suffer a birth injury. Birth injuries can result in a variety of symptoms, from the very temporary to the life-changing. While nobody expects a this tragedy, the number of birth injuries per year is on the rise. When a baby’s health is at stake, all parents should take a moment to learn about the most common birth injuries in the US.

We’ve put together a list of eight common birth injuries. Our list is in order of least severe to most severe.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

This condition occurs when blood vessels in the eye break. Visually, it can appear as either a red fleck or a red splotch on the eyeball. A subconjunctival hemorrhage is extremely common in newborns and should not be painful. This condition does not cause any lasting vision damage and does not need additional care. Symptoms should clear up after a week.

Forceps Marks

Forceps marks look frightening. They often manifest as an oval-shaped indentation and accompanying bruise on one or both of the baby’s cheeks. While parents may fear how these bruises affect their babies, they are almost always harmless. Forceps marks are nothing more than complex bruising; they almost always heal after several weeks.

Fractures

Broken bones are extremely common during delivery. The collarbones are the most likely to fracture due to unnecessary or overly forceful pulling during delivery. Hip injuries or leg injuries may result from a breech birth (where the baby comes out feet or bottom first)

Thankfully, babies heal broken bones very quickly. Small or hairline infant fractures can heal as quickly as ten days.

Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy refers to an injured brachial plexus (the nerve system connecting the neck to the arms). This injury often occurs when a baby’s head and arms pull in opposite directions at the same time. This type of birth injury is most common with breech births.

Palsy refers to a weakness or paralysis. Children with Erb’s palsy may have one arm that is weaker than the other. Likewise, the nerve system is incredibly complex and even unpredictable. A child with a brachial plexus injury may lose feeling in their arm, cannot feel pain or temperature, and the arm may atrophy due to lack of use.

Thankfully, there are many treatment options for Erb’s Palsy. Sometimes the condition heals on its own. In other cases, surgery may be required. If the nerve damage persists, the child may need extended care and physical therapy to gain some control of their muscles.

Neonatal Asphyxiation

When the baby becomes stuck in the birth canal or doctors wait too long to perform a C-section, the baby may suffer from a lack of oxygen. Under these circumstances, the baby may lose color and suffer permanent brain damage at their first breath. In an extreme condition, failure to act could even result in the death of the baby.

Neonatal asphyxiation can have a devastating impact on both the baby and the family. Moreover, there’s no way to know how asphyxiation affected the baby until years later. This type of injury can become a “latent birth injury,” one that doesn’t show signs until later in life. If parents are unaware that this type of injury occurred, the 3-year statute of limitations for the birth injury begins upon discovery.

Thankfully, treatment options for birth injuries are always improving. Some hospitals utilize an experimental birth injury treatment called “therapeutic hypothermia.” The baby is wrapped in a refrigerated blanket and kept at low body temperature for several days. Evidence suggests that this treatment plan can reverse the effects of neonatal asphyxiation when used immediately after delivery.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) impacts a surprising number of newborns. More than 10,000 babies suffer a brain injury that results in cerebral palsy each year. Moreover, roughly 1-in-3 birth injuries in the US result in cerebral palsy. This birth injury is always unexpected and can have a devastating impact on the entire family.

Children diagnosed with cerebral palsy have difficulty controlling their limbs. While severity is highly dependent on the extent of the injury, roughly 30% of people with CP have extreme movement difficulties. Many more experience speech impediments or learning and mental disabilities.

That said, cerebral palsy awareness is at an all-time high. There are more treatment options to help people with cerebral palsy today than ever. People with CP may benefit from physical therapy, medication, and occupational training. Each of these can dramatically improve a child’s quality of life and develop their independence.

Paralysis

There are several degrees of paralysis resulting from a birth injury. Some are minor paralysis of the face. This usually occurs as a consequence of using forceps. If a doctor applies too much pressure, they can pinch or even tear facial nerves. Under the best circumstances, this can result in months of healing to restore facial movement. If the injury does not heal, surgery may be required.

However, facial paralysis is just the beginning. If a doctor is particularly negligent in their use of forceps or their handling of the delivery, they may pinch nerves in the baby’s neck. This can result in lifelong paraplegia or even quadriplegia. A potentially healthy baby may never walk or move their body due to a doctor’s negligence and malpractice. This is a tragedy and one that warrants the pursuit of justice and rightful compensation from those responsible.

If your child suffered a birth injury due to medical malpractice, you might have a case. If you’d like an experienced Portland birth injury attorney from Angel Law to evaluate your claim, please send us an email or call (503) 862-8666 at your earliest convenience.

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