6 Birth Injuries That Cause Lasting Complications

Obstetricians have a responsibility to monitor their patients carefully and use delivery techniques that minimize the risk of injury to babies. Despite the many advances in maternal and fetal medicine, thousands of babies continue to sustain birth injuries each year. Some of these injuries heal quickly, but others cause devastating complications that can affect the rest of a child's life. If you are expecting a baby, ask your doctor what steps will be taken to prevent these six injuries during your delivery.

1. Fetal Hypoxia

Fetal hypoxia occurs when a developing baby is deprived of oxygen, resulting in impaired organ activity. Prolonged oxygen deprivation has been linked to congenital defects, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and ADHD. In severe cases, fetal hypoxia may even lead to death.

Fetal hypoxia sometimes occurs because the obstetrician failed to monitor the baby's mother properly or made a mistake in interpreting the fetal monitoring strips used to determine if a baby is in distress.

2. Intracranial Hemorrhage

Intracranial hemorrhage, or bleeding in the brain, is caused by the rupture of one or more blood vessels inside the skull. Premature infants sometimes experience this type of hemorrhage due to having underdeveloped brains, but bleeding in the brain may also occur if an obstetrician uses improper delivery techniques or does not manage a patient's labor appropriately.

Lasting complications associated with intracranial hemorrhage include seizures, breathing difficulties, learning disabilities, and mental retardation.

3. Perinatal Asphyxia

Perinatal asphyxia is caused by inadequate oxygen intake before, during, or immediately after birth. This condition may cause too much acid to build up in the blood, causing a condition called metabolic acidosis. In severe cases, perinatal asphyxia causes seizures, coma, and ongoing problems with the respiratory, digestive, or circulatory organs.

4. Brachial Plexus Injury

Brachial plexus injury sometimes occurs when an obstetrician attempts to extract an infant from the birth canal without realizing the baby's shoulder is lodged in the mother's pelvic area. The force used to extract the baby puts pressure on the brachial plexus, a bundle of nerves that transmit signals from the spinal cord to the arm, hand, and shoulder.

Brachial plexus injuries may cause paralysis of the arm, muscle weakness, or loss of sensation in the affected limb. Some children with brachial plexus injury need surgery or ongoing physical therapy.

5. Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia does not occur as frequently as other birth injuries, but it can cause devastating effects on both mother and baby. This condition develops when the baby's shoulder gets caught behind the mother's symphysis pubis, the joint that joins the left and right pelvic bones.

If this happens, the obstetrician must perform special maneuvers to ensure the safe delivery of the infant. If an obstetrician does not perform the right maneuvers, the baby can develop Erb-Duchenne palsy, urinary incontinence, or motor dysfunction in the lower extremities.

6. Spinal Cord Injuries

The amount of pressure applied to a baby's body during delivery plays a major role in determining if the baby will develop a spinal cord injury. Traction and high levels of rotational pressure on the spinal axis both contribute to this type of injury in newborns.

In some cases, a spinal cord injury occurs because the obstetrician extended the baby's head too far during a breech delivery. The effects of a spinal cord injury depend on which part of the spine is injured, but potential complications include partial paralysis, urinary incontinence, and problems emptying the bowels.

Some babies need lifelong medical care because of the injuries they sustained at birth. Severe injuries may even prevent a child from earning income in the future. If your baby suffered a birth injury that requires ongoing treatment, contact a personal injury attorney immediately. Your attorney will review your obstetric records and help you get more info and the compensation you need to ensure your child receives quality medical care.