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What types of birth injuries are caused by medical negligence?

Nothing is more joyous than the birth of a new baby, yet no person is so vulnerable as an infant during childbirth. Injuries can occur even when everyone does everything right, but if you put your trust in your medical care team, and they injure your newborn, the consequences can be devastating and long-lasting. If your child was injured during childbirth, you may be wondering if it was caused by medical negligence. Several common injuries make up a majority of birth injuries.

Types of injuries:

  • Erb’s palsy. Erb’s palsy and the related Klumpke’s palsy are a type of brachial palsy injuries, caused by shoulder dystocia (when the baby’s shoulders are stuck). Pulling too hard to dislodge the baby can damage the brachial plexus, a bundle of nerves related to the arms and hands.
  • Brain injury. Generally, brain injuries are caused by a lack of oxygen for any number of reasons, including problems with the umbilical cord and a failure to monitor the baby right after birth. Brain injuries can cause many medical problems, including cerebral palsy and chronic seizures.
  • Fractures. The most common fracture during delivery is a broken clavicle. A doctor can cause this injury by pulling too hard on the baby during a breech delivery, or by pulling on the shoulder too hard during a long labor. Though the broken clavicle may be painful, it almost always heals on its own in less than two weeks.
  • Injuries cause by tools. Several common injuries result from doctors using forceps or a vacuum extraction to pull the baby out. These include facial paralysis, cephalohematoma (bleeding under the cranium causing a bump) and caput succedaneum (swollen soft tissue in the scalp). Most often, these injuries will go away if treated properly, but occasionally they can cause long-term or permanent problems.
  • Prescription drugs. In some cases, the damage is done before childbirth when the caregiver prescribes a harmful medication to the pregnant mother. The problems vary depending on the medication.

Not all injuries during childbirth are avoidable, and doctors and other medical staff must use their best judgment when weighing risks of certain actions. If a doctor fails to use his or her best judgment, however, and your newborn is injured as a result, your child may be a victim of medical negligence.

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