Dealing With Birth Injuries/ Prevalence and Statistics
Childbirth is understood and often expected to be an often painful process. Still most of the time in the 4 million births that occur annually in the U.S., delivery is successful and no special assistance is required.
But in about 10 percent of cases, medical intervention is needed to keep both the child and mother healthy. We depend on our doctors, nurses and other health care providers to be prepared, recognize potential problems and act swiftly and appropriately when an issue arises.
Sadly, this is not always the case, as tens of thousands of preventable birth injuries occur each year. At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, our dedicated, knowledgeable team of Massachusetts birth injury lawyers recognizes the traumatic effect this can have on families. Outcomes can range from temporary pain and discomfort to profound disability and lifelong challenges or even death.
While many doctors do their best to ensure patients receive the best care possible, any action that results in unnecessary pain and suffering to a child is unacceptable and may be legally actionable.What is a Birth Injury?
Birth injuries are systemic damages that may occur before, during or immediately after birth that may result in long-term negative consequences to the child. These can range from a broken clavicle bone caused by improper extraction to permanent nerve damage or severe cognitive impairments caused by a lack of oxygen during delivery.
Some examples of birth injuries include:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Intra-ventricular Hemorrhage
- Meconium Aspiration
- Erb’s Palsy
- Spinal Injuries/ Paralysis
- Forceps Injuries
- C-Section Injuries
- Broken Bones
- Hemorrhage/ Bleeding
- Eclampsia/ Preeclampsia
- Drug Complications
This is not an exhaustive list, but it does provide an idea of some of the more commonly-diagnosed birth injuries.How Often Does Birth Injury Occur?
Researchers using different methods of analysis have come up with varying answers to this question.
The rate of birth trauma in the U.S. was long reported to be somewhere between 0.2 and 37 per 1,000. That is a huge variation, and the reason, as pointed out by researchers in a 2010 study of data from 2003 in the journal Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, is there are very few population-based studies and inconsistencies in published birth trauma rates.
That study, “Descriptive epidemiology of birth trauma in the U.S.,” analyzed more than 890,000 birth outcomes, and determined birth injury occurs in about 29 to 1,000 births. Most commonly, those included:
- Injuries to scalp
- Injuries to skeleton
- Fracture of clavicle
In 2009, the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, in a federal government statistical brief, reported that in 2006, there were nearly 158,000 potentially avoidable injuries to both mothers and children in the U.S. that year alone. Those researchers analyzed data from 15 million discharges from almost 1,900 hospitals.
In general, researchers found newborns who were covered by Medicaid – as compared to private insurance – had statistically higher rates of birth injury.
Further, rates of newborn injury was 33 percent higher in the most remote locations as compared to the most metropolitan locations.
In general, larger infants were more susceptible to trauma, as were those who were vaginal breech delivery and those for whom doctors used instruments, such as forceps or vacuum to complete the delivery.
Certain types of birth injury are known to occur more frequently than others. A study published in the Journal Reproductive Medicine revealed that per 1,000 live-born, single-births delivered vaginally, there was an incident rate of:
- 5.7 clavicular injury
- 0.7 facial nerve injury
- brachial plexus injury
Meanwhile, the CDC reports the prevalence of cerebral palsy, the most common motor disability in childhood that is sometimes caused by birth trauma, has an incidence rate of 4 per 1,000 live births. That amounts to 1 in every 323 children.Dealing With Birth Injuries
On top of the crushing emotional weight that a birth injury can inflict on a family, one of the major questions posed is how the costs will be absorbed.
On average, it’s been reported that the average cost for a vaginal delivery is $18,330, while the average cost for a C-section is $28,000. When a birth injury is involved, the cost is substantially higher. Of course, insurance takes on most of that. But in the event of a birth injury, the costs can be exponentially higher. There are the immediate costs that may include hospitalization, medication and surgery. But some families and individuals incur costs for lifelong treatment and care.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the medical costs for children with cerebral palsy are 10 times higher than for children without cerebral palsy or intellectual disability ($17,000 a year compared to $1,700 a year). Over the course of a lifetime, the agency estimated, the cost for care of an individual with cerebral palsy is about $1 million – and that’s a conservative estimate.
Families of children who suffered birth injuries must often work closely with:
- Doctors, including specialists of physical, speech and occupational therapy, as well as neurologists, psychiatrists, opthalmologists, gastroenterologists, ear/nose/throat doctors, pain management physicians and dentists who offer specialized dental care. Children with birth injuries also sometimes require numerous surgeries for a variety of reasons.
- Long-term home health care, nursing care and day habilitation.
- Special services, which may include home modifications and medical equipment.
- Early intervention and special needs services.
These services are all very expensive, and on top of all of it, families are often so consumed with care of the child, they suffer lost income and benefits in their careers.
Our experienced injury lawyers work to help families maximize their damage recovery to ensure children harmed by negligent health care providers receive just compensation.