Types of Birth Injury

When we talk about “birth injuries,” we are referencing a wide range of largely preventable illnesses and conditions that occur either before, during or immediately after birth.

Effects of some birth injuries may be painful but temporary, while others may be profound and permanent.

It can be difficult for parents to ascertain the exact cause of an injury or illness because symptoms of the same condition may present differently from child to child. Physicians and other health care providers often do not disclose when a problem may be attributed to error by the medical team.

At Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers, our experienced Boston birth injury attorneys are closely familiar with these cases. Because we have litigated many of these complex cases, we have an expansive knowledge of not only how to recognize them, but also who may be responsible and how we might pursue damages.

Here, we offer some insight into some of the most common birth injuries. These include:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Intra-ventricular hemorrhage
  • Meconium Aspiration
  • Erb’s Palsy
  • Spinal Injuries/ Paralysis
  • Forceps Injuries
  • C-section Injuries (increasing prevalence, elective, failure to perform, etc.)
  • Broken Bones
  • Infections
  • Hemorrhage/ Bleeding
  • Eclampsia/ Preeclampsia
  • Drug Complications

If you suspect your child has suffered as a result of one of these conditions, it’s imperative to contact a birth injury attorney for more information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report the lifetime cost of caring for a child who suffers a birth injury can be 26 times that of a healthy child. The annual cost of medical care alone is, on average, 10 times higher than for the average child. Those who are successful in birth injury litigation will have the financial resources to cope. Recovery may include:

  • Medical Bills
  • Ongoing therapies/ treatments/ surgeries/ medications
  • Specialized equipment/ home and vehicle modifications
  • In-home health care and long-term care assistance
  • Compensation for lost wages and benefits
  • Compensation for pain and suffering
  • Compensation for loss of consortium

The following are some of the birth injury conditions we tend to see most frequently.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is one of the most common motor disability conditions in childhood, according to the CDC. A number of global population-based studies have indicated the worldwide prevalence of the condition is anywhere from 1.5 to 4 per 1,000 live births.

In the U.S., research from the federal Autism and Developmental Motoring Disabilities Monitoring Network indicates that figure is 1 in every 323 children.

This condition is actually a group of disorders that impacts one’s ability to move and maintain posture and balance. The condition is caused by either abnormal brain development or damage to a developing brain, such as asphyxiation at birth. Symptoms can vary widely from person-to-person.

A diagnosis of cerebral palsy doesn’t mean for sure a birth injury was involved, but it is worth exploring.

Intra-ventricular Hemorrhage

This is a condition that involves bleeding or hemorrhaging of a newborn brain into areas that are fluid-filled, known as the ventricles.

Premature infants, particularly those born more than 10 weeks early, are at highest risk for this condition, due to the fact their blood vessels are not fully-developed. It tends to be associated with respiratory distress syndrome, unstable blood pressure and other medical conditions. The condition typically presents several days after birth, and prompt medical attention is required to address it.

Meconium Aspiration

Meconium aspiration syndrome is one of the top causes of serious illness and death among newborns. About 5 to 10 percent of newborns will inhale meconium, which is a mixture of amniotic fluid and the newborn’s first feces.

In cases where this has occurred, physicians must act quickly to suction the mouth immediately after delivery. Sometimes, it is necessary to place a tube in the trachea. Intensive care may be required thereafter, and may include antibiotics, breathing machines, body warmings and chest-tapping (to loosen secretions).

Fetal distress during labor is a key indicator of meconium aspiration. Doctors may not be able to prevent its occurrence, but they should have the skills and resources to recognize it and respond appropriately.

Erb’s Palsy

This is a form of damage to the shoulder, resulting in weakness or paralysis of the arm. Degree of impairment can vary, and these varying degrees have different names, including:

  • Brachial plexus injury
  • Klumpke paralysis
  • Shoulder Dystocia

It’s estimated about 2 in 1,000 babies will suffer from some form of Erb’s palsy, which is most typically caused when the baby’s head and neck are pulled sideways when the shoulders exit the birth canal.

Spinal Injuries/ Paralysis

Infants and children account for only 5 percent of all spinal cord damage cases in the U.S., but the effects can be severe and lifelong.

  • Spinal cord injuries in newborns happen in one of two ways:
  • A medical malady (i.e., spina bifida, infection, etc.)
  • Blunt force trauma

The Boston Children’s Hospital reports approximately three-fourths of all spinal cord injuries sustained by children occur in the neck. Approximately 20 percent happen in the upper back or chest, and 5 percent occur in the lower back.

Spinal cord injury may result in permanent paralysis or other conditions. Where it may have been preventable, legal action is warranted.

Forceps Injuries

Forceps are a type of tool used in assisting health care providers during a difficult birth. They look somewhat like large salad tongs, and they can be very useful when employed properly in situations where the mother is unable to push the child out.

However, the chance of inflicting harm on the baby is high. Some of the noted damage includes:

  • Brain damage
  • Skull fractures
  • Bruising and swelling of the head
  • Seizures
  • Facial injuries and facial palsy
C-Section Injuries

Cesarean sections (also referred to as C-sections) account for fully a third of all U.S. births in the U.S. currently. This is a surgical procedure wherein the child is extracted directly out of the mother’s uterus. It may be pre-planned, or it could be ordered in an emergency situation, such as when the mother is making no progress during labor, the infant is breech or there is a uterine rupture.

All surgeries have risks, but C-sections can be especially concerning because there are two lives involved. Complications can include fetal lacerations, fractures and respiratory problems.

Although there is criticism of the prevalence of C-sections those that are delayed too long may result in heightened risk of lack of oxygen, resulting in brain damage and developmental delays.

Broken Bones

Although broken bones are painful at any age, they can be especially damaging to a newborn, whose bones are still very fragile. Worse is that it can be difficult to diagnose a broken bone in an infant because they can’t tell you where it hurts. Parents may be alerted to a problem if there is:

  • Obvious signs of pain (i.e., crying)
  • Inability to move a limb
  • Swelling around the bone

In most cases, fractures during childbirth can be prevented when health care providers give the appropriate level of care. Most babies who experience broken bones were in fetal distress, and doctors must be on alert to anticipate and minimize the risks.


There are a number of infections that may cause injury to a fetus or newborn. Although some infections are naturally-occurring, doctors must be prepared to effectively treat them. For example, if a pregnant woman suffers a urinary tract infection or bacterial vaginosis, a physician must prescribe proper treatment because failure to do so can result in the infection traveling to the womb and infecting the baby.

Other infections common among newborns include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Group B streptococcus
  • Meningitis
  • Sepsis

Prompt and proper treatment is necessary to ensure a positive outcome.

Hemorrhage/ Bleeding

Bleeding in and around the brain affects as many as a quarter of all infants born vaginally. It may be caused a blood vessel ruptures inside the skull, usually due to a traumatic birth or some birth injury, such as a lack of oxygen or a skull fracture.

In some cases, the condition heals almost immediately. Other times, it can have lasting damage and may even result in conditions like cerebral palsy.

Some types of brain hemorrhaging include:

  • Subarachnoid hemorrhages
  • Subdural hemorrhages
  • Intraventricular hemorrhages
Eclampsia/ Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a condition that is characterized by high levels of protein in the urine and abnormally high blood pressure and hypertension. Occurring typically after the 34th week of gestation, if not properly recognized and treated (delivery of the baby is the only cure), it can result in severe consequences for mother and baby.

Untreated preeclampsia can progress into eclampsia (formerly known as toxemia), which is characterized by maternal seizures. It can be fatal to both mother and child.

Drug Complications

There are many drugs given to the mother during child birth to either help ease the pain or help labor progress. These may include:

  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Demerol
  • Pitocin

These may be delivered intravenously or via epidural or spinal block. There are a number of complications that could result to both mother and child, including damage to spinal cord, seizures, infection and inability to breathe.

Contact the Boston birth injury lawyers at Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers today for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your concerns.

Call (617) 777-7777 – NO FEE UNLESS SUCCESSFUL
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