How Medical Malpractice can Result in Birth Injuries

by Bruce Fagel on Feb. 19, 2013

Accident & Injury Medical Malpractice Accident & Injury  Personal Injury Accident & Injury  Wrongful Death 

Summary: Medical malpractice birth injuries can happen from a variety of causes including an insufficient supply of oxygen or blood flow to the brain of a baby, trauma, or infection.

One of the most frightening prospects any parent can face is finding out their child was born with a serious birth injury.  There are several types of birth injuries that can happen during the labor or delivery stages, including injuries to the brain of the baby from a lack of sufficient oxygen or blood flow, from trauma or infection.  Trauma injuries can occur if the baby can’t fit through the birth canal and the doctor improperly uses the forceps or vacuum device causing physical damage to the infant.

Often, birth injuries like these are preventable.  For example, if the baby’s head is too large to fit naturally through the birth canal, a doctor likely could have prevented the birth injury by using a C-Section to remove the baby.  If the baby did not receive adequate oxygen or blood flow to the brain and was born with cerebral palsy for example, the problem may have been traced back to a number of factors, including the failure of the doctor to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord, or failing to perform a C-section if required.

Preventable birth injuries may occur if the medical staff fails to properly monitor the fetal heart rate monitor.  The fetal monitor strip is the infant’s way of communicating with the doctors and nurses during the mother’s labor.  See the fetal heart rate monitor video for a visual demonstration of how to interpret a fetal monitor strip.  Doctors and nurses look at the fetal monitor strip to see where there are abnormalities or problems that should be recognized during labor.  If the infant’s heart rate suddenly drops, the fetal heart rate monitor will alert the medical staff so proper action can be taken to save the baby.  However, if the staff fails to monitor the fetal heart rate monitor, ignores the warning signs or fails to act promptly when an emergency arises, the baby may be deprived of an adequate blood and oxygen flow to the brain and other organs of the body, which may cause catastrophic injuries or result in the death of the baby.

There are many types of preventable birth injuries that may occur during labor or delivery including brachial plexus injuries.  Brachial plexus injuries involve damage to the nerves that exit the spinal cord in the neck and supply nerve impulses to the arms.  If the head of the baby is twisted with too much force during the birthing process, such as when a doctor tries to twist the baby’s head if it is too big to easily fit through the birth canal, these nerves can be stretched and damaged, leading to paralysis in the arms or hands which is referred to as Erb’s palsy.

A lack of oxygen flow to the brain of the baby, known as hypoxia or asphyxia, can lead to severe injuries, including paralysis, cerebral palsy, and mental retardation if not detected early and corrected.  The fetal heart rate monitor can also help warn medical staff if the infant’s heart is not functioning properly and delivering a proper blood and oxygen supply to various organs of the body, including the brain.

If there have been any major problems during labor or delivery, and the baby requires admission to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the parents need to understand the possibility of long term care for their child.  If medical malpractice was the cause of the birth injury, the parents should seek a consultation with a medical malpractice attorney who specializes in birth injuries as soon as possible.  If medical negligence was the cause of the injury, financial compensation may be awarded to pay for the medical care the child may require for the rest of his or her life.

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