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Birth Injuries

What Is a Birth Injury?

The terms "birth injury" and "birth trauma" ordinarily refer to injuries to a baby that result from complications during labor and delivery.

Common Birth Injuries

Birth injuries range from mild to severe, ranging from minor bruising to nerve or brain damage. Most birth injuries do not result from medical malpractice. A lawyer can assist you in evaluating a specific incident for the possibility of malpractice. Common injuries include:

  • Bruising and Forceps Marks - Sometimes a baby will have bruising on the face or head simply from passing though the birth canal, and from associated contact with the mother's pelvic bones and tissues. If forceps are used during delivery, they may leave temporary marks or bruises on the baby's head. Vacuum extraction can also cause brusing to the head, and may cause a scalp laceration. In extreme cases, forceps use can cause depressed skull fractures, which may require surgical elevation.
  • Subconjunctival Hemorrhage - This common birth injury results in bright red band around the iris of one or both of the baby's eyes. This does not cause damage to the eyes, and usually disappears completely within a week to ten days.
  • Caput Succedaneum - This is a severe swelling of the baby's scalp, and is more likely to occur as a result of vacuum extraction. The swelling will ordinarily disappear within a few days.
  • Cephalohematoma - This term refers to bleeding between the skull bone and its fibrous covering. A cephalohematoma will ordinarily resolve within two weeks to three months. If a cephalohematoma is particularly large, the baby may become jaundiced as the red blood cells break down.
  • Facial Paralysis -Pressure on the baby's face during labor or birth, or the use of forceps during childbirth, may cause injury to a baby's facial nerves. If a nerve is merely bruised, the paralysis will ordinarily clear up within a few weeks. With more severe nerve damage, it may be necessary to surgically repair the damaged facial nerves.
  • Brachial Palsy Injuries - (Erb's Palsy and Klumpke's Palsy) - this condition occurs when the brachial plexus (the group of nerves that controls movement of the arms and hands) is injured. This injury most often results from "shoulder dystocia", a term which describes birth difficulties which result when the baby's shoulders impair its passage through the birth canal. When injury causes only bruising or swelling, the baby will ordinarily recover within three months. In more severe cases, there may be permanent nerve damage, and physical therapy and surgery may be required.
  • Fractured Bones - The most common bone fracture is to the clavicle (collar bone), usually during difficult births or breech delivery. In most cases, the baby recovers quickly once the bone is immobilized.
  • Brain Injury - Birth difficulties can result in oxygen deprivation to the baby as a result of blood loss, or the twisting or compression of the umbilical cord. Prolonged oxygen deprivation can cause brain damage, and may result in seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, or mental impairment.
©Mary Buonanno, Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved