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5 Common Birth Injuries & Their Causes

— October 20, 2022

During labor and delivery, it is possible for an infant’s collarbone or clavicle to fracture.

In the United States, birth injuries and defects are unfortunately more common than the average person might expect. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in thirty-three babies is negatively impacted by a birth defect. Additionally, birth defects are the leading cause of infant deaths, causing roughly 20% of fatalities. Birth defects may take several forms, from spinal injuries to heart problems. In this article, we discuss some of the most common birth injuries and their potential causes. 

1. Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy encapsulates multiple disorders that impact a child’s ability to move or maintain their balance. The CDC states that it is the most common motor disability impacting children. The symptoms of cerebral palsy vary from person to person – someone with a severe disorder may be unable to walk, whereas someone with a milder form may be able to move without assistance. 

Most cases of cerebral palsy are caused by either damage to a child’s developing brain or abnormal brain development. The type of abnormal brain development capable of causing this medical condition may occur before birth, during birth, or within the first years of a child’s life. Youman & Caputo notes that “a temporary disruption of oxygen to the baby’s brain during delivery” may be capable of causing this disorder, though it is theorized by scientists that this only occurs rarely. 

2. Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy causes arm fatigue and loss of motion. Both adults and infants may be impacted by this disorder. Traumatic force downward on the shoulder and upper arm or a physical injury during the delivery process may result in Erb’s palsy. Infants are particularly prone to being injured during a difficult delivery. If the baby’s neck is stretched to the side and downward force is exerted on their shoulder, Erb’s palsy may easily occur. Some of the symptoms for both babies and adults include:

  • Loss of feeling in one arm
  • Limited arm mobility
  • Partial or total arm paralysis
  • Numbness or weakness in one arm

3. Brain Hypoxia

When the brain does not receive enough oxygen, a condition known as brain hypoxia may quickly develop. This birth injury occurs when the oxygen and blood flow to a baby’s brain is disrupted during the delivery process. If the medical staff does not respond to the developing situation immediately, the child may suffer permanent brain damage as a result. According to the Child Neurology Foundation, properly treating hypoxia requires diagnosis of and response to the condition’s cause.

4. Bone Fractures

Image of the Birth of a Child
Birth of a Child; Image Courtesy of Alex Hockett via Unsplash,

During labor and delivery, it is possible for an infant’s collarbone or clavicle to fracture. The clavicle may break during a breech delivery or if there are challenges delivering the baby’s shoulder. If a baby does suffer this injury, they will most likely instinctively limit the arm’s movement. Fortunately, this injury does typically heal quickly. New bone will form, resulting in a solid knot on the clavicle. This process usually takes about ten days. To limit the amount of pain the baby is in while they recover, a doctor may elect to limit the shoulder and arm’s movement with a splint or soft bandages. 

5. Prenatal Problems

A range of prenatal problems may occur during the pregnancy period, resulting in serious health complications for the child, mother, or both. Some of the problems that may occur include:

  • Premature delivery
  • Maternal infections
  • Issues with the placenta

Colburn Law states that correctly diagnosing and treating these issues early is critical to achieving the best possible outcome for the child and its mother. Failure to accurately recognize and address the problem can lead to serious or even fatal medical complications. 

What Should You Do if Your Child Suffers a Birth Injury?

In some situations, a birth injury occurs due to unfortunate circumstances beyond anyone’s control. However, if you believe that your child was harmed due to the careless or negligent actions of your hospital’s medical team, you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. If your child has suffered a birth injury, you should speak to a local medical malpractice attorney that is familiar with your state’s laws. They will be able to investigate your unique case to determine whether the hospital failed to uphold its duty of care to your family. 

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