When doctors and the attending medical team behave negligently, it can have consequences that last throughout the child’s lifetime. While a baby’s birth is supposed to be a time full of joy and happiness, roughly 28,000 births every year result in a serious birth injury. That’s more than 2,300 children per month that can face a lifetime of struggle for what happens in the moments before they enter this world.
The most serious types of injuries are trauma to the brain and the spinal cord. These are often the result of oxygen deprivation while they pass through the birth canal. When the baby’s brain is deprived of the oxygen it needs to survive, it can respond in a variety of ways. First, the body may flood the brain with blood attempting to give it the oxygen it needs. This can cause severe hemorrhaging. The body’s organ systems may also begin to shut down. When either of these occur, it can lead to the development of cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy causes severe movement and coordination problems, lack of muscle development, and difficulty breathing. These problems severely diminish an individual’s quality of life, and often result in a shortened lifespan. Indeed, most individuals with cerebral palsy pass away before they reach their 70th birthday. It’s estimated that up to 800,000 Americans live with cerebral palsy as a result of injuries they sustained at birth.
A newborn’s immune system is far from developed at birth. Improper sterilization techniques, or handling of the child during birth can expose them to viruses and bacteria. When these contagions take hold, they can cause serious infections including meningitis, strep. These infections negatively impact the electrical signals sent throughout the nervous system.
Bacteria and viruses may enter the newborn’s body via punctures in the skin or from contact with fluids encountered within the deliver room. For this reason, physicians and nurses are required to follow strict testing and sterilization procedures to ensure that a minimum risk of contact is present during the delivery process.
A child’s arms or legs may also be injured during birth. When the upper arm is injured, it can cause Brachial Plexus, Klumpke’s Palsy or Erb’s Palsy. These conditions are caused by damaging the nerves in the arms and can lead to muscle weakness, and in some cases, total loss of the ability to move the arm. These conditions may also cause considerable pain in the form of burning sensations that can strike without warning.
Fractured bones may also occur during delivery. The clavicle is the most commonly fractured bone and is often caused when a physician pulls too strongly on the infant as it passes through the birth canal.
If the nerves in the face are damaged during delivery, it may lead to permanent facial paralysis. Often, this type of paralysis affects only one side of the face. This can significantly impact a child’s appearance and quality of life as they grow older.
Causes of Birth Injuries
Birth injuries may be caused by the use of tools during the delivery. A common and dangerous tool used by obstetricians are vacuum extractors. These are frequently utilized during difficult labor in order to speed up the deliver process. Improper application of the suction cups to the baby’s head can easily cause skull fractures. If too much suction is used, it can severely damage nerves and create paralysis.
Forceps are another tool commonly responsible for inflicting birth injuries. Used to pull the child through the birth canal or from the c-section opening, the forceps can fracture bones and rip muscles. They may also damage nerves and cause long-term pain and suffering for the child.
Planning for Care
Planning for long-term care is one of the greatest challenges new parents face in the wake of a birth injury. The long-term care costs associated with the injury can vary significantly, and it is important for these parents to meet with a Chicago medical malpractice attorney to better understand the lifelong cost of care that will be required.
These costs include frequent testing and monitoring, appointments with specialists, medical supplies, assisted living aids, or even renovation of the home environment. The annual cost of these can reach into the millions of dollars over the course of a lifetime. For this reason, it is crucial to take these into consideration so that parent’s won’t be left shouldering the cost of care down the road. In addition to the costs associated with care, it may also be possible to seek damages for the resulting impact that the birth injury will have on the child’s quality of life, shortened lifespan, and other issues they may face as the condition evolves and changes throughout their lifetime.