Birth Injury Resources and Information

Most Common Birth Injuries

Usually, birth injuries are minor and are not a cause for serious alarm. The natural pressure and forces of labor and delivery can often result in benign injuries like:

  • Swelling or bruising of the scalp
  • Breakage of small blood vessels in the eye
  • Bleeding underneath cranial bones
  • Head molding, or an abnormal head shape

There’s likely no need to worry if these injuries are present in your newborn as most will resolve over time without any additional treatment.

Is Cerebral Palsy Always a Birth Injury?

The distinction between a birth injury and disorder depends on whether cerebral palsy is caused by congenital factors, meaning a baby was born with the disorder, or if it was caused by acquired conditions. If an infant acquired cerebral palsy then it occurred after the baby was born as a result of risk factors like:

  • Brain infection
  • Head injury
  • Insufficient blood flow to the brain

If the injury occurred as a result of negligence, either due to the action or inaction of medical personnel, then it might be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. By filing a lawsuit, you may be able to recover compensation to help cover the lifetime costs of your child’s ongoing cerebral palsy treatment.

Birth Defect or Birth Injury?

To better support your child it’s important to understand the difference between a birth defect and a birth injury. A birth defect is often an inherited disorder that occurs after conception or shortly before or during birth, while a birth injury is caused by factors right before or during delivery and may be preventable with proper medical care and attention.

Some examples of a birth defect include:

  • Down syndrome
  • Cleft lip
  • Heart murmur
  • Missing legs or arms
  • Blindness

The following are examples of birth defects, which typically are classified as birth disorders. However, if the newborn was injured and the healthcare provider could have prevented it through proper care, the proper classification for conditions below is birth injury.

Common causes of a preventable birth injury include:

  • Improper handling of birthing tools
  • Twisting or pulling the infant incorrectly
  • Failing to monitor the child or mother for distress
  • Failing to perform a timely cesarean section as needed

Unfortunately, medical staff can and do make mistakes. These mistakes might be caused by exhaustion, inexperience, a lack of attention to detail, or simply not having the right physician on hand to handle a high-risk pregnancy. Regardless of the reason or their intentions, negligence is never acceptable, particularly when it injures your child.

Cerebral Palsy

The consequences of any birth injury can devastate parents, but particularly when their child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Those suffering from this disorder may expect lifelong health problems—both physical and mental—and for those with a severe diagnosis, independent living may never be possible. While symptoms can be managed through proper treatment, it is a lifelong ailment as there is no known cure.

Cerebral palsy treatment can be incredibly expensive, and on average will top $1 million over the course of a lifetime. For most families, the ongoing costs for necessary therapies, medications, devices, and doctors can be a heavy financial burden. Luckily, through government programs, scholarships, and lawsuits (if your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by medical malpractice), there are options for financial support.

Risk Factors

Elation overcomes your senses as you prepare for the birth of your child. You have gathered the clothes, set up the nursery and created a diaper changing station. In addition, you bought plenty of toys for the enrichment of your child’s brain. This time should give you great happiness, rather than a heavy burden to carry. Unfortunately, a birth injury can happen that will spoil the time of celebration.

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When talking about birth injury, the leading cause of these injuries come from delayed birth. The human brain doesn’t have the capabilities to withstand ongoing pressure for a serious length of time. Medical experts consider any birth lasting for over 18 hours as long and difficult labor. After this time frame, the pressure on the cranium builds to more than what the brain can withstand. As this time frame exceeds its limits, the baby might display signs of fetal distress, and the brain will enter into crisis mode where the blood pressure gets elevated.

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Medical research continues to try to learn the best industry practices that can help most people. They constantly work to learn more about these different conditions. Several disheartening disabilities like cerebral palsy happen as a result of a birth injury. As a parent, you have new expectations placed upon you to keep up with these things and caring for your children. You’re also expected to become an advocate in many cases.

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After a birth injury, you may be wondering how life with your child will be. That largely depends on the circumstances of the injury because you have cases where it may not be as severe as with other situations. Sometimes, your infant will live a normal life, but you have other cases where they might struggle because they developed cerebral palsy or another debilitating condition. What is life for kids with birth disorders like? Let’s take a look at what it looks like.

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Treatment for a birth disorder is largely determined by the type of injury, diagnosis, and severity of the symptoms. For instance, a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy will assume a treatment plan that might include physical therapy, assistive devices, and medications. A child with Erb’s Palsy, on the other hand, will likely require only physical therapy for treatment.

Article Citations

  1. Merck Manual
  2. Stanford Children's Health