Birth Injury Resources and Information

Most common birth injuries

Usually, birth injuries are minor and not a cause for serious alarm. During the delivery of a baby the natural 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 a cranial bone
  • head molding, or the changing in shape of the baby’s head as a result of pressure during the delivery

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

Is cerebral palsy always a birth injury?

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

  • brain infection
  • head injury
  • blood flow problems 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 lawsuit to help cover the lifetime costs of the child’s treatment for CP.

Birth Defect or Birth Injury?

You should understand the difference between a birth disorder and a birth injury. A birth disorder affects your child right from the start. Meanwhile, an injury from birth happens as a result of something that your healthcare provider could have prevented.

Some examples of a birth defect include:

  • Down syndrome
  • Cleft lip
  • Heart murmur
  • Born without legs or arms
  • Born blind

These examples showcase birth defects, which fall under the classification of birth disorder, but in other cases when the newborn was injured and the healthcare provider could have prevented it through proper care, the proper classification is birth injury.

Examples of a preventable birth injury include:

  • Improper handling of birthing tools
  • Twisting or pulling the infant incorrectly
  • Not monitoring the child for distress
  • Failing to perform a cesarean section as needed

It’s important to understand that medical staff can and do make mistakes. As unfortunate as this is, it’s a fact of the situation. These mistakes might be caused by everything from overtired or inexperienced personnel to a lack of attention to detail, to simply not having the right physician on hand to handle a high-risk pregnancy. In any case, there is no excuse for negligence causing an injury to your child at birth.

Cerebral Palsy

The consequences of any birth injury can devastate parents, but some of the worst come from 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 likely never a reality. This dreadful disorder is also without cure, so while symptoms can be managed through proper treatment, it is a lifetime ailment. With the average lifetime cost of CP treatment and management topping $1 million, finding a way to afford the various therapies, medications, devices, doctors, and other services and providers needs to be one of the top priorities for caretakers. Luckily, through government programs, scholarships, and lawsuits (if the CP was a result of medical malpractice), there are options for financial support.


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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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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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.


Rae S, Editor

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Elena Amato Borrelli, Expert

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Article Citations

  1. Merck Manual
  2. Stanford Children's Health