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Medical Malpractice is Behind Many Birth Injuries

Posted on: August 4, 2018

A parent’s joy at the birth of a child can quickly be overshadowed by tragedy if the baby suffers birth injuries due to medical malpractice. Fortunately, most deliveries proceed smoothly, and both mother and child are healthy. However, Healthgrades, a company that provides information and statistics on physicians, hospitals and health care providers, reveals that these incidents happen too often. For instance:

  • The rate of birth injuries in the US is around 28,000 every year, which boils down to 2,333 per month, 538 per week, and 76 per day; and,
  • Seven of every 1,000 deliveries results in a birth injury annually.

When complications arise during either pregnancy or delivery, there is a threat of injury to both mother and child. Still, because of inherent vulnerabilities, the infant is more at risk to suffer serious injury. When an OB/GYN or other member of the medical staff makes a mistake, the child must live with the effects for a lifetime. The costs of care over many years can be shocking, especially if the victim is unable to ever live independently.

Birth Injuries Versus Birth Defects 

At the outset, it is important to note the difference between these two medical conditions:

  • Birth injury occurs due to complications during labor, delivery, and shortly after birth. Examples include employing inappropriate medical techniques or errors in decision making during delivery. Improper use of a medical device, such as a forceps or vacuum, may also be to blame.
  • A birth defect is a condition that may arise from some medical error, but genetic issues and environment can also be contributing factors. Defects arise prior to labor and delivery through some issue or event during pregnancy. A mother’s use of alcohol or illegal drugs – or even normally safe, prescribed medications – can cause birth defects. In such cases, it would be almost impossible to prove injuries from medical malpractice (though there may be a claim for failure to warn a pregnant person about dangerous drugs).

Birth Complications Caused by Medical Malpractice

There are certain types of birth injuries that, when caused by medical error, can lead to serious consequences for the infant. Some of the most common medical conditions that are linked to birth injures include:

  • Birth Asphyxia: The deprivation of oxygen during labor and delivery can lead to brain damage and related injuries for the infant. Birth asphyxia is usually tied to decision making by the physician, perhaps because he or she waited too long or failed to use medical strategies to remove a child stuck in the birth canal.
  • Erb’s Palsy: A child who sustains nerve damage during a complicated delivery may develop this condition, which causes paralysis in the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers on one side of the body. Erb’s Palsy is usually the result of a child being extracted from the womb by a forceps or hands.
  • Cerebral Palsy: Birth injury can cause cerebral palsy when an infant suffers some sort of trauma during delivery, such as rough handling or dropping by medical staff. Cerebral palsy is a result of a brain injury, but there are other contributing causes that can make it difficult for a claimant to prove malpractice.
  • Jaundice: Even when a healthy baby is born, there can still be complications which, if left untreated, can lead to serious birth injuries. Jaundice is a condition that results when the newborn’s liver is not quite ready to process toxins present in the body. A build up of toxins leads the infant to appear yellowish-orange in color, and immediate treatment is necessary to avoid serious complications.

Birth Injuries Resulting from Errors in Prenatal Care

A fetus can also sustain birth injuries if physicians or healthcare professional make mistakes in providing care to the pregnant mother. For example:

  • A provider may fail to diagnose a medical condition through prenatal testing, which is a significant concern for high risk pregnancies. For the health of the mother and fetus, it is essential to identify certain issues early, such as diabetes, hypoglycemia, anemia, and others.
  • A physician may not identify a birth defect early enough to provide proper treatment during the remainder of the pregnancy. This error can also be an issue when the mother goes into labor, as defects require special attention and care during delivery.
  • Misdiagnosis in ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening. Though the implanted, fertilized egg is not viable, the mother may suffer bleeding and require surgery.
  • A doctor may make a mistake in prescribing a medication for the mother during pregnancy, such as through incorrect dosage or incorrect medication. In addition, other members of the medical staff can be involved in medication errors, even when the physician acted in accordance with the proper duty of care. A nurse or physician’s assistant may be responsible for giving the wrong medication or dose.

Discuss Birth Injuries and Complications with an Experienced Attorney Today

If your baby suffered harm due to medical errors that occurred before, during, or after birth, you might have a claim for medical malpractice. These cases can be complex because Maryland law requires highly technical proof that physicians, medical staff, and other healthcare providers did not exercise a certain degree of care in giving treatment. To establish the necessary factors, it is often necessary to consult with medical professionals and other experts and potentially have them testify in court.