The birth of a child should be one of the most exciting and joyful experiences in one’s life. Unfortunately, this experience can quickly become traumatic if the medical providers involved do not appropriately monitor and treat the mother and baby during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. In some cases, medical negligence can lead to catastrophic birth injuries to the mother and/or the baby that have a lifelong impact on the entire family. If a baby’s or mother’s injuries were due to the negligence of a healthcare provider, they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries.
Thankfully, birth injuries are rare. Sometimes they may be due to the natural forces of labor and delivery. Other times, however, they may be due to a mistake by a doctor, midwife, nurse, healthcare provider, or hospital personnel. These injuries can be devastating, especially if they were preventable had the healthcare provider not acted negligently.
Injuries to Babies
Because the labor and delivery process, by its nature, places stress on both the mother and the baby, healthcare providers must be extremely diligent and careful when tending to the mother and baby during the labor and delivery process. Although there are times when the baby and mother are injured through no fault of a healthcare provider, there are times when, unfortunately, the healthcare provider’s failure to provide appropriate care causes injuries.
Birth injuries can be caused by:
- Failing to monitor the mother and baby appropriately
- Failing to deliver the baby in a timely manner
- Failing to deliver the baby via cesarean section
- Improper use of medications during labor and delivery
- Improper care during the actual delivery
- Improper resuscitation of the baby at birth
- Improper care post-delivery (in the maternity ward or NICU)
Separately, in some cases, a baby may suffer prematurity-related issues, infection at birth, brain injuries due to a reduction or deprivation of oxygen, and physical deformities and disabilities due to medical negligence. Sometimes these injuries are predictable and, therefore, avoidable if the medical provider had acted within the standard of care during a mother’s pregnancy. In those cases, it is especially difficult to cope with the life-long needs that a baby’s injury will cause the child and family. Those needs may include costs for around-the-clock care, the emotional harm to the child and family, the inability to work so that a child has appropriate support, and medical expenses for treatment, procedures, and equipment.
Injuries to babies mirror those that can affect children and adults. But, because babies are not as fully developed as adults, the same injuries that an adult may be able to withstand without permanent injury can be catastrophic to the baby. These injuries not only cause devastating problems at the time of birth, but unfortunately they can also cause life-long issues that affect both the child and their family. This can lead to enormous past and future medical bills, costs, and stresses that may have been avoidable.
Although there are many types of injuries that babies can unfortunately suffer, two severe injuries that can result from negligence during pregnancy or childbirth include permanent brain injury due to oxygen reduction or deprivation, leading in some cases to cerebral palsy, or injuries to the baby’s arms or shoulders.
Brain Injury Caused by Oxygen Deprivation (Cerebral Palsy)
The effects of oxygen deprivation can span the spectrum from minor, resulting in little to no injuries, to severe, resulting in catastrophic injuries or even death. Depending on the case, the oxygen deprivation can occur early in the labor and delivery process or towards the end. In either case, this deprivation can lead to significant brain injuries that cause permanent damage like delayed development, learning disorders, and cerebral palsy. If the oxygen deprivation persists for too long, the child could die as a result. This can even occur after the baby is delivered. Caring for a baby who suffered oxygen deprivation places enormous stresses on parents and the child, and sometimes, all of these emotional and financial costs could have been avoided had a medical provider acted appropriately.
Arm and Shoulder Injuries (Brachial Plexus or Erb’s Palsy injuries)
In some cases, the birthing process can injure the baby’s nerves and cause weakness or paralysis of all or part of the baby’s shoulder, arm, and hand. These injuries are called brachial plexus injuries or Erb’s Palsy. Many times, these injuries are associated with a condition called shoulder dystocia, a condition where the baby’s shoulder is stuck under the mother’s pubic bone during the labor and delivery process. In that situation, the baby needs to be delivered quickly to avoid oxygen deprivation or other injuries. In trying to avoid brain damage, unfortunately, some healthcare providers can injure the baby’s nerves during the delivery by pulling too hard or not using appropriate maneuvers to deliver the baby. When that happens, the child may need surgeries and therapy, develop deformities, and be unable to function normally. This can be devastating to a child and the family, and if these injuries were preventable, the child and family may be able to bring a claim against a negligent medical provider or hospital.
Injuries to Mothers
Separate from their babies, mothers can also suffer serious injuries during pregnancy and childbirth. These injuries can include untreated preeclampsia, uterine rupture, infection, complications from a cesarean section, complications from anesthesia, failure to deliver all fetal tissue (called retained products of conception), and uncontrolled bleeding. These may not only cause pain and injury to the mother, but could also prevent the ability to have future children, which can be devastating to a new mother or family. In situations where negligence by a healthcare provider caused a preventable injury to a mother during pregnancy or childbirth, she and her family may have a claim for medical negligence.
The lawyers of Morris James have been fighting for victims of negligence in Delaware since we opened our doors in 1932. We deal with lawyers and insurance companies so that you can focus on healing. Our medical malpractice attorneys know the strategies used to defend healthcare providers. We will fiercely advocate for our clients, going to trial when necessary, to obtain the financial compensation that you need to regain stability and security after your injury.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to a mistake by a medical professional, we may be able to help. Our attorneys at Morris James are available to talk to you about your rights and the options that you have at this difficult time. Contact us online or call 302.655.2599 for a free, no obligation consultation.
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