Birth Injury and Medical Malpractice

What you need to know when your baby was harmed in the birthing process

By Aitken Aitken Cohn

It’s an expectant parent’s worst nightmare.

You’ve had a normal, happy pregnancy. Mother and unborn infant are both doing great. You’ve been counting the days till you’ll meet your child, feeling you already know this little person.

Now the big day has arrived. Labor is intense, but you’re going to get through it because you know that at any moment, you’ll hold your new baby in your arms.

Then, something goes wrong, and your world feels turned upside down.

A birth injury refers to any harm that occurs during labor and delivery.

It’s essential to understand the difference between birth injuries and congenital disabilities:

  • A congenital disability typically develops in the womb, usually within the first trimester.
  • A birth injury occurs in the labor and birth process.

A birth injury can result from physical trauma or untreated illness. Many factors

including maternal health, infant size, prematurity, prolonged labor, infection, delivery instruments, baby’s position, excessive strain on the infant during delivery—and sometimes, medical negligence—can contribute to complications.

It is not uncommon for a baby to suffer a minor injury during the birthing process. In most cases, this heals on its own and requires no intervention. Other birth injuries are treatable with proper medical care. But unfortunately, sometimes, a birth injury does irreversible damage, causing lifelong disability.

Numerous kinds of birth injuries can happen to an infant. Some of the more common types are:

  • Brain injury—including hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) and various types of bleeding that can lead to conditions from mild and temporary to severe and incurable.
  • Brachial plexus injury—damage to the peripheral nerve that can affect arm and hand movement
  • Cranial nerve/spinal cord injury—can lead to paralysis of the face or other body parts
  • Bone fractures—may happen when the baby is large or in a difficult position, such as breech.
  • Intra-abdominal injury—internal organ damage from abdominal trauma (less common)

Such injuries may be apparent immediately and diagnosed at or just after birth. Still, some are undiagnosed until months or even years later when the child exhibits signs of developmental delay, whether physical, cognitive, behavioral or related to speech and communication.

It’s also possible for the mother to be injured during the birthing process, sometimes due to medical negligence, such as failure to stop bleeding or adequately diagnose a pregnancy-related health condition such as preeclampsia.

Some complications in pregnancy and birth are unavoidable, but many are preventable, and there are ways to lower your risk. Good prenatal care is vital, and expectant parents should be active participants in their care.

  • Get regular checkups to assess the health of mother and baby and monitor for any sign of fetal distress
  • Discuss risk factors in your pregnancy (age, genetics, etc.) with your doctor
  • Treat/manage any existing health conditions in the pregnant mother
  • Take proper prenatal supplements, including folic acid
  • Stay active

Most pregnancies end with a healthy birth and a healthy baby! But when something has gone unexpectedly awry at the time of labor and delivery, you need a high standard of medical care—and expert legal advice.

If you believe that you or your child have suffered a preventable injury during birth due to medical malpractice, it is crucial to speak with an attorney who is experienced in this highly specialized field. A lawyer with a good understanding of standards of care and the impact of birth injury may be able to help you file a lawsuit to get financial compensation to cover treatment, medication, adaptive equipment, therapy and rehabilitation, surgery, as well as other damages.

At Aitken Aitken Cohn, we have a track record of success in recovering significant settlements and judgments for our clients in medical malpractice cases. We understand money does not solve all problems for those injured by medical malpractice, and it cannot bring back a loved one who has died because of a physician’s mistake. But the funds we have been able to recover on behalf of our clients can help alleviate some of the stress and burden a medical malpractice injury can cause. It can also help ensure doctors do not make similar mistakes and harm more patients in the future.