As an expectant parent, you prepared for the birth of your new baby with anticipation, hope, and joy. For nine months, as you carried and bonded with your unborn child, you had faith in the experience, expertise, and skills of your doctors and healthcare professionals who guided you and monitored your health along the way.Unfortunately, doctors and healthcare professionals are not always immune to making human errors. When mistakes happen that result in an unexpected birth injury to your child, whether negligent or accidental, it is important to know what options are available to you.
The term “birth injury” is most often used to describe birth outcomes that should not have occurred if the mother and baby had received proper medical care. It is typically a preventable injury that your child suffers during labor and delivery.
There are two common types of avoidable birth injury: Physical Trauma and Hypoxic/Anoxic Brain Damage.
A common birth injury resulting from physical trauma is Erb’s palsy. Erb’s palsy is caused by nerve damage to the baby’s neck and arm during a difficult delivery. It usually happens when the doctor and/or nurses improperly respond to a situation where the baby’s shoulder is stuck while traveling through the birth canal. This is also called shoulder dystocia. Infants with Erb’s palsy usually have a weak or useless arm that is immediately noticeable after birth.
Another physical trauma that may cause brain injury is the improper use of instruments such as a vacuum extractor or forceps when applied to the baby’s head.
Hypoxic/Anoxic brain injuries occur in a number of different ways, but the basic cause of injury is a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain. Without enough oxygen, the baby’s brain cells die. It takes time for hypoxic/anoxic brain injuries to be diagnosed because the changes that occur to the brain are not immediately visible. Typically, after several sonograms, CT scans, and MRI’s your doctor will diagnose your child as suffering from cerebral palsy. As your child ages, you will notice your baby failing to reach and/or properly advance through the developmental milestones such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, self-feeding, and talking.
Other loss of oxygen situations where babies suffer an interruption of the blood supply to their brain, can be caused by an untreated infection, umbilical cord compression, placental abruption, or uterine rupture.
Most birth injury cases start with a difficult delivery. You may notice labor took longer than expected. Sometimes there is a lot of bleeding before the baby is born. The mom pushes and pushes during delivery but the baby seems stuck. Often, after hours of labor, mom is rushed back to the operating room and the baby is delivered by cesarean section.
After your baby is born, if any medical problems are suspected, he or she will be taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (the “NIC-U”). Oftentimes, the medical staff will tell you it is too early for them to determine what is wrong, or what is going to happen. If a brain injury is suspected, your baby may be put into something called a “cooling protocol” – a treatment designed to lower the baby’s body temperature in an effort to decrease the damage to the baby’s brain and nerve cells.
Your child could be facing lifelong medical care and assistive services. In addition to the emotional stress you and your family will suffer, the cost of medical care and services for your child can be enormous. Even when financial assistance is available through insurance or Medicaid, coordinating your child’s care appointments and ensuring he or she receives the necessary and proper services can become a full-time, frustrating, and emotionally draining task.
An experienced birth injury lawyer can help. In addition to investigating your child’s case, they can put you in touch with professionals who will help you better understand your child’s condition, plus help you obtain the services your baby so desperately needs. An experienced birth injury lawyer will also be able to help you find programs that can benefit your child.