What is a Birth Injury?

Within medical malpractice law is a subset that addresses birth injuries. Birth injuries occur when injury or death results to a child or mother during the birthing process due to negligence, malpractice, a mistake, or an improper hospital policy. Additionally, birth injury litigation could possibly be pursued if there is negligent prenatal care. This could occur as a result of failing to identify birth defects or diagnose a disease that could pose a threat to the child. Failure to identify an ectopic pregnancy, a complication in which an embryo attaches to the outside of the mother’s uterus, could also lead to birth injury litigation.

The most common conditions that can affect a baby that was injured during birth are cerebral palsy and Erb’s palsy which is the most common type of brachial plexus palsy. They can occur when a baby’s brain and/or nerves or nerve fibers are damaged before, during, or sometimes after birth.  These are neurological conditions that can lead to difficulty or lack of muscle control or movement. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in children affecting around 1 in 345 children in the United States with a higher prevalence for children born preterm or at a low birthrate.  The CDC estimates that the cost of lifetime care for a person diagnosed with cerebral palsy to be $1 million. When a child’s brain is damaged before or during birth it is called congenital cerebral palsy and accounts for 85% - 90% of all cerebral palsy cases. The remaining 10% - 15% of cerebral palsy cases that occur after birth are categorized as acquired cerebral palsy and are caused by brain damage that occurs 28 days after birth.

There are four main categories of cerebral palsy with the most common being spastic cerebral palsy.  According to the CDC around 80% of people with cerebral palsy have spastic cerebral palsy and experience one of three types.  Spastic diplegia/diparesis is a type of spastic cerebral palsy that mostly affects the legs, with the arms less affected or not affected at all. Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis is a type of spastic cerebral palsy that affects only one side of the body and usually affects the arm more than the leg. Spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis affects all four limbs, the body, and face and is the most severe form of spastic cerebral palsy.

The remaining types of cerebral palsy are dyskinetic cerebral palsy, ataxic cerebral palsy and mixed cerebral palsy. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy results in difficulty in controlling the movement of a person’s hands, arms, feet and legs and makes it difficult to sit down and walk. Ataxic cerebral palsy affects a person’s balance and coordination causing difficulty with walking and making quick movements or movements that require a lot of control, such as writing.  Mixed cerebral palsy describes a condition where someone has more than one type of cerebral palsy, with spastic-dyskinetic being the most common type.

Erb’s palsy occurs when there is damage to the main nerves of the arm and causes paralysis in that arm. Erb’s palsy is most commonly caused by dystocia, a difficult or abnormal child birth or labor.  The American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine reports that Erb’s palsy occurs in 0.5 – 2.6 per 1,000 full-term live births. 

If you are concerned that your child is experiencing difficulty with their movement or may have cerebral palsy or Erb’s palsy it is important to contact your doctor or nurse or request a referral to a specialist if needed.

Like any medical malpractice litigation, it is important to consult with attorneys who have the resources and relationships with medical experts to determine exactly how a birth injury occurred. 

If you believe that negligence by medical staff or a physician resulted in a birth injury or death contact The Cochran Firm today for a free, no-obligation initial consultation.