What causes birth injuries?

By Jason Brady

Baby in an incubator

A variety of factors can contribute to the risk of birth injuries being suffered by the mother and/or her child(ren) before, during and immediately after the delivery process.

Whilst some of these factors are beyond the control of properly trained maternity care staff, others are preventable and could be considered a cause for making a birth injury claim if they are not appropriately addressed.

Birth injuries to babies

The following circumstances generally arise when improper care is exercised by maternity staff with regard to babies’ safety:

  • When a conventional, “natural” birth is deemed too risky or even impossible, forceps or a ventouse device may be used to extract the child. Skilled application of these devices is imperative to the safety of the child(ren). Where staff use either or both improperly, it can lead to injuries to the head, limbs and/or nervous system and long-term disability or damage to quality of life.
  • When children sustain injuries to the part of the brain responsible for muscle control, it can lead to a condition called cerebral palsy. There are many potential causes for the development of this lifelong condition, including medical staff’s failure to observe and treat infections or internal bleeding in the mother during the pregnancy. It can also be caused by cutting off the blood supply to the baby’s brain at any point during the delivery process via improper handling of the child.
  • Likewise, Erb’s palsy can occur when the baby’s shoulders become stuck after the initial emergence of the head during the delivery, and maternity staff do not exercise sufficient care to prevent injury to the nervous system whilst attempting to extricate them.
  • In rare circumstances where medical staff do not appropriately monitor levels of bilirubin in the child’s blood following the initial observance of jaundice post-birth, this relatively common condition can lead to a significantly worse one known as kernicterus. This largely preventable condition can result in brain damage and lifelong disabilities, including cerebral palsy.
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Birth injuries to mothers

Similarly, the following circumstances indicate a lack of proper medical supervision or care with regard to the mother before, during or immediately after giving birth:

  • Developing maternal diabetes, otherwise known as gestational diabetes, can present significant distress and health hazards to mothers (and their children). Medical staff are trained extensively in how to recognise and treat the symptoms associated with the condition, so failure to do so can be considered grounds for making a birth injury claim.
  • Similarly, failure to promptly diagnose and effectively treat a condition known as Pre-Eclampsia – which can cause dizziness, headaches, vomiting and visual impairment, is potentially indicative of medical negligence. This is especially true if the condition is allowed to progress and become full Eclampsia, which puts mothers at risk of life-threatening seizures and even miscarriage.
  • During the birthing process doctors can at their discretion perform episiotomies – small surgical incisions to the opening of the vagina – to ease the passing of the baby in circumstances where they envisage difficulties with a conventional birth. This measure is taken to prevent unnecessary tissue tearing and resulting pain/incontinence issues. Where doctors fail to perform this measure in circumstances where it could have predictably proven effective and safe, or where they botch the procedure in any way, birth injuries can occur.
  • C-section or caesarean births are usually the next best option available to doctors when episiotomies are not sufficient to reduce the risks faced by the mother and child. They come with their own set of risks, including the likes of surgical error and resultant injury, infection and severe bleeding, so must be performed with a high degree of skill and precision to avoid inflicting birth injuries.
  • Specialist birth injury solicitors
  • No win, no fee claims
  • Independently recognised as experts

Not sure if you can make a birth injury claim?

If you or a family member has suffered a birth injury claim, be it to the mother or her children, you can speak to Blackwater Law clinical negligence solicitors today for free initial advice on making a claim.

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