During labor and delivery, medical complications can result in birth injuries. Doctors and health care professionals must exercise the utmost care to avoid injury to babies during the especially vulnerable times of labor induction, Cesarean section, and mechanically assisted (forceps) births. Babies who experience severe oxygen deprivation to the brain, or head trauma, during these delicate obstetrical proceduresoften die or face lifelong disabilities. Approximately 10,000 babies each year develop Cerebral palsy (a condition which impacts the ability to control movement) as a result of oxygen deprivation. Oxygen shortage also causes brain damage. Other types of traumatic obstetric birth injuries include prenatal asphyxia, Erbs Palsy or Brachial Plexus Palsy, Klumpke’s Palsy, Torticollis, and Shoulder Dystocia. Fractures, spinal cord trauma, cephalohematoma and intracranial hemorrhage may be the result of preventable obstetrical damage. Common errors for which medical providers may be held responsible are as follows:
- Difficult or prolonged labor (often due to a large baby);
- Failing to detect the umbilical cord wrapped around a baby’s neck;
- Unreasonable delay in performing an emergency Cesarean section;
- Failure to test and treat conditions during pregnancy, or misdiagnosis
- Failing to recognize negative fetal signs
Approximately 27 of every 1,000 births in the United States results in a birth injury. A “birth injury” is defined as any type of damage to an infant’s body before, during or just after birth. The March of Dimes cites 60 percent of birth defects due to unknown causes; however, thousands of developmental defects and fetal deaths are attributable to an expectant mother’s exposure to toxic substances. Studies have shown that women living within two miles of a landfill have an increased chance of giving birth to a baby with spina bifida, a hole in the heart, or other defects. Pregnant women exposed to high levels of pollutants have almost three times the risk of delivering an infant with a cardiac problem. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are well documented hazards to pregnant women and may inhibit a child’s intellectual ability, short and long-term memory and attention span. Microcephaly (an abnormally small head circumference) is caused by detrimental in utero factors such as pharmaceutical drugs, radiation, or a mother’s prenatal infection of rubella (German measles).
Heavy metals (gold, lead, mercury), cleaning solutions, paint, caffeine, radiation, drugs and alcohol are also culprits in causing birth defects. Manufacturers who fail to inform (via labeling) pregnant women of the risk can be held responsible for the birth defects caused by their products.
There are many “natural” circumstances wherein oxygen deprivation can occur during the labor and delivery process: the umbilical cord can become compressed or twisted in the birth process; the baby is too large to pass through the birth canal easily, or the baby is breach or sideways in the womb.
There are also many circumstances where brain damage or brain injuries are caused by mistakes made by doctors, hospitals or other medical professionals during the delivery process: a delay in performing a necessary C-section delivery, complication with a VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section) delivery – such as uterine rupture, use of excessive force during the delivery, or a miscalculation in the size of the baby, causing a traumatic delivery.