A child can suffer various birth injuries due to labor or delivery trauma that can vary widely in severity and nature of symptoms. Treatment of birth injuries is almost as diverse as the potential injuries themselves and can range from nerve repair surgery to hypothermic treatment to ongoing assistive care or medications.
Because a particular treatment’s success can depend on how quickly it is administered to reverse or entirely correct birth damage, it’s essential to look into getting the appropriate treatment as quickly as possible following a birth injury. To help a family manage this treatment, they may need a medical malpractice case to get the compensation they’re entitled to.
What is a birth injury?
Birth injury is the term used to describe any impairment, injury, pain, damage, or trauma that your child experiences before, during or following the delivery.
While it is not uncommon for babies to experience minor injuries during birth, many of these are not severe and do not require additional medical intervention to heal properly and without lasting impediment to your child’s life. Some injuries are far more severe; some are incurable and result in a permanent disability. Common birth injuries can include:
- Cerebral palsy
- Brain damage
- Newborn jaundice
- Spinal cord injuries
- Vacuum extraction complications
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)
Birth injury or birth defect?
According to the CDC, a child is born with a birth defect once every four and a half minutes in the United States. Birth defects impact one out of every 33 babies born. That works out to about 3% of all babies born in the United States each year. Almost all birth defects occur within the first trimester.
A birth injury, however, occurs either during labor, birth, or delivery. While potential delivery complications can be noted before birth, an actual birth injury occurs during the birthing process.
Birth injuries can be caused by inappropriate or careless actions (or inactions) by medical care professionals. Birth injuries differ from birth defects in one key area: they are not the result of genetics or maternal actions, or omissions during the pregnancy.
For example, a child who suffers physical birthing trauma to their head as a result of vacuum extractors being used could be born with a birth injury. Whereas a cleft lip, a birth defect, is not caused by the birthing process but occurs while the child is in the womb, between the fourth and seventh weeks of pregnancy.
Do I have a case?
Diagnosing a birth injury
Some birth injuries are evident and can be quickly diagnosed immediately following birth. Others, however, may not be diagnosed for weeks, months, or even several years. Your child’s birth injury may only become noticeable once they begin to grow and miss significant developmental milestones.
Regardless of when a birth injury is diagnosed, there are commonly used methods for determining the scope and severity of a birth injury vs. a congenital disability. These include:
- APGAR Assessment: Following your baby’s birth, doctors will perform an APGAR test to evaluate your child’s vital signs. APGAR assesses five key areas: Appearance or skin tone, Pulse or heart, Grimace or reflexes, Activity or muscle tone, and Respiration or breath. The higher the APGAR score, the healthier your baby is.
- Umbilical Cord Blood Gas Analysis: Your baby’s umbilical cord is comprised of blood vessels packed with oxygen-rich blood and waste products. Doctors can analyze the umbilical cord blood gas to determine whether your child experienced any health problems during delivery, such as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE, a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation.
- Brain Imaging: If your doctors suspect HIE, they may use an MRI or other diagnostic imaging tests to evaluate brain function and look for signs of damage.
Following an accurate and complete diagnosis, your child’s doctor will be better able to provide a prognosis and treatment protocol.
Treating a birth injury
The most effective treatment starts with the type and severity of the birth injury and factors associated with specific conditions. Brain damage, a common birth injury often caused by oxygen deprivation, can require different treatment protocols than nerve damage or bone fractures, other common birth injuries.
Surgery can be an effective option for certain types of birth injuries such as nerve damage or bone and skull fractures. While most babies’ injuries are minor and heal successfully without complex treatment, for those experiencing more severe damage, such as severed nerves, surgery can be used to attempt to repair the damage.
Skull or bone fractures can often heal independently, but they will require surgical intervention to heal without lasting impact in some instances.
Physical therapy is often an essential for children born with cerebral palsy from brain damage caused by a birth injury. Physical therapy can help weakened muscles develop strength, increase range of motion and flexibility, and bolster coordination while reducing or eliminating pain.
Occupational therapy can help your child mitigate the impact of a birth injury and gain independence by learning how to do basic tasks that can be challenging when living with a disability. Occupational therapy can include personal hygiene and taking the school bus alone.
If your child struggles with behavioral or emotional challenges as a result of a birth injury, educational, cognitive-behavioral, or other therapies can help your child to mitigate cognitive or social impairments.
Depending on the nature of your child’s birth injury, they may require medication to help cope. While medications are often not curative, they can help to manage, or in some instances, eliminate life-impacting symptoms.
How we can help your family
Once you’ve worked with your medical provider to secure the appropriate treatment, support, and ongoing care you and your family will need, it may be time to contact a birth injury attorney, such as the specialists at Grover Johnson Lewis. We can help you explore your legal options and determine whether you have a valid birth injury claim.
When you trust us with your child’s case, we work diligently to handle the complex legal elements, allowing you and your family the time and peace of mind to focus on helping your child live their best life. Let us put our 25 years of birth injury case success to work for you. Get in touch today.
And because we work on a contingency basis, you don’t pay our fees until you receive compensation.
Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash