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When Is a Birth Defect Really a Birth Injury?

After nine months of waiting, parents eagerly anticipate bringing their baby home from the hospital. Bonding with their child is how most parents expect to spend those first few days and months. That joyful scenario is not the reality of many parents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 120,000 babies are born with a birth defect each year in the United States. Babies dying in their first year are because of a birth defect 20% of the time. Babies who survive often face lifelong challenges.

Birth defects become birth injuries – and a potential case for medical malpractice – when a healthcare provider is negligent or careless during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or newborn care. That negligence causes the birth defect.

Caring for a child with a birth defect is costly, both financially and emotionally. If your child’s birth defect may have been caused by negligence, call Hope Law Firm at (515) 298-5056 to speak to one of our responsive and experienced attorneys.

How a Birth Injury Occurs

Various warning signs are usually present during pregnancy, labor, or delivery that alert medical staff to a potential problem. If these warning signs are not recognized or ignored, a birth injury is a possible outcome. Other times, processes or procedures are improperly applied.

Common ways birth injuries occur include the following:

  • Failing to diagnose or treat infections of the mother during pregnancy
  • Not performing a cesarean section in a timely manner
  • Not properly monitoring the baby’s vital signs
  • Incorrectly using forceps and vacuum extractors
  • Breech and other nontraditional delivery positions
  • Manually forcing and pulling the baby through the birth canal
  • Failing to treat infant conditions

Most Common Birth Injuries

The range of severity in birth injuries is vast. Some injuries are recoverable while others impact every aspect of the child’s life.

These birth defects can result from medical malpractice:

  • Cerebral Palsy. There are four major types of cerebral palsy that affect how the brain controls muscles and the nervous system. The symptoms vary depending on the specific type, but there is no cure or way to reverse the damage.
  • Neonatal Brachial Plexus Palsy (Erb’s Palsy). This birth defect causes nerve damage to the shoulder, arm, or hand and prevents the baby from properly using the impacted limb. This can happen when the baby’s head, neck, or shoulders are pulled too much during delivery. Strain can also be placed on the baby in breech (feet-first) delivery.
  • Kernicterus. Jaundice left unchecked can develop into kernicterus. The result is brain and nerve damage that is irreversible.
  • Spinal Cord Injury. The spinal cord can be bruised, partially torn, or fully torn during aggressive handling of the baby during delivery. Paralysis, respiratory issues, and difficulty regulating heart rate are only some of the potential outcomes.
  • Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy. Brain damage caused by not enough flow of blood and oxygen resulting in epilepsy, developmental delays, cognitive impairment, and other issues.
  • Bone Fractures. A broken clavicle (collar bone) is the most common fracture in childbirth, followed by the humerus, femur, and skull. The bones are usually broken during a forceful delivery or when the physician is trying to reposition the baby.

In the most devastating cases, the result is the wrongful death of the child.

Injuries to the Mother

Babies aren’t the only ones harmed in negligent pregnancy or delivery care. When healthcare providers do not take the proper precautions, mothers can also be harmed.

Maternal injuries include the following:

  • Medical Devices Left Inside the Mother
  • Uterine Rupture
  • Improperly Administered Anesthesia
  • Infection
  • Untreated Preeclampsia Causing Seizures
  • Uncontrolled Bleeding

Compensation for Birth Injuries

When a birth defect or maternal injury is caused by a healthcare provider failing to provide adequate care, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The basic requirements for a medical malpractice case include:

  • Damages (Medical Bills, Lost Income)
  • Ability to Show How the Doctor/Staff Was Negligent
  • How That Negligence Resulted in Harming the Child
  • The Mother Was Under the Care of the Person in Question

That statute of limitation in Iowa for medical malpractice cases is two years from the time you become aware of the injury. If you think you may have a malpractice case, it is important to act before the time to do so expires. Ongoing care of a child with a birth injury places an immense financial and emotional strain on a family. Receiving compensation will help you provide the best care for your child.

Birth injuries cases are complex and require specific legal knowledge. At the Hope Law Firm, you can be certain you will receive an honest assessment of your case. If we move forward with a lawsuit, we will do so with compassion and tenacity.

If you are considering a birth injury lawsuit, schedule a free consultation with us. Use our online form or call (515) 298-5056. We have two convenient locations in Des Moines and West Des Moines.