What is classified as a birth injury?
According to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, a birth injury is one that results from being born.
What causes them?
There are many causes for this type of injury. It could the size of the baby, the position of the baby in the birth canal, or any of the following reasons:
• Large babies
• Premature birth
• Cephalopelvic disproportion (small pelvis for mother in conjunction with large head for baby)
• Dystocia (difficult labor and birth)
• Long labor
• Breech or other abnormal presentation of the baby
Types of birth injuries
Some of the more common birth injuries are:
• Caput Succedaneum which is the swelling if the scalp of the baby. This injury generally occurs when a vacuum extractor is utilized and also disappears within a few days.
• Cephalohematoma is where there is bleeding between the fibrous covering of a bone and the bone itself. Although the blood is reabsorbed by the body, it can take up to 3 months to completely disappear and may lead to jaundice.
• Marks or bruising from forceps. These are also temporary and will fade as all bruises do.
• Subconjunctival hemorrhage is where the tiny vessels in the eyes burst causing there to be the appearance of blood in the eyes. Although the look of this might be scary, it will go away and is not painful.
• Facial paralysis may be caused when there is a significant amount of pressure placed on the face of the baby during delivery which can cause an injury to the facial nerve. This may also occur if forceps were used in delivery. If the nerve was merely bruised then the conditions should clear up in a matter of weeks. On the other hand, if the nerve happens to have been torn then there is a likelihood that surgery is necessary.
• Brachial palsy is when the nerves to the hands and arms are injured. The most common presentation of this is when the baby does not have the ability to rotate and flex the arm. It is generally caused by the shoulder being stuck or having difficulty getting through the birth canal. Most of the time, this clears up within 24 hours with no treatment. There are other times though when therapy or splints are necessary. If there is swelling or bruising around the nerve then full motion should come back naturally within the space of a few months. If the nerve was torn then permanent damage may ensue.
Those are some of the most common birth injuries, but bear in mind that this is in no way meant to be a complete list of possible birth injuries. Birth is a complicated event and any number of things could happen in the process. If you suspect that your child has suffered one of the more serious or permanent birth injury then the first thing to do is speak to your pediatrician about it and depending in how that conversation goes, moving forward to speak to an attorney who specializes in birth injuries.