In the movies, birth scenes all end the same way: with a beautiful, healthy, crying infant. But real life births are much less predictable. Each year, about two million American infants suffer some sort of injury during the birth process.

Many of these injuries, such as jaundice or minor bruising, resolve themselves with little or no treatment. But some birth injuries are far worse. Cerebral palsy, brain damage and brachial plexus injuries can require years of expensive care and permanently alter a child's life. And some infants die from birth injuries.

Birth injuries can be a result of one or more risk factors that could not have been prevented. But birth injuries can also occur because medical personnel did not act as they should have.

Risk Factors for Birth Injuries

The more difficult the birth, the greater the risk of birth injuries. Some common factors that contribute to birth injuries include:

  • A baby whose birth weight is greater than 8 pounds, 13 ounces.
  • Babies born before 37 weeks are generally smaller, more fragile and more prone to injury during the birth process than full-term babies.
  • The size and shape of the mother's pelvis and birth canal. Some mothers can't deliver a baby vaginally because their pelvises are too small or are the wrong shape.
  • A difficult labor and birth.
  • Prolonged labor. A long labor puts stress on the baby.
  • A baby who is not positioned headfirst.

But having one or more of these risk factors doesn't mean that a baby will suffer a birth injury. With proper prenatal and delivery room care, most babies with risk factors don't suffer any significant injuries during birth.

Medical Professionals' Actions as a Cause

The other major factor that places newborns at risk of injury is the actions of the medical professionals involved in caring for them before and during the birth. Medical staff are expected to act according to an accepted standard of care, but sometimes they make mistakes, act incompetently or fail to notice things that they should have seen.

Some of the ways that medical professionals' actions can lead to birth injuries include:

  • Poor communication among members of the medical team
  • Improperly administered medication
  • Failure of midwives or nurses to consult a doctor
  • Excessive use of force or improper use of forceps or a vacuum extractor
  • Failure to promptly notice and respond to fetal distress, including waiting too long to perform a caesarian section
  • Failure to properly diagnose complications
  • Failure to notice and treat umbilical cord entrapment
  • Failure to diagnose and properly treat bleeding
  • Failure to promptly intubate a newborn that needs oxygen.

When medical professionals are negligent during the prenatal or delivery process, they may be held liable for malpractice and they may be required to pay monetary damages to the child and his or her family.

Determining the true cause of a birth injury requires careful investigation of the facts and medical records and consultation with medical experts. The attorneys at Clark Fountain have years of experience in evaluating birth injury cases and obtaining compensation for our clients.