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Common Birth Injuries Related to Medical Malpractice

Medical laws and legal concept.
The birth of a child should be a joyous happy time, but tragically, for some families, it isn't. Mistakes or negligence in the delivery room can lead to debilitating birth injuries or even death. Learn about some of the most common birth injuries.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy affects brain development and muscular coordination, and this condition is linked to issues such as epilepsy, difficulty walking, vision impairments, and countless other conditions. Brain damage causes cerebral palsy. Brain damage can happen in utero, but it can also occur in the delivery room when the baby's brain is deprived of oxygen in any of the following situations:
  • Misuse of forceps or vacuums
  • Placental infections
  • Prolapsed umbilical cord
  • Failure to order emergency C-sections when the baby is in distress
  • Shoulder dystocia
However, brain damage can also occur if the baby's head is banged against something or exposed to other types of trauma.

Shoulder Dystocia

When a baby's shoulders get lodged in the birth canal, that is called shoulder dystocia. As of 2008, the Center for Disease Control report that approximately 15 percent of babies delivered vaginally face shoulder dystocia. In the United States, the issue has quadrupled over the last 50 years.
In some situations, the baby is fine, but often, the baby breaks their collarbone. Luckily, that tends to heal quickly. However, if the attending physician or nurse midwife doesn't handle the situation correctly, the baby may suffer from additional birth injuries. That can include spinal cord injuries or paralysis of arm and hand muscles.

Caput Succedaneum

Caput succedaneum is swelling along the infant's scalp. This can happen if the baby's head is pressed against something for too long. In particular, this tends to happen in long and difficult labors where the baby's head is lodged in the birth canal.
In most cases, the issue resolves itself. However, if the doctor mistakenly tries to drain the fluid, that can cause infections. Additionally, this condition increases the risk of jaundice which occurs when bilirubin levels are too high in the blood and gives the baby a slightly yellow look. If undiagnosed or ignored, jaundice in newborns can lead to seizures, infections, cystic fibrosis, hepatitis, and many other serious conditions.


This condition can be confused with caput succedaneum because it starts as a bump on the scalp. However, it is much more serious. Cephalohematoma can cause blood to pool in this area. If the blood doesn't dissipate within three months, the doctor may need to drain it which heightens the risk of infection.
Like caput succedaneum, this condition also increases the risk of jaundice, and it occurs when the baby's head bangs against something during delivery. That can happen accidentally if the head hits the pubic bone, but it can also occur due to medical negligence with vacuums or mishandling of the baby by the medical team.

Perinatal Asphyxia

This happens when the baby doesn't get enough oxygen during the delivery. If the medical team fails to use adequate fetal monitoring tools, they may fail to notice that the baby is in distress. The baby may be deprived of oxygen for a dangerous amount of time. This type of birth injury can lead to serious issues such as seizures, comas, and permanent brain damage.
If these injuries are caused by the negligence or ignorance of the physician, nurse midwife, or other professionals, that may constitute medical malpractice, and you may be entitled to compensation. To learn more and for a free-case evaluation, contact Carlson, Blau and Clemens SC. We help our clients with personal injury, medical malpractice, and a wide variety of other cases.