The birth of a child can come with unforeseen complications. While physicians are not expected to prevent every birth complication, they do have a duty to uphold the proper standards when providing medical care. If a doctor or nurse falls short or commits medical malpractice, the infant could suffer a preventable birth injury and various health complications. Experienced Pittsburgh medical malpractice attorneys have handled a range of birth injury cases and seen the impacts of health complications caused by medical negligence.
What Is a Birth Injury?
A birth injury refers to harm suffered by a mother or infant before, during or shortly after the birthing process due to medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is the failure of a licensed health care provider to use the correct level of care when treating a patient. A birth injury could result from many examples of medical malpractice during labor and delivery, including OBGYN mistakes, failure to monitor for signs of fetal distress, and the improper use of vacuums and forceps.
Birth injuries can affect virtually any part of an infant’s body or brain. A baby’s brain is particularly prone to injury since it is still in development. If medical malpractice occurs during delivery, such as the baby experiencing a prolonged loss of oxygen to the brain (hypoxia) due to improper monitoring, it could cause permanent brain damage. Cerebral palsy, for example, can be caused by infant brain damage during delivery. This is an irreversible motor function disability.
Brachial Plexus Injury
The brachial plexus is the bundle of nerves located in the shoulder that is responsible for feeling and function of the arm, hands and fingers. A baby’s brachial plexus may suffer harm in a birth injury if a doctor pulls or tugs on the infant’s arm. If the baby is stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone (shoulder dystocia), for example, and a doctor negligently yanks on the infant’s arm, the brachial plexus nerves could get torn or severed.
Brachial plexus injuries can result in health complications such as Erb’s palsy. Erb’s palsy is a paralysis of the arm caused by nerve damage that can result in muscle weakness or reduced muscle development in the affected arm, potentially leading to uneven arm lengths. In most cases, a child will make a full recovery from Erb’s palsy in a few months. However, some children experience ongoing problems.
Children grow and develop at a rapid pace. If a birth injury takes place, a child may be at a disadvantage compared to his or her peers. A birth injury could interfere with the child’s proper physical, mental or emotional development. Broken bones, soft-tissue injuries, organ damage, nerve damage and brain injuries at birth could all lead to developmental delays or missed milestones. The affected child may need ongoing care, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy or physical therapy.
If a doctor or OBGYN does not use the proper birthing techniques during a complicated delivery, he or she could injure or damage the infant’s facial nerves. Improper use of forceps, for example, could damage the network of nerves in the baby’s face or skull. Any type of trauma to the head or face during delivery could result in temporary or permanent newborn facial paralysis.
If your child suffered any type of birth injury in a complicated delivery, help is available at Dallas W. Hartman, P.C. Our specialized birth injury lawyers in Pittsburgh can discuss your family’s legal rights in detail during a free case consultation.