A birth injury refers to a medical mistake made by a health care practitioner before, during or shortly after the birth of a child that injures the infant and/or mother. If a reasonably prudent physician would not have made the same error, the victim may have grounds to file a birth injury claim in Philadelphia. A lawsuit could provide financial compensation for the family’s losses, including bills related to the long-term effects of a birth injury.
A baby’s developing brain can suffer harm while still in the womb due to issues such as brain hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen reaching the brain. A prolonged loss of oxygen – which can occur, for example, when a doctor negligently fails to notice the signs of fetal distress – can result in brain cell death and permanent infant brain damage. Another potential issue is kernicterus, a type of brain damage that can result from undiagnosed or untreated jaundice.
Deprivation of oxygenated blood during the neonatal period could also lead to hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which is a serious and often irreversible brain injury. Finally, the misuse of birth-assistive tools by an obstetrician, such as forceps, could cause a traumatic head or brain injury during a difficult birth. A severe infant brain injury can result in long-term harm such as chronic seizures, developmental delays, physical disabilities and cognitive disabilities.
One potential long-term outcome of infant brain damage is a group of motor function disabilities known as cerebral palsy (CP). Cerebral palsy can be caused by damage to the brain while it is still in development. Depending on the type of CP, the child may experience developmental delays, problems with muscle development, abnormal posture, intellectual disabilities, trouble speaking, trouble with coordination or reflexes, behavioral problems, and epilepsy. There is no known cure for CP; a child will live with the effects of this disorder for life.
Shoulder and Brachial Plexus Injuries
The brachial plexus is a network of nerves located in the shoulder that controls feeling in the shoulder, arm and hand. If a doctor pulls or tugs on an infant’s arm the incorrect way during birth, it could injure the shoulder or damage the brachial plexus. Brachial plexus injuries are especially common if shoulder dystocia occurs, where a baby’s shoulders get stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone during birth.
Pulling on the baby’s arm could lead to various injuries, including Erb’s palsy, a nerve condition that can result in weakness and loss of movement in the affected arm. Although an infant can often heal from Erb’s palsy over time, it may cause long-term complications, such as one arm developing at a slower pace than the other. The child may need physical therapy to overcome the issue.
In addition to brachial plexus injuries, an infant could suffer other forms of nerve damage due to birth injuries. One example is facial paralysis, also known as facial nerve palsy. Birth trauma, such as too much pressure being exerted against the nerves of the face, can damage the nerves and cause temporary or even permanent facial paralysis.
Birth injuries can also have lasting effects on the mother. Birth trauma can result in maternal injuries such as infections, vaginal tears, postpartum hemorrhage, ruptured uterus and post-natal depression. These injuries could cause lasting physical debilitation, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. Mothers can also suffer emotional distress from the effects of observing injuries inflicted on their infants.
If you or your child is dealing with the long-term effects of a preventable birth injury in Philadelphia, contact the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Youman & Caputo for a free case consultation. You or your child may be eligible for financial compensation.