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Weight Is a Significant Predictor of Birth Injuries

Did you know that roughly 7 out of every 1,000 babies born in the United States is born with a birth injury. Many of these birth injuries are unpredictable. What appears to be a happy and healthy fetus may result in pregnancy complications, negligence at the hands of others, or illness. However, one factor that is a recurring theme in birth injuries is weight.

The weight of the mother often serves as a good predictor of likelihood of a birth injury. Obesity and BMIs of greater than 40 are commonly connected with birth injuries. Often times, obese mothers do not get the right vitamins, nutrients, and exercise to remain healthy and develop strong, healthy babies. In addition, obese mothers experience higher frequencies of induction of labor. This results in higher rates of instrumental deliveries in obese women. Instrumental deliveries may include, for instance, the obstetrician using forceps or a vacuum to aid in delivery. By applying instruments and force, the risk of birth injury due to negligence increases tenfold.

C-Section Problems
Caesarian sections are also shockingly common among obese women as pregnancy complications that occur due to obesity, such as hypertension, fetal distress, and stagnation of labor, generate need for emergency caesarian sections. Studies have shown that a 1-unit increase in BMI increases the rate of caesarian sections by a whopping 7%. Maternal obesity is also linked with congenital abnormalities. In fact, 37.5% of children born to obese mothers suffer from some form of congenital defect. Finally, obesity is also linked with terrifyingly high infant mortality rates. Infant mortality with obese mothers is 2.5 times higher than that with healthy weight mothers.

Women who gain excessive amounts of weight during pregnancy also put their babies at risk. Research has shown that excessive weight gain is linked with large-for-gestational-age infants. Fetal size is influenced by where fat is stored on the mother. When pregnant women gain excessive amounts of fat on their abdomen during pregnancy, their babies increase drastically in weight, length, and head circumference. These larger babies are in turn at greater risk for shoulder dystocia, the leading cause of Erb’s palsy. Larger babies means greater likelihood of shoulder dystocia , which means greater likelihood that the doctor will need to use forceps or some other instrument to manipulate the baby during pregnancy. This increases the potential for hospital negligence.

However, heavier fetuses don’t only occur with obese women. Researchers have found that when a fetus weighs more than 4000 g, the incidence of birth injury increases exponentially. For example, babies weighing more than 4500 g experience 7.7 times more birth injuries than healthy weight babies. As stated before, the larger the baby, the higher the incidence of either instrumental delivery or caesarian section. While caesarian section carries with it lower risk of brachial plexus injuries or clavicle fractures, caesarian sections are associated with an increased risk of other types of birth injuries.

Finally, weight can work in the inverse as a contributing factor to birth injuries. Very lean or small-in-stature mothers experience just as many birthing complications as obese mothers. Like with obese mothers, caesarian sections are common with small mothers due to the increased risk of birth injuries such as shoulder dystocia.

Remember to consult with a doctor during your pregnancy and to monitor your diet, vitamin intake, and any abnormalities during pregnancy. If you or a loved one has suffered through a birth injury, please consider contacting Levin & Perconti today to discuss options to help you get the financial support you need to deal with the traumatic injury.

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