Articles Posted in Fetus/Fetal Asphyxia

mother worried about birth injuries

15 Things Parents May Not Know About Their Baby’s Birth Injury

A birth injury is defined as the structural destruction or functional deterioration of an infant’s body due to a traumatic event at birth. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Some of these injuries are avoidable when appropriate care is available, and others are part of the delivery process that can occur even when clinicians practice extreme caution.”

This is a list of 15 things parents may not know about preventable birth injuries.

birth defects
In the U.S., about 1 in 33 babies is born with a birth defect each year, according to the March of Dimes. This makes birth defects the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States, accounting for over 20% of all related deaths.  Several factors have an impact on how a child is born with a birth defect and whether that defect could have been prevented. Critical evaluations of the biological parents’ genetics, medications mom may have been prescribed, social and environmental factors, and prenatal care and physician choices all could play a role. Not to be confused with a birth injury, not all birth defects are preventable.

  • Birth Defects: A birth defect is a health condition that is present at birth. Defects can cause serious problems in a baby’s overall health, how his body develops, and how his/her body works, according to the March of Dimes.
  • Birth Injuries: A birth injury is defined as the structural destruction or functional deterioration of the neonate’s body due to a traumatic event at birth. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Some of these injuries are avoidable when appropriate care is available, and others are part of the delivery process that can occur even when clinicians practice extreme caution.”

Birth Asphyxia

3 Types of Asphyxia Related Childbirth Injuries

Some of the most traumatic injuries that arise during childbirth are those that affect the baby’s brain. Asphyxia is an irreversible event that occurs when the brain is deprived of oxygen for an extended time prenatally, intrapartum, or postnatally and results in abnormal neurologic function in a newborn. The harm can be incredibly debilitating and impact the child’s suffering for the remainder of their life.

When medical provider negligence is involved in a childbirth-related injury, it is likely due to a failure to monitor the fetus and respond to distress or diagnose a potential delivery issue. Many birth injury lawsuits have been filed because of these unfortunate labor and delivery events.

Mothers often turn to midwives when they are seeking a more natural childbirth option. However, the American Pregnancy Association cautions that sometimes childbirth requires medical interventions that extend beyond the scope of a midwife’s limited services. In those situations, the mother and baby need the prompt attention and care of an experienced obstetrician. If complications arise during childbirth that a midwife is incapable of handling, both mother and baby run the risk of suffering a debilitating birth injury.

Recently, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported that a Maine jury awarded a 10-year-old plaintiff $3 million for past and future medical expenses, permanent impairment, and loss of enjoyment of life after finding that the midwife who had overseen the child’s delivery negligently failed to follow standard medical care procedures. The child is severely disabled and was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Kabuki Syndrome. The medical malpractice lawsuit maintained that the disorder did not account for all of the child’s symptoms, which include severe mental retardation, blindness, wheelchair confinement, a feeding tube, and inability to speak. Rather, the symptoms indicate the child suffered from oxygen deprivation during labor, as a fetal monitor warned. The lawsuit argued that the midwife failed to respond appropriately when the monitor indicated a problem.

The jury came to a verdict for the plaintiff after deliberating for only four hours. The plaintiff’s attorney praised the verdict, but added, “There are no winners in this. Everyone in the courtroom, particularly defense counsel, agreed this is a tragic situation.” Chicago birth injury attorneys know that with the proper care and attention during childbirth, these tragedies are entirely preventable. A fetal monitor should provide sufficient warning if problems occur. However, too often the baby is deprived of oxygen and experiences birth hypoxia or birth asphyxia, which can result in permanent brain damage. Such injuries require lifelong medical care and can exert an astounding financial and emotional strain on families.
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Parents of children who suffer birth injuries now can seek post-natal treatment for their newborns to reverse brain damage. A researcher at the University of Florida has discovered that the use of cooling blankets within six hours of birth may help to reduce the effects of brain damage in infants. WPTV and the report that these findings come after an 18 month study that looked at how these medical devices may help babies by essentially cooling their brains. This new treatment will help babies who have suffered brain damage during birth due to a low blood supply or lack of oxygen. A lack of oxygen can occur when the placenta separates from the mother’s uterus too early, and may also occur if the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around an infant’s neck or is compressed during the birthing process. When these complications happen during birth, practitioners have very little time to extract the baby before brain damage can occur. This brain damage can lead to cerebral palsy, seizure, blindness and even death.

The cooling blankets are effective at treating newborns who are under six hours old. The babies are wrapped in the cooling blankets for 72 hours and during this time their body temperature drops to 91 degrees. This drop in body temperature reduces cerebral edema, or swelling of the brain, to prevent further damage. The treatment has proven effective in reducing death and neurological defects. This is the first treatment available to reduce brain injuries in infants.

Although the treatment is currently only available in teaching hospitals, it is promising to hear that researchers are finding ways to reduce the devastating effects of brain injuries at birth. When children suffer brain injuries at birth, the impact on both the child and its family is great. In many instances, these children must endure life-long medical treatment and care which can lead to millions in medical expenses over a lifetime. Hopefully, the number of children severely injured by brain injuries will drop with this new medical procedure.

Our Chicago birth injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti have recently launched a newly-designed firm website. The Chicago personal injury website offers a number of new resources, including community pages, the Nursing Home Attorney Resource Center, a directory of commonly used legal terms and expanded practice area information.

We represent a number of individuals and families throughout Illinois who were injured or killed as a result of healthcare provider error during the birth process. Due to this, we felt it was important to expand our birth injury practice area pages to include more information for the public on some of the most common types of birth injuries. We have created new web pages specifically focused on injuries such as cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injuries and injuries caused by vacuum extraction. Visit our main birth injury practice area page to access our expanded pages, and also to learn why birth injury cases differ from other types of medical malpractice lawsuits. After viewing this information, feel free to contact a Chicago injury lawyer to discuss your potential claim.

Babies who are deprived of oxygen for any significant period of time during birth have a very high risk of suffering permanent brain damage. This risk of birth injury has shown to be reduced, however, by a new therapy that is pretty cool, literally. The therapy, called induced hypothermia, involves placing an infant on a cooling blanket within 6 hours of its birth for a period of 3 days, bringing its temperature down from the normal 98.6 degrees to about 92 degrees. Research shows that, while the therapy may not completely prevent brain damage, babies suffering from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), or birth hypoxia and asphyxia, that receive the treatment have a greater chance of survival and the extent of their brain damage from oxygen deprivation is reduced.

Read more about this new cooling therapy here.

Scientists at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., have developed two compounds that may be effective in protecting against cerebral palsy. The findings from their experiments with rabbits suggest that the compounds may have prevented the development of the disorder, which would have otherwise developed, following a lack of oxygen to the fetus. Notably, all of the fetuses born to mother rabbits that were treated with the compounds survived, whereas, over half of those without treatment died. Perhaps most impressive is that 83% of the animals treated with one of the compounds were born without any characteristics of cerebral palsy at all. More testing is necessary before they can conclude that the compounds will work to prevent birth injuries in humans, but these findings bring hope that infants subjected to birth hypoxia, such as those who suffer umbilical cord compression during labor, need not suffer permanent brain damage.

Read more about this exciting cerebral palsy prevention breakthrough in an article published by US News & World Report.

There are serious risks, both to the mother and her baby, when having a “natural birth” after having delivered an earlier child by c-section. The procedure, known as vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC, for short), has been shown to cause serious injuries. For instance, there is a risk of the mother suffering a uterine rupture, which can be fatal to both her and her baby. There is also a chance that the VBAC will cause the baby to suffer oxygen deprivation (or birth hypoxia), leading to brain damage and cerebral palsy. These risks are compounded by doctors’ errors such as hesitation to perform the delivery or delaying a c-section. Recognizing that the decision to proceed with a VBAC may cause these birth injuries, and potentially be grounds for pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit, many doctors are now refusing to perform them, opting instead for another c-section delivery.

Read more about the risks of VBACS, and the difficulties of finding doctors willing to perform them, in an article by Time Magazine.

A jury found a hospital liable for medical malpractice and awarded $4.25 million to the family of a girl who, after a traumatic birth, was born with Cerebral Palsy and brain damage. The baby’s heart rate began to drop while the mother was lying in a hospital bed but the doctor had gone home for dinner. By the time another doctor arrived and performed an emergency Cesarean Section, the baby had been deprived of oxygen for 20 minutes.

The jury found that the hospital ignored signs of fetal distress, failed to notify a doctor in time to perform a timely emergency C-Section, and that this delay caused the child’s injuries.

The jury awarded compensation for past and future medical expenses, lost future earnings and pain and suffering.

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