The birth of a child is supposed to be a joyful experience; however, it can become an upsetting event if the child is born with a birth injury. It is estimated that approximately 6 to 8 infants out of every 1,000 suffer from some type of birth injury in the United States. This equates to more than 25,000 children each year. Injuries in infants may range drastically, from minor to very severe. Minor injuries are those that will be relatively easy to treat and the child will recover completely with no long-term harm. More severe injuries could take months or years of medical treatment and rehabilitation, and sometimes the injuries are disabling.
Evaluating Infants at Birth
All infants are evaluated at birth using a system called the APGAR scale. Doctors or other medical professionals can quickly assess an infant’s overall condition by evaluating the baby’s color, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and respiration. The assessment is done a minute after birth and again at five minutes. A perfect score in each category is ten. If a baby has a score lower than 7 in any category it indicates that the infant requires additional assessment and monitoring. The APGAR test is just one way to evaluate a baby. Other testing and observation is needed to further diagnose a baby’s condition.
Types of Birth Injuries
There are a number of different types of birth injuries. One of the most common types of injuries occurs to the baby’s brachial plexus. This is a group of nerves located near the shoulder. It can be easily damaged during a difficult assisted birth. Head injuries can be severe in infants and can occur from the use of forceps or other devices during birth. Head trauma can be serious and cause lifelong problems. Of all the injuries that may occur, the most severe are those that affect the baby’s cognitive and physical functioning. These may be due to a lack of oxygen during labor or delivery.
Elevated Risk for Birth Injuries
Some babies are at a higher risk for birth injuries than others. Large babies, mothers who are diabetic, and preterm babies are likely most at risk for possible birth injuries. Complications during birth are more common among these groups. Additionally, difficult or long labor can create complications making birth injuries more likely to occur. Doctors and medical teams must be properly prepared in case the birth becomes problematic. Immediate action can often help to avoid injuries.
Treating Birth Injuries
Birth injuries must be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. Many times the infant will experience symptoms such as difficulty eating, or drooping or limp extremities. Sometimes, the baby’s injuries are not immediately apparent. For example, severe cognitive disabilities may not be diagnosed until the child fails to reach important growth milestones. An experienced attorney is needed to assist with determining the severity and cause of the injury. In some situations, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be necessary to seek monetary damages to cover the expensive medical treatment that is required.
If your infant was seriously injured at birth, contact the experienced legal team at Levin & Perconti for a consultation.