Newborn babies may be at risk for a number of health problems, such as pneumonia, anemia, and blood sugar irregularities.
Those problems are typically associated with premature delivery or a mother’s poor health. When a healthy mother carries a baby to full term and prenatal exams have detected no health concerns, families may anticipate an easy birth with no complications. However, some otherwise-healthy infants suffer serious injuries during childbirth.
The rate of birth injuries has fallen considerably compared to previous decades, thanks to technological and surgical advances. But that fact is little comfort to families whose newborn suffered an injury during birth.
Sometimes, the consequences of a birth injury aren’t fully understood until a child grows older. Years after the initial injury, a child may develop a related secondary health problem. Texas law offers parents recourse in such situations – if a child was injured during birth, parents may pursue a personal injury claim against a healthcare provider before the child’s 14th birthday.
During birth, doctors want to ensure a baby moves as quickly as possible from the mother’s womb into the delivery room. If an infant remains in the birth canal too long, it may have trouble receiving oxygen, or it may suffer from experiencing too much physical pressure. When the birth isn’t progressing quickly enough, doctors may have to help extract the infant, and that’s one of the most common reasons newborns suffer injuries.
Vacuum-assisted delivery helps medical personnel move a baby through the birth canal by means of a soft suction device that attaches to the baby’s skull. These devices, while effective, can cause injuries ranging from minor bruising and tears in the skin to swelling and bleeding inside the skull.
Two types of hematoma (an injured blood vessel that releases blood into surrounding tissues) are commonly associated with vacuum-assisted births:
- Subgaleal hematoma/subgaleal hemmorhage: This rare and serious injury causes blood to accumulate between the scalp and the skull, above the tissue called the periosteum. It occurs in about 4 of 10,000 normal unassisted births, and in about 59 of 10,000 vacuum-assisted births. The risk of this injury is high when the vacuum is positioned or manipulated incorrectly or is used for longer than 10 minutes. An infant with this injury may experience neurological damage, seizures, hypothermia, shock, or death.
- Cephalohematoma: This hematoma is largely superficial, resulting in a lump on the head that tends to resolve on its own. But if it’s accompanied by significant bruising, an infant’s body may have trouble adequately eliminating damaged tissue.
Bruising releases bilirubin into the bloodstream. This yellowish byproduct of bruising is usually broken down by the liver, but a newborn’s liver may not be able to process excess bilirubin, and jaundice may occur.
The use of forceps during delivery may also cause head injuries to infants, including nerve damage that results in facial paralysis. The paralysis may be temporary if the nerve was bruised, but if the nerve was torn, surgery may be required.
Occasionally, doctors may decide to deliver a baby by Caesarean section, due to concerns about the mother’s or infant’s health. This method of delivery requires invasive abdominal surgery, which raises the risk of a laceration injury to the fetus.
Even when a fetal laceration seems minor, the resulting scar can be significant. For example, one case study found that a newborn’s 2-centimeter laceration migrated on her body and grew by another 8 inches before she reached age 12.
When a birth injury leaves scars on the face or some other highly visible area, a child may experience embarrassment, anxiety, shame, and other negative emotions that detract from a happy childhood. Surgery to correct such scars may, at best, make those scars less noticeable.
Contact An Experienced Birth Injury Attorney
Infants won’t remember the birth injury that caused their scars, their disability, or their cognitive impairments, but they will live with the consequences for the rest of their lives. That’s why it’s important for families to hold healthcare providers accountable when their carelessness causes injury – and pursuing a personal injury settlement may be the only way to offset the medical costs and mental anguish for the victim.
The Evans & Herlihy Law Firm has helped many personal injury victims in Texas achieve a better quality of life. Find out how we can help you. Fill out our online contact form, or call us at 855-414-1012 for a no-obligation consultation.