5 Birth Injury Symptoms Parents Should Know
There are several birth injury symptoms parents should look out for in their newborns. In the United States, an average of 3 children are born every hour with birth injuries. While many birth injury symptoms show up in the hospital during or after delivery, others show up much later, usually when the baby is between 1 and 2 years of age when muscle and motor skills are developing.
Common Birth Injuries
A birth injury is caused by damage or injury to a child that occurs before, during, or immediately following the birth process. While the terms birth injury and birth trauma are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. A birth trauma refers specifically to mechanical damage that is sustained during delivery, such as broken bones and nerve damage. Most states, including Nevada, refer to a legal definition of a birth injury as any damage or injury sustained during pregnancy, during delivery, or just after delivery, including injuries caused by trauma.
The list of birth injuries that can occur is long, and each type of injury includes common causes, symptoms, and damages. The most common birth injuries include:
- Brachial Plexus Injury – This occurs when the group of nerves in the spinal cord in charge of sending signals to the baby’s hands and arms is damaged. It occurs most often when there is trouble delivering the baby’s shoulder, a problem referred to as shoulder dystocia.
- Caput Succedaneum – This is significant swelling of the soft tissues of the baby’s scalp. As the baby travels through the birth canal, pressure put on the skull can cause bruising and swelling. Babies delivered by vacuum extraction are more likely to have this condition.
- Cerebral Palsy – Cerebral palsy is the result of abnormal development in the baby’s brain, often caused by improper management of the placenta, the umbilical cord, or a uterine rupture. CP birth injury symptoms include reduced motor function, which causes long-term disabilities.
- Facial Paralysis – During labor or childbirth, pressure on the baby’s face can injure the facial nerves, especially when forceps are used for delivery. If the nerve is only bruised, the paralysis usually improves within 2–3 weeks. If the nerve is torn, surgery may be required.
- Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy – HIE refers to brain dysfunction caused by lack of adequate blood flow or oxygen. It often results in serious conditions including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and epileptic seizures, developmental delays, and other cognitive impairments.
- Spinal Cord Injuries – Spinal cord injuries in babies often occur in the neck, causing a lack of muscle control in the limbs, as well as weakness, spasms, and reduced immobility. Without immediate medical treatment, spinal cord injuries can be severe and cause permanent damage such as immobility.
Can a Difficult Birth Cause a Birth Injury?
A difficult birth can cause a birth injury or birth trauma to a baby during labor and delivery. The most common conditions linked to a difficult birth and birth injury include:
- Large babies, weighing more than 8 pounds and 13 ounces
- Premature babies, born before 37 weeks
- Difficult or prolonged labor
- Breech delivery
- Shape and size of the mother’s pelvis
- Maternal obesity
Brain Injuries in Infants
Thousands of infants each year are affected by brain injuries when birth injuries leave invisible scars. Brain damage in infants is often linked to common birth injuries such as Caput Succedaneum, Hydrocephalus, Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), Intracranial Hemorrhage, and traumatic physical injuries to the head. One of the leading causes of brain damage in infants is the lack of oxygen shortly after birth. It’s estimated that oxygen deprivation, also known as birth asphyxia, occurs in 4 out of every 1,000 full-term births, and premature infants are at higher risk for oxygen deprivation injuries.
Early Symptoms and Signs to Look for After Birth
If you’re a parent with a newborn baby, it’s important to know what the early birth injury symptoms are, how to recognize them, and when you should contact a birth injury lawyer if you suspect medical malpractice. When symptoms are identified early, they may be treatable. In many cases, symptoms are immediately visible in the hospital within the first 24 hours after childbirth. Early birth injury symptoms are often displayed through the infant’s behaviors, physical movements, and breathing patterns.
Behavioral signs to look for include abnormal behaviors that indicate something is wrong. These include constant or unusual drooling, difficulty swallowing or sucking, sensitivity to light, seizures, and vomiting.
Physical signs to look for include injured limbs caused by broken bones and fractures during birth, bent or unstable limbs, hand curling, poor reflexes, weak or difficult body movements, jerking movements or spasms, and writing movements.
Illness and Poor Health Signs
Illness and problems related to certain health conditions may be more difficult to detect in an infant without a physical exam to check vital signs and breathing patterns. This is usually done in the hospital following childbirth and during the mother’s stay before going home. Illness and poor health signs to look for include breathing problems, dizziness or loss of balance, excessive coughing, headaches, inflammation or swelling, low blood pressure or heart rate, and trouble eating or excreting waste.
Some Symptoms of Birth Injuries May Develop Later
In some cases, symptoms of a birth injury or birth trauma may develop later in a child. It’s not uncommon for some birth injury symptoms to show up when the child is between 1 and 2 years of age. This is because an undiagnosed birth injury can remain dormant until the child reaches an age when he or she begins to use muscle and motor skills. Later signs to watch out for include delayed or difficult walking, difficulty learning basic skills, lack of muscle control, poor motor skills, speech or memory problems, and partial paralysis in limbs.
Developmental Benchmarks May Be Delayed
Healthy children normally reach developmental benchmarks as they age, but children who suffer a birth injury or birth trauma often have developmental benchmarks that are delayed. They may fail to achieve age-related goals, such as:
- Climbing stairs
- Walking or running
- Riding a tricycle or bicycle
- Finishing tasks
- Recognizing their name
- Talking with adults and other children
When a birth injury or birth defect causes cognitive disorders like ADD or ADHD, the birth injury symptoms may not be apparent until the child begins school or preschool, usually between 4 and 5 years of age. The signs of a birth injury are commonly evaluated using developmental milestones where communication skills, cognitive skills, movements, and social skills are compared between children with birth injuries and uninjured children.
Some Birth Injuries May Require Long-Term Term Care for Children in Nevada
Birth injuries that result in delayed cognitive function or learning disabilities often require long-term medical care, regular medications, and years of therapy. Long-term cognitive disabilities can result in a variety of problems, including:
- Aphasia, which is the loss of ability to understand or express speech
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD)
- Dyslexia (spelling and processing difficulty)
- Language delays
- Learning disabilities
- Short attention span
In some cases, these conditions can lead to a lifetime of behavioral problems, difficulty learning simple routines, confusion in new situations, lack of self-care skills, and poor judgment in making daily decisions.
How Do Birth Injuries Occur?
Birth injuries can be caused by a variety of factors, such as maternal infections and health issues, pregnancy complications, difficult labor, and premature birth. Although some contributing factors can’t be prevented, many birth injuries can be prevented with proper medical care. Medical negligence caused by inadequate or improper care is preventable.
Your Legal Rights After a Birth Injury
If your child suffers a birth injury in Nevada, contact an Elko birth injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss the details of your child’s injury. Your lawyer can review your case and work with you to get the best results. If your child’s injury was caused by medical negligence, you have the right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible hospital or medical professional.
The amount awarded by a Nevada court in a birth injury lawsuit can vary depending on the nature of the child’s injury and how the injury occurred. If the birth injury results in no lasting or permanent damage to the child, compensation will be awarded to cover medical bills and pain and suffering. However, if the birth injury results in long-term or permanent injuries or disabilities, the monetary award will be higher. This compensation is intended to cover the following:
- Medical expenses
- Past and future lost wages
- Current and future rehabilitation and therapy expenses
- Adaptive equipment expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Disability or disfigurement
In some medical malpractice lawsuits, victims of birth injuries may be awarded punitive damages. These are damages that are awarded with the sole intent to punish the negligent party for his or her wrongdoing and deter future grossly negligent or intentional wrongdoing.