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Although most births in the United States take place without any complications or trauma, statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one out of every 1,000 infants is born with some type of birth injury, including cerebral palsy and subdural hemorrhages. The experienced Portsmouth personal injury attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp have been representing families affected by birth injuries since 1985. If you suspect that medical negligence played a role in your child’s birth injury, we will be happy to discuss your case in a free consultation.  

What is a Birth Injury?

During the birthing process, it sometimes happens that the baby sustains a physical injury that damages a structure or function of their body. This damage is referred to as a birth injury or birth trauma and it can happen at any time during labor, delivery, or shortly thereafter. Birth traumas can range from minor to life-threatening.

What Causes Birth Injuries?

Birth injuries can occur due to the position of the baby during the birthing process or due to the baby’s size. Medical complications and conditions that are often associated with birth injuries include:

  • Size: Babies weighing more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces
  • Preterm births: Babies born before their 37th week of gestation
  • Cephalopelvic disproportion: The shape and size of the woman’s pelvis are not adequate for a vaginal birth
  • Dystocia: Difficult childbirth or labor.
  • Prolonged labor: Contractions that last more than 20 hours for new mothers and more than 14 hours for women who have previously given birth
  • Abnormal fetal presentation: Variations include brow, face, shoulder, and breech presentations
  • Maternal obesity: Defined as a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher. Larger numbers are stratified into various classes. 


What Birth Injuries Are the Most Common?

The majority of birth injuries involve trauma to the brain, which can have a profound impact on every aspect of the normal development and growth of a child. Other birth injuries affect muscle mobility and nerve function. Almost all of them will necessitate one or more types of treatment or therapy, often for the rest of the child’s natural life. If your child sustained a birth injury that you feel was caused by medical negligence, contact a Portsmouth personal injury attorney as soon as possible. 

Cerebral Palsy

An estimated two out of every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. have cerebral palsy; a condition that causes muscle weakness, muscle spasms, and a lack of motor skills. Insufficient monitoring of the mother and/or fetus during labor, failure to identify and respond to fetal distress, and improper birthing techniques can all result in brain damage which can lead to cerebral palsy. 

Brachial Plexus Injuries

A brachial plexus injury involves nerve damage between the upper portion of the baby’s spine and the neck, shoulder, hand, and arm. While in many cases the damage is temporary and limited to a stretching of the nerve, some children are left with a lifelong disability. Severe brachial plexus injuries entail ruptured or torn nerves that fail to heal properly. In the most extreme cases, the roots of the nerves are completely ripped from the spine resulting in total paralysis. 

Subgaleal Hemorrhages

The unwarranted or incorrect use of a vacuum extractor or forceps can induce a subgaleal hemorrhage in an infant. This rare but potentially fatal condition is marked by the accumulation of blood underneath the baby’s scalp just above the periosteum. As much as 40% of blood volume can be lost and a transfusion may be required.  

Perinatal Asphyxia

Perinatal asphyxia is the result of a lack of oxygenated blood flow to the baby during childbirth. This can lead to shock, seizures, and even life-threatening comas.

Facial Paralysis

Another birth injury associated with the unnecessary or excessive use of vacuum extractors or forceps is facial paralysis. This occurs when undue pressure on the infant’s face damages the nerves. The child may be unable to move one side of their face or even open an eye.

Spinal Cord Injuries

An infant’s spinal cord is extremely fragile. The inept or overbearing use of forceps during childbirth can lead to spinal cord and nerve damage which in turn can lead to neurological issues and permanent paralysis.

Subdural Hemorrhages

Babies can also experience bleeding between the inner and outer layers of their meninges (the covering of the brain). A subdural hemorrhage places extra pressure on the brain’s surface. Infants with a subdural hemorrhage are at risk of developing serious medical problems, like seizures.

How Does Medical Negligence Lead to Birth Injuries?

While there are certainly instances where an infant is born with birth trauma not arising from human error, most birth injuries are preventable. If an obstetrician or other medical professional, such as a nurse or midwife, was the direct cause of a child’s birth injury, affected families may be eligible to pursue financial compensation via a medical malpractice claim. 

Some forms of medical negligence that can lead to birth injuries are:  

  • Complications with the umbilical cord (umbilical cord prolapse, nuchal cord)
  • Misuse or excessive use of forceps or vacuum extractors
  • Delayed C-Sections
  • Untreated maternal infections
  • Untreated maternal jaundice
  • Asphyxiation
  • Failure to identify or respond to fetal distress

All We Do Is Injury Law

Birth injury and medical malpractice lawsuits are emotionally charged, and challenging, and require extensive legal experience. If a medical provider involved in your child’s birth failed to uphold the medical standard of care, the experienced Portsmouth personal injury attorneys at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help. You could be entitled to damages to help offset the costs of medical bills, in-home care, physical therapy, prescription medications, assistive devices, and more. In one recent case, we won a $2.3 million verdict for a client who experienced a brachial plexus injury due to medical negligence. 

If you would like to discuss your birth injury case with one of our attorneys, schedule a free consultation by calling (833) 997-1774 or by filling out our online contact form. Our offices are located in Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Hampton. 


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