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What Is a Birth Injury and How Does it Happen?

The upcoming birth of a new baby is a very exciting event for parents-to-be. While they may have some trepidation about labor and childbirth, they generally expect to end up with a perfectly healthy new baby. While healthy babies are the norm, birth injuries are a frightening reality for some new parents.  

What Is a Birth Injury?

Simply put, a birth injury is a physical injury that occurs during the process of giving birth. Birth injuries are fairly common, and many of them resolve themselves without medical treatment. Some, however, require extensive medical intervention and can have serious long-term consequences for the health of the child.

When Do Birth Injuries Occur?

Birth injuries are more likely to occur during a long or difficult labor. They also may occur when the baby is premature, large in size, or when the mother’s pelvis is not the right size or shape to facilitate a vaginal delivery. They also may occur if the baby presents in an unusual labor position, such as breech.

What Are Some Common Birth Injuries?

  • Cuts and Bruises. After birth, newborn babies may have some cuts and bruises. Bruises sometimes are the result of the baby passing through the birth canal. Forceps and vacuum extractors—tools used to assist with difficult deliveries—also can cause cuts and bruises on a newborn.
  • Swelling on the Head (Caput Succedaneum). Swelling on the head, called caput succedaneum, may be caused by pressure in the birth canal during a head-first delivery. 
  • Bruising on the Head (Cephalohematoma). Bruising on the baby’s scalp, called a cephalohematoma, may be caused by prolonged labor, forceps, or vacuum extraction delivery.  
  • Collarbone (Clavicle) Fracture. The clavicle is the bone that connects the breast to the shoulder. The clavicle may fracture if the baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvis during delivery.
  • Erb’s (Brachial Plexus) Palsy. The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that run from the neck down to the arm. During birth, nerve damage may occur when the baby’s head is pulled in one direction and the arm in another. This nerve damage can cause weakness in the arm.
  • Facial Paralysis. A difficult delivery and pressure on the face may cause damage to the facial nerve of a newborn. This injury causes loss of voluntary muscle movement in the face.
  • Brain Injuries. The baby’s brain may be deprived of oxygen during a difficult birth. Prolonged oxygen deprivation can damage the brain and cause a variety of disorders such as cerebral palsy, seizures, or mental impairment.

While some birth injuries are minor and resolve themselves with little medical intervention, others can be serious and cause long-term problems for your child. If your child was born with an injury you think may be due to the negligence of your doctor or medical team, please contact the Pennsylvania law office of Schmidt Kramer at (888) 476-0807 to speak with a birth injury attorney. The consultation is free.