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Birth Injuries: What Are the Risks, and What Can You Do If Your Baby Is Injured?


Most babies come through the birth process relatively unscathed. Moreover, many who suffer birth injuries have only the most mild bruising or even tiny lacerations, which heal completely in a short time. However, women and babies who have some of the following risk factors are at higher risk for birth injuries to the baby as well as to the mother. These factors include:

  • Large babies, weighing over eight pounds, 13 ounces at birth
  • Premature babies, born before 37 weeks
  • Cephalopelvic disproportion, where the baby’s head is too large for the mother’s pelvis
  • Dystocia, or a difficult labor or childbirth
  • Prolonged labor
  • Breech births, in which the baby does not present head first

Many mothers give birth to perfectly healthy children despite the presence of one or more of these risk factors. However, when birth injuries do occur, they include things like:

  • Bruising and forceps marks — Bruising can appear even if no forceps are needed, just from contact with the mother’s pelvic bone and tissues, but is more common when doctors or midwives have to use forceps or vacuum extraction
  • Subconjunctival hemorrhage — Bright red band around the iris of one or both eyes, usually healed completely within seven to 10 days without doing any damage to the eyes
  • Cephalohematoma — Bleeding between a bone and fibrous covering, typically on the baby’s head
  • Facial paralysis — Injury to facial nerves caused by pressure during birth, either from the birth canal or the use of forceps. Bruised nerves heal within a few weeks, while more severe damage may require surgical repair
  • Brachial palsy injuries — Injury to the brachial plexus, the nerves controlling the movement of the arms and hands. Usually this only results in swelling, and the baby recovers within a few months, but more rarely permanent nerve damage results, requiring physical therapy and surgery
  • Fractured bones — Most commonly, the collar bone during a difficult birth or breech delivery
  • Brain injury — Usually resulting from oxygen deprivation or the twisting or compression of the umbilical cord

What can you do if your newborn suffers an injury during birth? For emotional and planning support, you can get in touch with any of a number of non-profit organizations and support groups for parents in such situations.

And, get in touch with a skilled personal injury attorney with experience in birth injury issues to help determine whether your child’s injury resulted from malpractice — and whether it makes sense for you to pursue a lawsuit against the responsible medical providers.