Birth Injuries: Understanding What’s Normal and What’s Not

Happy couples often dream of extending their family for years. So when the time finally arrives, the last thing anyone wants is a complication or anything other than a bouncing bundle of joy. Yet, trouble can arise in even seemingly healthy pregnancies. Taking care of maternal needs prior to becoming pregnant and during gestation can help ensure you deliver a healthy and happy addition to the family. Regardless of how careful the impending mother is, a birth defect or traumatic birth injury may still occur during gestation or delivery. While serious injuries are possible, most are preventable. So understanding what’s normal and what’s not can go a long way to avoiding serious and potentially lifelong complications.

What’s the Difference Between Birth Defects and Birth Injuries?

People often confuse birth defects with birth injuries and assume they’re the same thing. In reality, they’re quite different. Both affect the infant and can either be minor, self-correct or be easily treated, or end up being long-term or lifelong afflictions requiring ongoing medical and personal care. But that’s really where the similarities end as defects and injuries usually occur in completely different ways. A birth defect is actually a pregnancy defect. It occurs during gestation while the fetus is developing inside the womb. Most often, birth defects are caused by genetic or DNA mutations, but they can also be caused by toxins, medications, and unsafe maternal behaviors during the pregnancy.

Birth injuries, on the other hand, occur right before or during delivery. Around 29 out of 1000 live US births are traumatic in some way. And 2.6% of annual live births are reported to result in some form of serious birth injury. Birth injuries can be due to unusual birth weights, untreated illness or infections at the time of delivery, delivery medication reactions, and aggressive or negligent delivery practices by the medical team.

Are All Birth Injuries Serious?

Around 4 million babies are born in America annually, and approximately 28,000 of those suffer from birth injuries. So while that’s a small percentage, it’s still a frightening reality. Of course, not all birth injuries are equal. Every birth has the potential to be traumatic, and each traumatic birth is at risk for resulting in a serious injury for both the mother and child. But most birth injuries are mild or minor. They may include bruises, lacerations, or even a hemorrhage that can be treated relatively quickly.

Forceps and vacuum suctioning can cause common injuries such as cephalohematoma (bleeding beneath the skull cap) and caput succedaneum (swelling of the baby’s scalp). Those conditions sound horrible, and they can be intensely stressful for any new parent. But they usually heal within a few days or a couple weeks. However, sometimes the injury is far more severe.

Serious or severe birth injuries can include fractures, torn nerves from facial or brachial palsy, learning or developmental disabilities, and even cerebral palsy. In some cases, a severe birth injury can be treated over the course of weeks or months. But other times, the injuries may result in long-term or lifelong challenges. In almost every situation, especially when caused by medical neglect, traumatic birth injuries could have been prevented. If your child is a victim of potential medical neglect, the right birth injury attorney can help you seek the justice you deserve.