Birth Injury Causes

Birth injuries are caused by many factors, including medical negligence or medical malpractice. While some birth injuries are minor, others are life-altering and leave children with permanent disabilities. When doctors make medical mistakes before, during, or after childbirth that lead to birth injuries, affected families may be entitled to compensation for costly treatment and other expenses.

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By filing a birth injury lawsuit, you can seek financial compensation to provide your child with the care they need to live their best life.

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  • $5 million for a Massachusetts child with brain damage
  • $4.5 million for a child in Illinois with Erb’s palsy
Rae Theodore

Fact-Checked and Legally Reviewed by: Rae Theodore

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What Are the Causes of Birth Injuries?

Many factors cause birth injuries. Some are related to the baby or the mother. For example, premature infants have fragile bodies prone to injury during delivery.

In many cases, however, birth injuries result from mistakes made by doctors, nurses, or other health care providers. These errors are often considered medical negligence or medical malpractice.

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250,000 Deaths caused by medical mistakes each year in the United States

Sadly, children with birth injuries often suffer permanent physical and intellectual disabilities that require lifelong care. As a result, birth injuries also take a financial and emotional toll on families.

The good news is that works with a national network of birth injury lawyers who fight for justice for families of children with birth injuries caused by medical malpractice and negligence.

If you believe your child has been harmed because of an error made by a doctor or other medical professional before, during, or after delivery, we can connect you with a birth injury law firm. You do not need an official medical diagnosis to talk to a birth injury attorney and find out if you may be entitled to financial compensation from a birth injury lawsuit.

Birth Injury Causes and Medical Malpractice

All health care professionals have a duty to perform their jobs while following a high standard of care. However, when a member of your medical team falls short, they can cause serious harm to vulnerable newborns and leave families wondering what went wrong.

Medical negligence occurs when a medical professional mistakenly fails to provide appropriate treatment and causes harm to a patient. Birth injury malpractice involves a preventable error in diagnosis, medication dosage, or some aspect of the labor and delivery process.

Unfortunately, medical malpractice happens far too often.

Here are some examples of medical errors that can lead to severe or fatal birth injuries:
  • A doctor fails to monitor a baby’s oxygen before and during delivery and causes the newborn to suffer a brain injury.
  • An obstetrician incorrectly uses a vacuum extractor to deliver a baby and causes bleeding in the brain.
  • A physician yanks on a newborn’s neck to speed up a vaginal delivery, injures the nerves for the shoulder and arm, and causes Erb’s palsy.
  • An obstetrician’s poor management of a complicated pregnancy or delivery harms the newborn and the mother.

The labor and delivery team should carefully monitor the mother and child when there is abnormal bleeding, a detached placenta (placental abruption), prolonged labor, or other signs of a complicated birth.

If you suspect that medical malpractice played a role in your child’s birth injury, may be able to help. Contact us today so our team can connect you with a birth injury law firm for a free case evaluation.

Situations That May Cause Birth Injuries

When a baby is born with a birth injury, the joy of welcoming a little one into the world can quickly turn to panic. Initially, new parents may feel overwhelmed caring for a sick infant and stressed about how they will pay for expensive medical care. But, soon after, these families may question what went wrong and wonder who is responsible for their child’s birth injury.

While many factors can play a role in causing birth injuries, here is a list of some situations that often leave newborns with life-altering injuries:

Lack of Oxygen

Oxygen deprivation is one of the most common causes of birth injuries. When a newborn lacks enough oxygen, serious injury can occur.

There are two primary forms of oxygen deprivation — anoxia and hypoxia.

  • An anoxic brain injury is caused by a total lack of oxygen to the brain. After 4 minutes of oxygen deprivation, brain cells start to die. After this 4-minute mark, patients can suffer permanent brain damage, and death can occur as early as 4 to 6 minutes later.
  • In contrast, a hypoxic brain injury results from reduced oxygen supply to the brain, which causes brain cells to gradually die and become damaged.

Children with brain injuries caused by oxygen deprivation during birth often have mental, physical, and emotional problems. The severity of symptoms depends on how long the child was without oxygen and the extent of brain damage.

In some cases, parents do not realize that their child has problems related to a lack of oxygen at birth until months later.

Birth Trauma

Birth trauma often occurs when there are complications during the delivery process. Newborns can suffer cephalohematoma (bleeding under the scalp), nerve injuries, broken bones, or other injuries.

During a breech delivery (baby positioned feet or buttocks first), the umbilical cord could come out first and be pinched (cord prolapse), causing decreased oxygen and blood flow.

Suffocation is a risk if the baby’s head or shoulders get stuck inside the mother’s pelvis.

Drugs and Birth Injuries

In some cases, medications can lead to birth injuries. One example is the drug Pitocin®, which doctors often use to induce labor.

Pitocin can help women avoid cesarean sections (C-sections) or complications linked to risk factors such as high blood pressure. However, Pitocin has its drawbacks. It can lead to a low heart rate, which can impact the baby’s oxygen supply, and strong contractions that can cause birth trauma.

Pitocin is not appropriate in all childbirth situations, including when the baby is in the breech position, the placenta is blocking the cervix, or the mother has had a prior C-section. When doctors use Pitocin in these situations, the results can be catastrophic, and there is an increased risk of birth injury.

Once the mother is given Pitocin, the labor and delivery team should carefully monitor the baby. Lack of monitoring that leads to a birth injury could be considered medical malpractice or negligence.

You might be entitled to compensation if your child experienced a birth injury because of a medical error. Contact our team for a free legal case review.

What Causes Brain Damage at Birth?

While all birth injuries can be devastating, those that affect a newborn’s brain can be especially tragic. Brain damage caused by birth trauma can cause permanent damage or death and quickly turn a joyous occasion like a birth into an event marked by sadness.

There are different types of birth injuries linked to birth trauma. Here are some of the more common ones and their causes:

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

HIE is a type of brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain. It can develop during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or after childbirth.

The condition, also known as intrapartum asphyxia, is the most common cause of severe brain injury and death in newborns.

While some children with HIE experience mild health problems, others have significant impairments such as:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Cognitive problems
  • Damage to the heart, liver, and other vital organs
  • Developmental disabilities

HIE can be caused by umbilical cord problems, prolonged labor, or an abnormal fetal position, among other causes.

Babies with HIE are often floppy and have feeding problems and weak cries. In addition, they may be unresponsive to sights and sounds and have abnormal movements or seizures.

Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH)

IVH occurs when there is bleeding in or around the spaces in the brain that contain the cerebral spinal fluid (ventricles). It is most likely to occur in premature infants.

Although it is not clear why IVH happens, babies who suffer head injuries or experience labor and delivery problems are especially at risk. Almost all IVH occurs during the first few days of a child’s life.

This type of brain injury can cause a buildup of fluid in the brain known as hydrocephalus, long-term brain injury, and even death.

Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL)

PVL is a softening of brain tissue that occurs when brain cells have been injured or have died. It is caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain before, after, or during childbirth. Pre-term babies are most at risk.

Babies with PVL typically have problems with muscle control and may have learning difficulties. They also have a higher risk of cerebral palsy.

The most common symptom of PVL is spastic diplegia, a kind of cerebral palsy characterized by tight muscles, especially in the legs.

Remember that many other types of brain injuries can occur during the birthing process.

Call our team for a FREE consultation at (888) 726-9160 to find an experienced birth injury law firm that can answer your questions about your child’s injury and determine whether you have a viable claim for compensation.

What Can Lead to Injuries During Birth?

Risk factors related to the infant and mother often cause common birth injuries. Birth injuries are more likely to occur when there is a premature birth or the baby is large and not positioned head-first in the birth canal.

As for maternal factors, the size and shape of the mother’s pelvis or birth canal (cephalopelvic disproportion) can lead to complications, as can obesity or preeclampsia, a blood pressure condition that develops during pregnancy.

Outside of conditions related to the mother and child, medical malpractice or negligence by a doctor or nurse can also cause a child to suffer a birth injury and long-term disability. Medical malpractice can harm the mother, too.

Some examples of medical mistakes that often lead to birth injuries include:
  • Failure to detect a prolapsed umbilical cord
  • Failure to recognize fetal distress
  • Improper administration of anesthesia
  • Not performing a C-section when appropriate
  • Not spotting signs of infection

Even when infant or maternal factors are involved, medical professionals are not relieved of their duty to provide a high standard of care. In these cases especially, they should carefully monitor the mother and child, act quickly during an emergency, and provide appropriate treatment.

Get a free case review now to see if we may be able to help you seek compensation for a birth injury.

Can a Delivery by Forceps Cause Birth Injuries?

Another way that a doctor can injure both the baby and mother is by incorrect use of forceps during delivery. As a result, babies can sustain face and eye injuries, skull fractures, bleeding inside the skull, and nerve damage.

A doctor delivers a babyWhile minor injuries such as marks on the infant’s face are common, more serious injuries are rare.

A doctor might recommend a forceps delivery when the mother is pushing and the labor is not progressing or if immediate delivery is needed for the infant’s safety.

Forceps deliveries are inappropriate in certain situations, such as when the position of the baby’s head is unknown, or the head has not moved past the middle of the birth canal.

Finding a Birth Injury Attorney

A birth injury lawyer can let you know whether you may have a claim for compensation. Many birth injury law firms have nurses on staff who can determine whether medical malpractice played a role in your child’s birth injury.

Birth injury attorneys are specialists in birth injury cases. Not only do they understand the complexities of these complicated medical cases, but they know the stress and financial burden that comes with caring for a sick child.

And they tend to obtain more financial compensation for affected families than general personal injury attorneys.

Call (888) 726-9160 right now or complete our contact form to see if we may be able to connect you with a top birth injury lawyer.

FAQs About Birth Injury Causes

What causes birth asphyxia?

Asphyxia — a lack of oxygen and blood flow to the brain — can leave a child with devastating injuries and a family searching for answers.

Common causes of asphyxia include a long or difficult delivery, problems with the umbilical cord, or an untreated infection. Some symptoms are breathing issues, pale skin, and lethargy.

The severity of the injury depends on the length of oxygen deprivation and how quickly treatment is given. In the worst cases, asphyxia can lead to organ failure and death.

Is cerebral palsy caused by a birth injury?

Birth injuries often cause cerebral palsy. Oxygen deprivation, bleeding in the brain, untreated jaundice, and maternal infections can result in this debilitating disorder.

Medical professionals who fail to recognize these dangerous conditions and provide appropriate care may be liable for medical malpractice.

Is brachial plexus palsy caused by a birth injury?

Brachial plexus palsy usually occurs when a doctor has trouble delivering a baby’s shoulder (shoulder dystocia). The brachial plexus is a group of nerves supplying arms and hands. When damaged, the baby may be unable to flex and rotate the arm.

While the child may regain movement, that is not always the case. When the nerves are torn, permanent impairment may result.

Erb’s palsy is a variety of brachial plexus injury.

How do I find a top birth injury lawyer near me?

Our team works with top birth injury law firms across the country. If you believe medical mistakes caused your child’s birth injury, one of the law firms in our network may be able to help. Please reach out today for a free legal review.

Rae Theodore

Fact-Checked and Legally Reviewed by: Rae Theodore

Rae Theodore is a writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in legal publishing. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Pennsylvania State University.

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  4. Children’s Health. “Pediatric Hypoxic-ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) (Intrapartum Asphyxia).” Retrieved from: Accessed Accessed July 11, 2024.
  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Study Suggests Medical Errors Now Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.” Retrieved from: Accessed July 11, 2024.
  6. Mayo Clinic. “Cerebral palsy.” Retrieved from: Accessed Accessed July 11, 2024.
  7. MedlinePlus. “CPR – adult and child after onset of puberty.” Retrieved from: Accessed Accessed July 11, 2024.
  8. Seattle Children’s Hospital. “Birth Asphyxia.” Retrieved from: Accessed Accessed July 11, 2024.
  9. Shepherd Center. “What are Anoxic and Hypoxic Brain Injuries?” Retrieved from: Accessed Accessed July 11, 2024.
  10. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals. “Neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy.” Retrieved from: Accessed Accessed July 11, 2024.
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