Birth Defects or Injuries

It must be both frightening and devastating to hear that your child has a birth defect or birth injury. Every parent-to-be hopes, dreams and wishes for a healthy child. Sadly, if you have come to this website, you or a loved may have a child with a birth defect or birth injury. It may help to know you’re not alone — many parents and children are going through the same challenges you face. Research shows that birth defects and injuries happen in about two to seven of every 1,000 births.
If you need basic answers about birth defects and birth injuries, resources are available to help. Click here for resources for parents with a child with a birth defect.

Also, you’ll likely have all sorts of legal questions. A New Jersey birth defect and birth injury trial lawyer can help answer some of your questions about whether your child’s birth injury or birth defect was caused by medical malpractice. Here are the answers to common questions people ask us about birth injuries and defects. We hope these can help.

What are the most common birth defect and birth injuries?

Among the most serious birth injuries, cerebral palsy and Erb’s palsy are the most common.

Cerebral palsy — Cerebral (meaning “brain”) palsy (another word for paralysis) describes a group of disorders that affect the body’s movements and muscle coordination. Children that are affected by the disorder have difficulties performing daily activities including walking, talking, playing or eating. Unfortunately, current research has not yet found a cure for cerebral palsy. The same research also demonstrates that cerebral palsy won’t worsen over time. In most cases, the disorder is caused by damage to one or more areas of the brain during fetal development or delivery, or after birth.

In about 10 percent of cases, cerebral palsy is caused by a baby’s lack of oxygen during birth. In a medical malpractice case, this birth defect or birth injury can be caused when the baby remains in the birth canal for too long, forceps are improperly used or vacuum extraction is excessively used. Click here for more information on cerebral palsy.

Erb’s palsy — Erb’s palsy is a common form of brachial palsy (arm paralysis), and it refers to an injury to the fifth and sixth cervical nerve of the brachial plexus region, a bundle of nerves that runs from the spinal cord into the baby’s arms. In other words, injury to the upper group of the arm’s main nerves causes paralysis of the arm. Erb’s palsy impairs the baby’s upper arm and rotation of the lower arm. Other types of brachial palsy include brachial plexus, which impairs the upper arm, and klumpke paralysis, which impairs the hand.

Erb’s palsy is often caused by shoulder dystocia, which is a birth complication that can occur if a baby’s shoulders get stuck on the mother’s pelvic bone. In a medical malpractice case, this birth defect or birth injury can be caused when a doctor uses misdirected force to reposition the baby, tearing the nerves.

Temporary bruising or swelling — The act of birth is a traumatic event in and of itself. In more difficult pregnancies, doctors must use forceps or vacuum extraction, which can cause bruising to the face, head or scalp. In other cases, the small blood vessels in the baby’s eyes break, causing a bright red band around the iris. Most importantly, in most cases, there is no permanent damage and the swelling, bruising or redness goes away within a week or two.

However, in rare cases, improper use of forceps or extraction can cause a birth defect or birth injury by bruising the face, head or scalp.

Fractures — Collarbone fractures are common during labor and delivery, particularly during a breech delivery. In a medical malpractice case, this birth injury can be caused when a doctor makes a mistake while the baby is passing through the birth canal, which could be improper or excessive use of force.

Face paralysis — If the baby’s facial nerve is compressed or damaged during delivery, the baby may experience facial paralysis. When the baby cries, part of its face will not move. In most cases, the effects are temporary. In a medical malpractice case, this birth defect or birth injury can be caused by improper use of forceps during delivery.

Brain damage — Lack of oxygen to the brain can cause permanent brain damage resulting in autism, mental retardation or other mental disorders. In cases where there is a complete deprivation of oxygen to the brain — called anoxia — damage to the baby’s nervous system can occur. Forceps and vacuum delivery can also cause closed brain injuries.
In a medical malpractice case, this birth defect or birth injury can be caused because of a lack of blood flow or oxygen, or trauma from excessive force by the doctor.

Click here for resources for parents living with a brain injury.

Why do birth injuries and defects occur?

Birth injuries and defects can occur for many reasons, including:

Oxygen deprivation

– The umbilical cord is compressed or twisted, or it wraps around the baby’s neck
– The baby remains in birth canal too long
– The baby inhales its own meconium (fecal matter) and amniotic fluid — known as Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
– A medical practitioner improperly inserts an oxygen tube

Medical malpractice errors

– Failure to order specific tests during pregnancy and/or not interpreting those tests correctly
– Failure to perform a timely cesarean section
– Failure to respond to mother or baby’s vital and other distress signs during or after birth
– Excessive or improper use of force during delivery
– Excessive or improper use of tools like forceps or vacuum extraction
– Failure to diagnose and treat the baby’s seizures after delivery

A difficult delivery may increase the chances of something going wrong. Research has identified several potential risk factors for birth defects and birth injuries.
These risk factors include:

• The baby weighs more than 9 pounds
• The baby is in a breech position (bottom first or feet first instead of head first)
• The baby is too large to fit through the birth canal
• The labor is abnormally short, resulting in an injury to the baby, or the labor is too long, increasing the need for a cesarean section
• The baby is delivered through a vaginal operation, cesarean section, forceps delivery, episiotomy or vacuum extraction

Are all birth defects and injuries caused by medical malpractice?

No, not all birth injuries and defects are caused because of medical malpractice. Sometimes, doctors take all the proper precautions and perform the procedure correctly. Unfortunately, something can go wrong and serious problems still arise.
On the other hand, if your doctor did not follow the proper procedure — he or she didn’t order the appropriate tests, missed symptoms or warning signs, or didn’t properly review your medical records — medical malpractice may have occurred.

If my doctor did not perform a pre-screen for birth defects during my pregnancy, did medical malpractice occur?

The failure to perform proper birth defect screening may be medical malpractice. If there were warning signs during your pregnancy and your physician did not investigate further, malpractice may have occurred.

In addition, many birth defects can now be detected with a blood test or ultra sound.
Some of these birth defects include:

• Spina Bifida
• Down Syndrome
• Tay-Sachs Disease
• Thalassemia
• Cystic Fibrosis
• Sickle Cell Anemia

If your child was born with a birth defect that could have been prevented or detected through proper prenatal screening, this may be medical malpractice.
A New Jersey medical malpractice attorney can help parents understand if their child’s birth defect or birth injury was caused by medical malpractice.

Why is it important to share your story about birth defects or birth injuries?

You are not alone. Information about birth defects and birth injuries empowers others and helps increase awareness. The more people who hear and read about birth injuries, the more they will know and understand the challenges facing such parents and children.

We want to read your birth injury story, and we know that other people do, too. If you send us your story, we will publish it anonymously and let you be an anonymous guest blogger here, on Minfirm.
We hope that you will share your story with others so that they can have a helping hand in a difficult time.

Another important website to tell your story and increase birth defect and birth injury awareness, is

Do you have any other questions? Get free help now

We have tried to answer some of the basic questions most people have when they consider whether they need a medical malpractice attorney. But, we are available to answer any other questions you may have. Contact the Mininno Law Office by sending a question on the form to the left and we will give you an answer.

Or, if you would like to speak immediately with a New Jersey malpractice lawyer, you can call (856) 833-0600. If you would like to speak to a Pennsylvania lawyer, you may call (215) 567-2380.

(c) Copyright 2011 Mininno Law Office