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Understanding the 5 Types of Birth Traumas

Attorneys at Gilreath & Associates in Knoxville explore the different types of birth trauma, along with some factors that lead to injury during childbirth

Medical accidents unfortunately occur, and possibly the worst among them is one that occurs during childbirth. How do you know if your child has been injured during birth? And what exactly constitutes a birth injury?

A traumatic birth injury can range from a mild injury that can resolve itself over time to more severe injuries that can result in permanent physical and mental damage.

Traumatic birth injuries occur at a rate of 6-8 out of every 1,000 live births, and are responsible for around 2% of all neonatal deaths. Most of these (roughly half) birth injuries are avoidable through identification and planning.

Risk factors for traumatic birth injury

There are numerous ways that an infant can be injured during the process of childbirth. Your obstetrician and midwife should be aware of the following factors, and take steps to minimize any risks.

  • Macrosomia – an infant that is large for their date. Often occurs when birth weight is more than 8 lbs, 13 ozs.

  • Cephalopelvic disproportion – the size and shape of the mother's pelvis is not adequate for a vaginal birth.

  • Prolonged labor

  • Babies born before 37 weeks

  • Instrumental deliveries – sometimes the use of forceps or a vacuum can lead to birth trauma.

  • Abnormal delivery positions (i.e. a breech or face delivery)

  • Abnormal or excessive pulling during delivery

5 Types of Traumatic Birth Injuries

Birth injuries typically fall into one of five main categories.

    1. Brain injury, intracranial hemorrhages (bleeds), soft tissue injury

    An intracranial hemorrhage can be defined as bleeding that occurs in the skull. Types include:

    • Cerebral hemorrhageA stroke-like bleed occurring within the brain itself.

    • Intraventricular hemorrhagea bleed in the brain's ventricular system (where spinal fluid is produced). This is the most serious type of intracranial bleeding. It occurs mostly in premature births and in infants born with a low birth weight.

    • Subarachnoid hemorrhagebleeding that occurs in the subarachnoid space (the area between the arachnoid membrane and the covering that surrounds the brain).

    • Subdural hemorrhage or subdural hematoma – bleeding caused by a rupture of blood vessels in the subdural space (i.e. the area between the brain and the thin layer of tissue that separating the brain from the skull).

    • Cephalohematoma – bleeding that occurs between the skull and its covering that presents itself as a bump on the head a few hours after birth. The raised bump can last anywhere from 2 weeks to a few months after birth.

    • Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) – (a.k.a. birth asphyxia) HIE is caused by a lack of oxygen or blood flow during labor and/or delivery. HIE can lead to mental and physical impairments and can vary from mild to severe and permanent. Severity depends on the duration of oxygen deprivation or blood flow.

    2. Peripheral nerve birth injury

    Known as Erb's Palsy, this type of birth injury occurs when the brachial plexus (nerves that control the arms and hands) become injured, and often leaves an infant unable to flex and rotate their arm. The injury will resolve itself most of the time, but a torn nerve can result in permanent damage.

    3. Cranial nerve and spinal cord birth injury

    Injuries to the verves and spinal cord are associated with improper pulling, overstretching and rotating of the baby during the delivery. Two types of cranial nerve and spinal cord injuries are:

    • Facial nerve paralysis – An injury caused when improper pressure is put on the face, or improper forceps are used. Such an injury results in there being no movement on that side of the face. Mild cases can resolve naturally, however more serious cases require surgery.

    • Spinal cord injury – A number of very serious injuries marked by hemorrhages, respiratory failure, overall weakness.

    4. Bone birth injury

    Fractures are more likely to occur during breech deliveries, shoulder dystocia births or large infants. Types of fractures can include:

    • Long-bone fractures
    • Bone-cartilage separations
    • Clavicle or collarbone fractures

    5. Intra-abdominal birth injury

    Luckily, these types of birth injuries are uncommon, but when they do occur, hemorrhaging causes the most damage, with the liver being the most common organ affected.

Almost half of all traumatic birth injuries are avoidable with simple identification and planning by medical personnel. If believe your child sustained a birth injury due to negligence or error, please schedule a free consultation with birth injury attorneys at Tennessee's Gilreath & Associates today.

We can help you build your case. In addition, you can also browse our blog and Tennessee Personal Injury Guide to find other information.

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