What should be a joyous occasion can turn deadly or disastrous in a matter of minutes. Children can suffer from a variety of birth injuries that can result in short or long-term consequences. After a birth injury, you child’s life as well as yours can be affected and forever changed. Mental, physical, educational and work abilities have all been altered forever. Sadly, many birth injuries and deaths can and should have been prevented.
Birth injuries are so devastating because they not only affect the child for a lifetime, but their families as well. Birth injuries have lasting and far-reaching consequences for all involved.
What are Birth Injuries?
A birth injury is an injury that can happen prior to birth, during the labor and delivery process, or in the neonatal or “newborn" period. Unfortunately, birth injuries can be permanently devastating when they affect the brain.
Injuries that occur during the prenatal period can be attributed to untreated infection such as Group B Streptoccoccus, placental insu_ciency or abruption, and preterm birth causing respiratory distress and brain hemorrhage.
Labor and delivery injuries can be caused from a health care provider failing to recognize fetal distress during labor signaling decreased oxygen being delivered to the baby’s brain resulting in
injuries to brain structures responsible for movement, cognition, vision, swallowing, and coordination.
Additional injuries that occur during labor and delivery can be related to CPD or “cephalopelvic disproportion" whereby the baby’s head is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis during the birthing process. This may require forceps or vacuum extraction assisted delivery which can cause injury to the baby’s head or even require emergent cesarean section if the baby is in distress.
Injuries that occur during the neonatal period can be caused by negligent resuscitations, jaundice, and neonatal sepsis.
In summary, the prenatal, labor and delivery, and neonatal time period is a critical time for health care providers to be on alert and prepared to anticipate and intervene as needed in a timely manner in order for mother and baby to have a healthy outcome.
Types of Birth Injuries
The most common types of birth injuries include but are not limited to:
• Cerebral Palsy due to lack of oxygen tomthe baby’s brain
• Bleeding in the brain
• Caput Succedaneum
• Subconjunctival Hemorrhage
• Forceps lacerations, bruising, facial nerve injury
• Shoulder Dystocia/Brachial Plexus Palsy
In fact, many types of birth injury can be prevented by proper prenatal and labor care by the medical and nursing staff.
One such example is screening for Group B Streptococcus and appropriate antibiotic prophylaxis to prevent transmission to the newborn.
There is no way to completely eliminate the risk of birth injury, but some risk factors that can lead to trouble during child birth are drawn out labor, atypical positioning of the baby, too much Pitocin given to the mother, larger than average sized baby, premature birth and the use of forceps or vacuum. Expectant parents tend to anticipate a relatively smooth birth process and a healthy baby. In the majority of cases this will be the outcome.
Sadly, there are some instances where birth injury and possible lasting effects will result.