Understanding Birth Injuries: A Guide for Parents

The birth of a child is one of the most joyous moments in a parent's life. But, sometimes things don't go as planned and birth injuries can occur. A birth injury can be defined as damage that occurs to an infant before, during, or after delivery. It could result from medical malpractice, negligence, or error on the part of healthcare providers.

In this guide for parents, we will discuss what you need to know about birth injuries. From what they are and their complications to the symptoms and prognosis. We will also address how to prevent them and what steps you can take if your child has suffered a birth injury. Read on to gain a deeper understanding of birth injuries and how you can keep your newborn safe.

What Are Birth Injuries?

Birth injuries refer to physical harm that infants may suffer during the delivery process. Examples include cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injuries, or fractures. These injuries can result from medical errors or complications during childbirth, and treatment options may vary depending on the severity of the injury.

Birth Injury Complications

Complications related to birth injuries for both babies and mothers are a matter of concern. Bleeding in the brain, swelling in the scalp, fractures in newborns, cephalohematoma, hemorrhage during childbirth are just a few examples of such complications. Medical negligence or the use of forceps during delivery can contribute to these complications. Families that have been affected by the severity of these complications have legal options available for compensation. Treatment may involve physical therapy or surgery depending on the severity of the complication. These complications can have long-term effects on children and their families, so it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Fractures in Newborns

Newborn fractures are among the common physical injuries that can occur during delivery and are not uncommon in cases of difficult labor. The most frequently seen types of these fractures involve the collarbone, arm, or leg bones. Swelling, bruising or restricted movement may indicate a broken bone. These fractures can be treated by immobilizing the affected area with a splint or cast and usually heal well within a few weeks to months. Proper prenatal care and monitoring during delivery can help prevent such birth trauma from occurring. It is essential to seek medical attention if there is any suspicion of fracture.


Secondary keyterms used: difficult delivery, buttocks, laceration, placenta, spinal cord injuries, cephalohematoma, dystocia

Bleeding in the Brain

Babies born with bleeding in the brain due to birth trauma caused by forceps or vacuum extraction can experience severe long-term neurological damage including seizures and motor function abnormalities. Parents must discuss any concerns or symptoms with their healthcare provider immediately. Treatment options for this type of birth injury may include medication, surgery, or supportive care. Bleeding in the brain due to a difficult delivery can lead to neurological complications such as cerebral palsy and paralysis. It is crucial for parents to work closely with their healthcare team during pregnancy and labor to prevent such injuries.

Swelling in the Scalp

Swelling in the scalp is a common birth injury complication that occurs due to the use of forceps or vacuum extractors during delivery. This swelling can be accompanied by bruising and may require medical attention. In some cases, it may lead to a condition known as caput succedaneum, causing fluid buildup and increasing the risk of infection. It is advised that parents monitor their baby's head closely after birth and seek medical attention if they notice any signs of swelling or unusual bruising. Early intervention can prevent complications caused by birth injuries such as infections and further physical injuries.

What Causes Erb's Palsy?

Erb's palsy is a birth injury that damages nerves in a newborn's shoulder and arm, often caused by pressure during delivery. Factors like large birth weight, breech position, or prolonged labor can contribute. This can result when there is a failure to timely recognize a large disparity between the size of the baby and the mother's pelvic geometry. It can also result from a failure to timely use proper maneuvers to guide the infant through the pelvic opening necessary for a safe passage through the birth canal. Symptoms may include weakness or loss of movement in the affected arm. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for better outcomes and avoiding long-term complications.

Hemorrhage During Childbirth

Postpartum hemorrhage is a severe complication that may arise due to multiple reasons during childbirth. Heavy bleeding, rapid pulse rate, and low blood pressure are typical symptoms of this condition. Immediate medical intervention is crucial in stopping the bleeding and avoiding further complications. Medication to promote uterine contractions or surgery for eliminating any remaining placental tissue are two treatment options available for managing this problem. Proper prenatal care and constant monitoring by healthcare professionals can significantly lower the likelihood of postpartum hemorrhage occurring during delivery.

Cephalohematoma in Newborns

Cephalohematoma is a physical injury that arises from bleeding between the baby's skull and periosteum during difficult delivery. The severity of this birth trauma can cause discomfort or pain for the newborn and typically appears as a bump on the head. It is commonly observed in cases where forceps or vacuum extraction were used during delivery. Although it may heal itself with time, some cases require medical intervention like physical therapy or surgical procedures. Parents must keep a close watch over their newborns' movements and overall wellbeing to ascertain if there are any abnormalities that need treatment.

Healthcare Team and Birth Injuries

Effective communication among healthcare professionals such as obstetricians, nurses and midwives is essential in preventing birth injuries. By identifying potential complications early on during labor and delivery, they can take the necessary actions to avoid such unfortunate events. In case a birth injury happens due to medical negligence or malpractice it is important that parents seek legal assistance from lawyers specializing in medical malpractice cases to get compensation for damages incurred.

Birth Injury Prognosis

When it comes to birth injuries, timely medical intervention plays a crucial role in determining the prognosis. While some injuries can have long-term effects on a child's physical or cognitive development, early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve outcomes. It's crucial for parents to work closely with healthcare professionals to ensure that their child receives appropriate care and therapy. Additionally, parents must also understand their legal rights if medical negligence led to a birth injury. With proper care and attention from healthcare professionals and awareness of legal rights in severe cases of childbirth or injuries such as cerebral palsy due to difficult labor or the use of forceps during vaginal delivery by healthcare professionals can go a long way in healing both physical injury and emotional trauma.

Fetal Asphyxia

Fetal asphyxia is a condition where an infant's brain doesn't receive enough oxygen during delivery. This can lead to various long-term effects on the baby's physical and cognitive development; however, early diagnosis and timely medical intervention can significantly improve outcomes. Treatment may include oxygen or cooling therapy and other supportive measures to limit the risk of long-term complications. Parents should collaborate with healthcare professionals to understand their available options for managing fetal asphyxia effectively.

In severe cases, this condition could result in cerebral palsy or spinal cord injuries that could impair blood flow and cause abnormalities such as seizures or intracranial hemorrhage. Fetal asphyxia can also be caused by difficult deliveries involving dystocia or vacuum extraction. Understanding the consequences of fetal asphyxia is crucial in recognizing its symptoms and seeking appropriate care from a healthcare provider.

Newborn Jaundice

Newborn jaundice is a common condition that occurs in infants due to an excess of bilirubin in the blood. This condition typically resolves on its own within a few weeks; however, severe cases may require treatment. If not treated promptly, severe jaundice can lead to brain damage and other complications. Phototherapy and exchange transfusion are treatment options available for severe cases of jaundice. Therefore, parents must monitor their newborns closely for any signs of jaundice and seek medical attention if they have any concerns.

Hematoma During Childbirth

During childbirth, it's not uncommon for a woman to experience physical injuries such as hematoma. This refers to the accumulation of blood outside a blood vessel that can cause pain, swelling, and bruising in the affected region. While small hematomas may heal without treatment, larger ones may require medical attention such as draining the excess blood. The prognosis of a hematoma during delivery depends on factors like its location and size along with any associated complications. If you suspect an injury like this or any other birth injuries, seek immediate medical attention to avoid potential complications.

Birth Injury Symptoms

Newborns may experience physical injury due to various factors such as difficult labor, abnormal fetal positioning, and physical trauma during delivery. Birth injuries can result in cerebral palsy or other complications like seizures and spinal cord injuries. Facial nerve injury is another common birth injury that causes paralysis or weakness on one side of the face. Hematoma is a collection of blood outside of a blood vessel that can occur during childbirth. Brachial plexus injuries result in a lack of movement or weakness in the arm or hand. Cesarean delivery may reduce the risk of birth trauma compared to vaginal delivery. Parents should closely monitor their newborns for any abnormalities after birth.

Birth Injury Complications

Birth injuries can result in various complications that may have long-term effects on the newborn's health. Common birth injury complications include cerebral palsy, Erb's palsy, and brachial plexus injuries. These can cause symptoms such as muscle weakness or paralysis, difficulty with coordination and movement, and developmental delays. Hence parents should not ignore any symptoms or signs of a birth injury and must seek immediate medical attention to prevent further damage to the infant’s health. Early diagnosis followed by timely treatment can help improve the healing process. Therefore it is essential to be aware of the possible complications that may arise from birth injuries to ensure proper care for the affected newborns.

Vacuum Extraction Complications

During childbirth, healthcare providers may utilize vacuum extraction to facilitate the delivery process. While this procedure can be beneficial in many cases, it may also result in physical injury to the newborn such as skull fractures or facial nerve injuries. Symptoms of physical trauma due to vacuum extraction might include seizures or difficulty breathing. In such cases, prompt medical care is essential for optimal healing and recovery. Parents must be aware of potential vacuum extraction complications and seek immediate help when needed.


Secondary keyterms used: spinal cord injuries, subconjunctival hemorrhage, buttocks, brachial palsy, difficult labor

Preventing Birth Injuries

To avoid physical injury during childbirth due to complications like dystocia or breech presentation, there are certain precautions that can be taken. Seek proper prenatal care to identify abnormalities or underlying health conditions like prematurity or abnormalities in blood flow. An experienced healthcare provider with expertise in managing complicated deliveries can help ease difficult labor contractions and inform parents of the risks and benefits associated with medical interventions like cesarean delivery or the use of forceps. Communication is key; parents should report any concerns to their healthcare provider immediately. Hiring a birth doula or midwife can also provide helpful guidance throughout the process. By making informed decisions through open communication with one's healthcare team, parents may avoid birth trauma related complications.

The specific types of damages you may be entitled to will depend on the facts of your case and applicable state or federal law. An attorney experienced in birth injury cases can discuss your options for recovery in greater detail.

The Placenta 

The placenta is the organ that is connected to the baby by the umbilical cord.  It is the baby's lifeline through which blood flows to and from the baby carrying oxygen and nutrients.  Normally, the placenta functions well for about 40 weeks - plenty of time for the baby to develop normally and be delivered healthy.  Sometimes, however, the placenta functions well enough to keep baby healthy up to labor, but does not function well enough to get the baby through labor in a healthy way.  When this happens, the baby must be delivered with an expedited, sometimes surgical, technique. Fetal monitoring during labor is designed to detect when the placenta is not functioning well enough to keep baby healthy through the delivery process.  If the healthcare team ignores signs baby is not doing well, and fails to respond to protect the baby, a preventable birth injury may result. Baby can suffer severe brain damage due to lack of oxygen in this instance. In many cases, the parents are not properly informed of the fetal status and are not given an option of a cesarean section delivery to protect the baby.

During the contractions of labor, there is decreased oxygen to the baby - and this is entirely normal.  In fact, the baby's body is designed to be able to respond to this type of stress by compensating for it.  During periods of decreased oxygen, the ratio of oxygen and carbon dioxide changes - resulting in the blood becoming more acid than otherwise.  But, in a healthy baby there are chemicals in the blood and cells that are consumed in order to maintain a safe acid level in baby.  But, these chemicals are used up over time and during an extended labor - or one in which the placenta is not working well - baby is no longer able to compensate for the decreased oxygen and the blood and cells become more and more acidic.  In this uncompensated state, baby's brain and vital organs are at risk.  Thankfully, there are tools that are used to detect when this situation is developing - but they are only as good as the people who are using them.  And, if the user is unaware of the readings or has a knowledge deficit in interpreting them - or if there is a hospital-system failure in responding timely - then baby can be severely injured.

What follows is a normal labor curve for first-time mommies.  This is used to give the delivery team an idea of how long is too long and when an expedited delivery should take place given the fetal status.

What follows is a page from a fetal monitor strip. This is from the machine that monitors baby's heart rate pattern so that one can compare it to mommy's contractions.  Comparing baby's response to the stress of each contraction - especially when compared over a period of time - can give important, sometimes critical, clues about how baby is handling the stress of labor.  There are also characteristic patterns to be looked for that tell the team that baby is not doing well and needs to be removed from the uterus as soon as possible.

When a child suffers a severe brain-damage injury, one of the things that the attorneys must do is evaluate the needs of baby over his or her entire lifetime and put that information in a form that will be used as evidence at trial.  This is critical if baby's medical, nursing, therapy, transportation, and other lifecare needs are to be met.  What follows is a page from a LifeCare Plan prepared for one of our kiddos.  It is provided here so you can see some examples of the lifelong needs when a preventable injury of this kind of severity is encountered.  Preparation of a LifeCare Plan requires an expert specially trained in evaluating such needs and explaining them to the jury.  A LifeCare Plan is typically many pages long and is updated over time throughout the lawsuit as baby's needs change.   The LifeCare Plan is supported by the various experts that are retained by your attorney, which may include specialists in obstetrics, nursing, peri-natology, neo-natology, pediatrics, neuro-radiology, and physical medicine and rehabilitation. 

The LifeCare Plan will form the basis for baby's future care and is available for use after resolution of the lawsuit as needed.  Frequently, baby's case worker will consult it as a basis for care and may update it as baby grows. One of the important things to include in any LifeCare Plan for a catastrophically injured child is respite care for the parents.  Caring for a child with such injuries is a 24-hour job and can wear anyone out.  Keeping parents healthy and emotionally available is important for baby's well-being too.


In conclusion, as a parent, it is essential to be aware of the risks and complications that can arise during childbirth. Birth injuries can be caused by a variety of factors, including medical malpractice or negligence. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of birth injuries during delivery. It is vital to ensure that your healthcare team is knowledgeable and experienced in handling such situations. If you suspect your child has suffered a birth injury, seek medical attention immediately.

Call us today at 214-346-9529 or toll free at 888-333-9709  to learn more about how our Texas personal injury law firm can help with your claim.

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