Events during labor and delivery can result in a number of problems in the newborn infant. These problems, formerly referred to as “birth defects,” are these days more accurately known as birth injuries. Birth injuries can be mild, disappearing in a few days or weeks. However, more serious birth injuries can last the entire lifetime of the child.
One of the major causes of birth injuries in newborn infants is a reduction in oxygen to the child during labor, which can result in severe brain injuries, paralysis, blindness and seizures. Unborn children are more resistant than older children, or adults, to the effects of a reduction in oxygen. Accordingly, there are often signs of developing problems on the fetal monitor, or the passage of meconium (the baby’s bowel movement), that can give the doctors or nurses time to act, to increase the oxygen to the baby, or intervene to quickly deliver the child before any permanent damage is done.
Also, there could be an infection present, especially if the labor goes on for a long period of time. Sometimes, the baby is too large for the birth canal, which can also cause injury or neurologic damage (especially if forceps are used) or damage to a nerve in the baby’s arm.
Sometimes, medications are used to “speed up” the labor, which, if used to excess, can harm the child. Multiple pregnancies (i.e., twins or triplets) are generally considered high-risk. Over the last decade, attempted VBAC deliveries (attempted vaginal birth after a prior Caesarean section) have been encouraged, as a cheaper alternative to a repeat Caesarean section. However, the incidence of uterine rupture, and resulting catastrophic injury to the mother and her unborn child, is much higher, and the true risks of a VBAC delivery may not be spelled out clearly to the expectant parents.
Because of the risks to the child and mother in the labor and delivery process, it is essential that the physicians and/or nurses involved in the delivery continuously attend to and monitor the condition and status of the mother and her child. Unfortunately, health care providers sometimes don’t do the job they promised they would do. Evidence of fetal distress is sometimes unrecognized or ignored. Long periods of time sometimes elapse between evaluations by the labor and delivery nurses. Signs of uterine rupture during an attempted VBAC can be ignored. Ominous fetal heart patterns are characterized as not worrisome. Nurses can be inexperienced and inadequately trained to handle the assessments, care and treatment which they are required to possess in this most important time in a new human being’s life.
When the worst happens, and a child is catastrophically injured, the response by the nurses or doctors unfortunately all too often is “We have no idea what happened,” or “It was just one of those things.” Some unknown genetic syndrome is often blamed, or a “silent” prenatal “infection” or some other unknown event before labor started is given as a cause.
Sometimes this may be true, but all too often catastrophic lifetime damage to a child occurs because someone didn’t do their job. The only way to know once and for all what caused serious injuries to your child is to have the information and records reviewed by an expert on birth injury law. To find out if you have a case you need to contact an experienced and knowledgeable birth injury attorney and his experts.