During the strain of childbirth, it is natural for both mother and child to sustain some injury. Evolution has taken this into account, making a baby’s body resilient. There are many childbirth injuries that babies recover from naturally and quickly.
However, human intervention can exacerbate the injuries of childbirth. Medical staff is present to make the process easier and safer. Most of the time, they do their jobs well, and a new life enters the world healthy and happy. Medical professionals are, however, only human. Sometimes they make mistakes, and a child suffers as a result.
One of the more deadly childbirth complications is a brain injury, often brought on by malpractice. In this article, we will discuss how these injuries occur through human error and the kinds of injuries a child can sustain.
How Brain Injuries Happen
Many brain injuries occur through the misuse of the tools that help extract a child. These days, the medical staff uses forceps and, less often, vacuums.
Forceps wrap around the baby’s head, guiding it out of the birth canal. They have been in use for centuries. Even modern versions have an almost medieval appearance and often frighten soon-to-be parents. In reality, modern forceps are very gentle when used appropriately. They are designed to cradle, not clamp, the baby’s head. Newborn infants’ bodies are malleable and can withstand a certain degree of stretching, so forceps should not cause any harm.
However, malpractice can make forceps deadly. Poorly handled or misapplied, forceps can create an undue force on the sides of the baby’s cranium. This pressure can break or rupture areas around the brain or the brain itself, resulting in damage.
A vacuum is used for the same reason as forceps. They help pull a baby out if they are stuck or if the mother is too exhausted to push. A small cup is placed on top of the baby’s head, and gentle suction seals the cup to the child. Locked in place, the baby is guided out of the canal and into the world.
Like forceps, vacuums should be gentle and cause no harm to the child. Also like forceps, mishandled vacuums can cause serious damage to the baby. If the air pressure is too high, or if the cup is misapplied, it can pull at the top of the skull. This area is already soft and underdeveloped, and crucial areas of the brain can be pulled too hard when a vacuum is poorly used.
Horrifically, staff can sometimes drop a baby, leading to impact injuries and permanent brain damage. Mishandling of the baby could also lead to shaking their heads. This could cause the small, developing brain to bounce into the sides of the skull, resulting in injury.
Types of Brain Injuries
What follows is not an exhaustive list of every possible childbirth brain injury. It is a sampling of injuries that can occur via malpractice, particularly through the misuse of forceps or vacuums.
Burst Blood Vessels
The term “hemorrhage” refers to a bursting blood vessel. Surrounding the brain, two membranes house its major blood vessels. This is called the subarachnoid space. If one of these vessels pops, a “subarachnoid hemorrhage” occurs. Blood leaks into this space, getting trapped between the membranes. Misapplied pressure from forceps or vacuums can lead to such bursting.
Children afflicted with a subarachnoid hemorrhage may have trouble breathing. A lack of oxygen could lead to other kinds of brain damage. Babies can also experience seizures. This condition requires quick, urgent attention. Left untreated, the hemorrhage could cause lasting brain damage, affecting the child for life.
Similar to hemorrhaging, a “hematoma” refers to a tear in a blood vessel that causes blood to leak out. Depending on where the vessel is located, blood could leak across the brain itself, causing serious damage. As it collects, the blood puts pressure on the brain. It also presses against the skull, causing soft areas to harden and protrude. Once again, malpractice involving birthing tools can cause this damage.
Any collection of blood around the brain can affect the baby’s breathing and cause seizures. Hematoma requires frequent, urgent treatment and observation to keep from damaging the child permanently.
Damage to the Cerebrum
When we imagine the brain, we normally picture the cerebrum. It is a large, round area with a divide down the middle.
When this area is damaged, it can lead to cerebral palsy. “Palsy” has fallen out of fashion in current medical parlance, but originally, it was used to describe paralysis. Mishandled forceps can crush parts of the cerebellum, leading to this condition.
Cerebral palsy presents itself at a young age. Children may exhibit too much or too little movement. Muscles can stiffen, creating a rigidity of movement. By contrast, there can be uncontrolled movement in the extremities characterized by vibrations and waves. Mobility can be hindered, and extreme cases will require the use of a wheelchair. Sometimes CP is noticeable in the face, with twitching or a complete lack of movement in areas. When CP affects facial muscles, speech can be slurred, and the child may be subject to drooling.
Speaking with an Attorney
If your child was harmed during delivery, talk to an attorney today. There are many ways a baby can be injured. A lawyer could help get you a financial settlement to help pay for your child’s treatment. In cases of extreme brain injury, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Such a suit could result in continued financial compensation, helping to pay for your child’s continued medical treatment and therapy. You could potentially be awarded compensation for a lifetime, keeping your finances comfortable as your child gets the medical attention they need.
Remember that malpractice takes place both in and out of the hospital room. If your child was not properly treated for injuries that could have been avoided, this is also grounds for a lawsuit. Don’t accept the incompetence of poor healthcare. If your child has been harmed, call an attorney and fight back today.
If your baby has suffered from malpractice, contact our office today. We want to listen, and we may be able to help get you the compensation you need to help make your child’s future brighter. You can contact us online, or call (317) 236-9000.