There are few things more heartbreaking than seeing your child experience an injury during birth. This should be a time of excitement and celebration – not a time of fear and angst. But each year, thousands of newborns experience preventable injuries at birth. And since these infants have no voice, it’s up to the parents to speak up for them.
Birth Injury Statistics
While not common, per se, birth injuries do happen. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 7 in 1,000 children will suffer from a birth injury. These injuries can be caused by any number of elements, but factors like birth weight and term length come into play.
Children born before the 37th week of pregnancy face a much higher risk of birth injury due to the underdevelopment of certain muscles, nerves, and the brain. Likewise, newborns that weigh less than 5 pounds and 8 ounces (which is roughly 8.2 percent of all newborns) face a higher risk of injury.
Even though they often get lumped into the same category, it’s also important to note that there’s a difference between a birth injury and a birth defect. A birth injury is a problem that occurs while the mother is in labor or the process of giving birth. This can be caused by any number of factors, including negligence related to an incorrect method of delivery or the misuse of certain tools.
A birth defect, on the other hand, is simply an abnormality or condition that the baby is born with. This defect occurred at some point in the developmental process and has nothing to do with what happened during delivery.
The most common birth injuries and symptoms include brain injuries, nerve damage, cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injuries, spasticity, facial paralysis, scalp bleeding, cranial nerve damage, and spinal cord damage.
If your child is born with a birth defect, a nurse or doctor can’t be held responsible. But if your child is born with a birth injury, you may have a claim against the healthcare professional involved.
What to Do After a Birth Injury
If your child experiences an injury at birth, there are several things you should do. This includes:
- Get the Proper Diagnosis
Some injuries are apparent right away, while others don’t become evident until weeks, months, or even years after a child is born. But regardless of when you start to notice signs, it’s important that you get a proper diagnosis from your doctor. And if the diagnosis is complicated or unclear, it never hurts to get multiple opinions.
- Contact an Attorney
If something is wrong and you believe that the injury may stem from a birth injury at delivery, your next step is to hire an attorney. A birth injury lawyer can analyze the situation and see if there’s a reasonable case to be made. If so, they’ll work with you to gather the right information, file a claim, and submit the proper paperwork.
- Record as Much Evidence as Possible
As soon as you suspect something is wrong, your attention should immediately shift to discovery. In other words, it’s time to gather as much evidence as you possibly can. This may include medical records and bills, pictures, statements, etc. The goal is to build up your own war chest of evidence that can be used to mount a strong claim.
- Care for Your Baby
The good news is that many birth injuries will actually improve over time. Through proper medication, therapy, and treatment, your child could go on to live a normal and healthy life. In other cases, the effects can be long lasting. Either way, the only thing you can do right now is give your baby the best care you can. Everything else will have to be handled by your attorney and sorted out in the claims process.
Be Your Child’s Voice
Your child is young and helpless – unable to speak for themselves. It’s up to you to be the voice that speaks up on their behalf. This may mean filing a claim and holding the responsible parties accountable for their negligence. The only way to know is to speak with an attorney and discuss the details of your case.