Over two per cent of the 2,000 babies born in the UK each day will suffer some type of injury during the birth process, whether through the fault of the hospital delivery team or natural causes. Physical damage caused by medical negligence is not uncommon and birth injury solicitors claims against hospitals and healthcare practitioners in these instances are often successful.

The two main causes of birth injury are :-
  1. Mechanical trauma caused by excessive manual force.
  2. Oxygen deprivation causing brain damage due to :-
    • delay in carrying out a caesarean section.
    • negligence in working out the size of the baby casing an obstructed birth.

Natural Birth

Natural child birth is associated with considerably less problems than induced birth which most frequently arises due to the unborn baby being in wrong position. Some of the more common injuries which lead to a birth injury solicitors legal action that may be caused by medical negligence from a doctor or delivery team may include :-

    Cerebral Palsy

    Cerebral Palsy is one type of birth injury suffered by infants. The term Cerebral Palsy can be identified by the limited muscle control of infants frequently because of mental impairment. The condition develops because of irreparable injury to the brain that may happen right before, during or immediately after birth. This birth injury could be the result of lack of care on the part of the health care team handling the birth of the child however it usually takes a medical negligence expert to prove that this is so as there is rarely if ever, an early admission of guilt on the part of the relevant healthcare authority. Cerebral Palsy results from inadequate oxygen being fed to the foetal brain. If the child suffers some form of injury to the brain when in the first five years of life, it may also develop into Cerebral Palsy.

    Erbs Palsy

    Erbs Palsy is a birth injury almost always caused by lack of care that can cause the arm of the child to be permanently paralysed. Lawyers who are medical negligence experts usually have very good track records of sustaining successful claims in these cases. This injury is caused when the network of nerves found in the neck, across the chest and ending at the fingertips have been damaged by stretching or tearing during a difficult birth. A doctor could harm the infant during the birth process through excessive physical manipulation, resulting in damaged nerves and muscles in the child. Most cases of Erbs Palsy are due to extremely harsh traction during delivery and may be preceded by another birth injury known as Shoulder Dystocia. Erbs Palsy can be prevented when health care professionals follow certain rules to treat Shoulder Dystocia. Some children who are afflicted with Erbs Palsy report that they cannot feel anything with their arms or hands and may exhibit zero muscle control. Erbs Palsy can be categorized into the following: Complete Brachial Plexus Palsy (which causes complete paralysis of the child’s entire arm), Erbs Palsy proper (whose victims cannot hoist the afflicted arm over their head and cannot grip properly with the affected hand), and Klumpkes Palsy (which is a very rare condition and is sometimes confused with Complete Brachial Plexus Palsy.)

    Shoulder Dystocia

    Shoulder dystocia is a birth injury caused subsequent to the infants shoulder being lodged behind the pelvic bone of the mother immediately prior to birth. Extreme injury may occur when the birth process team uses the wrong method to free the shoulder. If carried out using excessive force then medical negligence experts will be able to claim compensation for what can be a seriously debilitating injury. The child may have to endure a broken arm or clavicle, as well as having the network of nerves passing through the neck unduly strained or torn which may and often does produce paralysis of the shoulder or arm. Cases of Shoulder Dystocia may be mild and easily remedied however they can also be very serious and cause permanent disability. Shoulder Dystocia often happens without prior warning but can be prevented from happening if the maternity health care team exercises proper care and observes the right procedures during the birth process.

Induced Delivery Risk

Out of the thousands of babies born in the UK every day, approximately 70 will have some type of birth injury as a result of the pregnancy itself or as a result of procedures used during delivery or shortly thereafter. Some injuries may be temporary, while others can be permanent and even fatal; but all, resulting from mishandling by hospital staff, will lay the grounds for a compensation claim for medical negligence. There are many types of injury a new-born can suffer through Medical Negligence, from minor skin irritations and fractured bones to life-long complications including nerve and brain damage. Most birth injuries arise from the induced delivery of the new-born as opposed to spontaneous vaginal delivery, where mechanical trauma and oxygen deprivation can cause severe injury.

Negligent Treatment

Many instances of birth injury are the result of medical negligence by hospital doctors or the delivery team. Complications can occur if the infant is in the wrong position and forceps are used to coax the baby out. If excessive force is used during this process injuries may occur, while delays when carrying out a caesarean section can starve the baby of vital oxygen causing permanent brain damage.

Birth Injury Solicitors - Medical Negligence Compensation

If your child was injured during birth as a result of medical negligence you will need to contact a birth injury solicitor to ascertain your rights and take advice on making a compensation claim to cover pain and suffering, future expenses and the cost of future care for the child. Public funding of civil legal action in a court of law for compensation for medical negligence is available from the Legal Services Commission. Almost all minors will qualify for legal aid with a nil contribution as it is the child's income and assets and not that of the patents' that is considered in the means tested assessment upon which the grant of legal aid to a birth injury solicitor is based.

Birth Injury Information

A birth injury is any damage that occurs during the birth process, usually as the infant is passing through the birth canal. The truth is that many newborns sustain minor injuries, including cephalhematomas because of vacuum extraction. Less frequently, a child can get a damaged nerve or break a bone during the birth process. Fortunately, most-but not all-birth injuries get better without any significant treatment. A few can be serious and/or permanent.

A birth injury is likely to happen when the birth canal is not big enough or the foetus is abnormally large. This can happen with gestational diabetes or with regular diabetes in the mother. If the infant is lying in an odd position in the birth canal, it is more difficult for the infant to pass through and birth injury can occur. Because there are more caesarean sections and because ultrasound can assess foetal size and position, there are fewer birth injuries now than ever before.

Common birth injuries can occur to the head. This is the part of the baby that presents first so it is most likely to be traumatized. Even in a normal delivery, the scalp can become swollen and bruised. This usually passes within a few days. A cephalhematoma is a birth injury that causes a collection of blood to build up under the fibrous part of the skull. It looks like a lump beneath the skin and takes up to several months to heal completely. It is not inherently dangerous. In some cases, a skull fracture can occur in the delivery process but it generally heals on its own without consequence.

Bleeding in the brain is a potentially serious birth injury. A blood vessel deep to the skull can cause a brain haemorrhage. It appears as a bulging of the skull or a deformity of the skull. This is a more common injury in preterm infants that are suffering from low oxygen levels and can occur even if there is no birth injury. The bleeding can cause poor feeding, sluggish behaviour or seizures.

There are several types of brain bleeding, including subarachnoid haemorrhage, subdural haemorrhage or intraventricular haemorrhage. An intraparenchymal haemorrhage, occurring within the brain itself, is common in premature infants and usually doesn't represent a birth injury. All types of brain haemorrhage usually resolve using supportive measures such as IV fluids and maintenance of bodily functions; however, a subdural haematoma is usually treated surgically.

Nerve injury can happen. The infant's face can press on the mother's pelvic bone and can therefore cause a facial nerve injury. The use of a forceps during delivery can cause a facial nerve injury as well. It looks as though there is facial weakness on one side of the face. Fortunately it resolves after about 3 months of age.

There can be damage to the nerves in the infant's arm area that can paralyse the arm. This occurs during excessive tugging on the infant head during the delivery. The infant must have the arm immobilized for several months but it usually resolves on its own. In rare cases, the broken nerves must be reattached by a surgeon. The nerve to the diaphragm can be damaged so half of the diaphragm is paralysed as a result. This can cause difficulty breathing in a newborn infant but usually resolves on its own.

There can be perinatal asphyxia as a birth injury. This is when the foetus doesn't get enough oxygen during the birth process. It can be caused by many different reasons related to the birth process. It can be caused by an an infection in the foetus, abnormal development of the infant, genetic defect, drug exposure within the uterus, umbilical cord compression or clot, or a sudden loss of maternal or foetal blood. If the placenta has given out, it also causes a lack of oxygen to the foetus, particularly during labour. Infants can go into shock after delivery or suffer from brain, kidney or other organ failure. Often the infant will look completely normal but will suffer from brain damage, learning disabilities or cerebral palsy.



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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here