Brain and Nerve Injuries Caused by Labor and Delivery
It’s a possibility no one likes to consider: the joy of having a new child is interrupted by complications during the labor and delivery process. Sadly, this does occur, and when these complications are the result of medical malpractice, it is important to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. You and your child both have legal rights which must be vigilantly defended. The aggressive St. Petersburg attorneys at the Dolman Law Group have extensive experience in both personal injury and medical malpractice suits. We will protect your family so that you can focus on helping your child through the difficult period of recovery.
Types of Brain and Nerve Injuries That Can Occur During Labor and Delivery
A newborn baby’s nervous system is small and delicate, which makes it particularly vulnerable to trauma during the birth process. Both the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral nervous system (the network of nerves throughout the body) can be damaged by labor or delivery. Here are some of the most common types of trauma which occur during labor and delivery:
Bell’s Palsy: This disease is the result of a damaged facial nerve. The trauma is caused by pressure during a delivery – whether from the mother’s body or from delivery instruments used by a doctor, such as forceps. The treatment for this condition depends on the severity of the injury. A simple bruise to the nerve will usually heal on its own. If the nerve is torn, it may require surgery to restore muscular function. The most severe cases can result in permanent weakness and nerve damage (though these cases are rare).
Brachial Plexus Injuries: The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that connects the arms and hands to the brain. Injuries to this area are most likely to occur when a baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal, causing the doctor to pull too hard on one arm to extract the baby. Again, the treatment for this condition depends on the severity of the injury. Bruised or stretched nerves can be repaired over time with the use of physical therapy. More severe nerve injuries can lead to permanent damage.
Caput Succedaneum: This is a condition in which the baby’s scalp experiences swelling – usually due to pressure from the mother’s uterus or birth canal during labor. This is more common in long, difficult labors in which the baby’s skull is exposed to pressure for a longer period of time. It can also be caused by vacuum extraction devices (which are also common in long deliveries). If a doctor does not take proper measures to adequately respond to a long delivery, he or she may be liable for the damage caused by the delivery itself – or for damage caused by the instruments used to accelerate the delivery process.
Intrauterine Infection and Inflammation: Any time the immune system is activated within the mother’s uterus, her baby is at risk for brain damage. Prenatal and delivery doctors are therefore obligated to respond to this risk, and failure to do so might be medical malpractice. A mother can be particularly susceptible to infection during hospitalization. Exposure to infection in utero has been correlated with increased rates of schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, and developmental delays in children.
Oxygen Deprivation: A difficult labor or delivery can expose a baby to hypoxia (low levels of oxygen) or anoxia (no oxygen). Oxygen deprivation can lead to highly serious and permanent brain damage. Because of this, doctors are trained to manage airways and oxygen levels before administering almost any other medical intervention. Failure to do so is strong evidence of negligence.
Many of the complications of birth can be identified and managed with good proactive medical management. Monitoring the baby’s position prior to birth and during labor can help prepare a doctor to deliver a baby without trauma. While not every birth complication is the result of medical malpractice, many are. It is important to consult with an experienced malpractice attorney to determine whether your child’s injury was caused by medical negligence. Doctors are not the only medical staff who can be negligent – hospitals are also liable for the negligence of any other employee, including nursing and transport staff.
Why Newborn Brain Injuries are Hard to Detect
For most children and adults, the first sign of brain injury is a change in behavior. The patient will start slurring words, or losing coordination, or feeling confused. Younger children may not have the vocabulary to express these changes – or to identify pain, headaches, or other physical symptoms – but parents are generally familiar with the child’s behavior, and will notice when it changes.
Newborns present unique challenges in this respect. Parents have not yet had an opportunity to become acquainted with the child’s behavior, and thus aren’t always able to detect changes. Moreover, newborns are fussy! Few – if any – parents could be expected to distinguish hunger cries from those expressing neurological pain. Even physical differences can be hard to detect. Droopiness in facial muscles could be due to a nerve injury, or it could be because the newborn is still learning how to move all of his or her muscles. Because of this, the greatest warning sign of neurological injury in a newborn may simply be the severity of the trauma itself.
The fact remains that only a qualified medical professional can definitively diagnose a brain or nerve injury in your child. Early intervention can greatly improve your child’s recovery. And like early intervention for medical recovery, early intervention in your child’s legal interests offers the best chances of success.
Contact an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today
If your child has suffered a nerve or brain during labor or delivery, contact the Dolman Law Group today. We will fiercely protect the legal rights both you and your child have after a birth injury. Our Florida personal injury attorneys have extensive experience in aggressively pursuing personal injury and medical malpractice claims, and our professional staff will offer the personalized service you need during this difficult time. Call our office at (727) 451-6900 to schedule your free consultation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765