Identifying the signs of a birth injury isn't a simple task.
Because birth injuries can take on myriad identifications, some subtle and some severe, spotting them can be a challenge. Sometimes a birth injury appears immediately after the child is born, but other times, they don't present themselves until weeks, months or even years after birth.
Herein lies the question: Are there certain ways to recognize signs of a birth injury?
Initial birth injury signs:
- Bruising or abrasions
- Swelling of the infant's face, shoulder or head
- Seizures within 48 hours
- Failure to breathe immediately following birth
- Necessity of a breathing (CPR) tube at the time of delivery
- Lack of muscle tone or a "floppy" appearance at birth
- A limp arm
Only a physician can diagnose a birth injury, as well as determine if it was the result of negligence by a nurse, doctor or other medical professional. Here is some additional information to assist you, a family member or a friend who is dealing with questions about recognizing a birth injury.
Other Birth Injury Signs
Don't be surprised if your baby is born with some areas of swelling or light bruising because birth is traumatic for both you and your baby. In a vaginal birth, there could also be some misshaping of the head, a light rash and other subtle injuries. Under most circumstances, because these situations are minor, the symptoms resolve quickly and are of little concern.
However, other signs that parents should look for could indicate a specific type of birth injury:
- Birth asphyxia: This is often referred to as persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), and the symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, cyanosis and heart murmur. Even though these symptoms are typically associated with a difficult childbirth, there are other instances where medical negligence plays a role. One example would be if the mother received prescription medications during pregnancy that could cause fetal distress. Another example would be if the doctor failed to treat a maternal infection in a timely manner, which could ultimately result in birth asphyxia.
- Brachial plexus injuries: Depending on the injury's location, symptoms can be mild to severe, including complete loss of feeling or motion in the child's hand or shoulder. Brachial plexus and Erb's palsy exhibit similar symptoms because only one area is affected. However, the symptoms can show up in either arm. Erb's palsy is marked by how the child holds his or her arm against the body (at an angle and bent at the elbow), as well as how the hand bends at the wrist.
- Cerebral palsy: The signs of cerebral palsy are complex, but are typically marked by an infant's lack of muscle control, spastic movements or a complete inability to use the muscles. Cerebral palsy can cause behavioral disabilities, developmental delays, intellectual disabilities and muscle-related disabilities.
- Forceps injuries or vacuum extraction injuries: Injuries caused by vacuum extraction include skull fractures, bleeding in the skull, scalp wounds, collarbone fractures and brachial plexus. If forceps are used, this could lead to lacerations, broken bones and skull fractures.
- Shoulder dystocia: Shoulder dystocia is caused by difficulties during delivery. These can include the child's shoulders not descending, difficulties with chin and face delivery, retracting difficulties, failure with fetal head restitution and the baby's head experiencing downward traction.
Remember: Your child could begin showing signs of a birth injury years after birth, particularly in some types of brain injuries. However, it's beneficial that you begin speaking with an experienced lawyer now or as soon as you suspect a birth injury. There is a limited amount of time to file a claim.
Speaking with a medical malpractice lawyer about your legal options is your first step if you believe your child suffered a birth injury. You can set up a free consultation with The Donahey Law Firm to discuss your options for potentially filing a birth injury claim. Our five offices are spread out across Kentucky and Ohio, but because you are new parents, we can come to you.