There are birth defects and birth injuries and many people mistakenly believe they are the same thing. Birth defects usually occur very early in pregnancy and are, generally, unavoidable. Related to genes and DNA, or exposure to harmful substances, they cannot usually be prevented. Birth injuries, on the other hand, are often very preventable and are often caused by human error.
Some of the more common causes include delayed birth, oxygen deprivation, medical malpractice, or negligence. There are some instances when a problem is less predictable or preventable, but leads to a birth injury, but there are many instances when a medical team should have recognized the warning signs far in advance.
Human Factor in Birth Injuries
The causes of birth injury often have their own causes as well. Just consider some of the most frequently cited sources of trouble that lead to a birth injury:
- Improper manipulation of the baby’s body during delivery – This can result in everything from broken bones and bruising to conditions like “caput succadeneum” caused by vacuum extraction.
- Medications – Sometimes a pregnant woman is given medications that put the baby at risk and this can happen during delivery or shortly before.
- Monitoring issues – Women are monitored throughout their pregnancies for many reasons (including checking a baby’s growth and weight), and there are many ways that problems can be detected or issues to be uncovered prior to birth.
- Human error – Whether it is called malpractice or negligence, a lot of birth injuries come about because one or more members of the medical team made a mistake that would be deemed as avoidable (failing to monitor fetal heart rate is a simple example).
Any of these things might lead to a birth injury that could be mild to severe. While the milder issues tend to be noticeable immediately, the severe issues may develop in the hours and days after the child is born. These severe issues include brain injury, and are usually the results of the following problems during delivery:
Among the key causes for birth injury are delays in birth. This often leads to too much pressure on the baby’s head, as it tends to remain in the birth canal for far too many hours. Most medical experts say that a labor lasting over 18 hours should be considered the ideal time for an emergency cesarean section. After that, the baby is going to be in distress because of the compression from the birth canal on the brain.
Almost all brain related injuries sustained during birth are due to oxygen deprivation. There are many reasons that this might transpire during delivery. Spending too long in the birth canal can lead to a prolapsed or kinked umbilical cord but a baby with too low of a birth weight might also suffer oxygen deprivation during delivery.
Monitoring usually uncovers most of the threats before a woman goes into labor, but if the symptoms are not caught in time, and if oxygen deprivation occurs, it most often leads to brain injury.
Though we trust medical teams to be experts and prevent avoidable problems, simple human error does occur. For parents of children who suffer birth injuries, the tolls can be enormous. A child may be severely disabled for life and require constant care, and even when the results of birth injury are deemed mild, it may have an impact on the child and the family forever.
There are many medical malpractice suits filed each year and not out of anger or malice but out of need. It is extremely challenging and expensive to care for children harmed by birth injuries and no parents should have to carry such a heavy toll.
- MedScape. Birth Trauma. 2015. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/980112-overview