Medical Malpractice: A Cause of Birth Brain Injuries

Crying newborn babyOne of the worst things that can happen during labor and delivery is for a doctor, nurse, or midwife to act negligently and harm an innocent baby. In fact, because of the lifelong impairments associated with such an injury, one of the worst birth injuries an infant can suffer is a brain injury. Although birth brain injuries are rare, they do occur at the hands of negligent doctors, nurses, and other negligent medical professionals in the following ways:

  • A negligent doctor may fail to monitor a mother’s blood pressure during childbirth or leave an infant stuck in the birth canal too long, causing an infant to suffer a lack of oxygen. If a baby is stuck in the birth canal, a doctor may use a birth-assistance tool—such as forceps incorrectly or with too much force—and cause an infant to suffer a brain injury. Or a doctor may cause a baby to suffer a lack of oxygen by failing to take action when the umbilical cord is wrapped around an infant’s neck. Additionally, doctors may fail to diagnose and treat anemia at birth or infant jaundice, which can lead to brain damage. Even during pregnancy, doctors can put infants at risk of suffering brain damage if they fail to diagnose and monitor infections in the mother.
  • A negligent nurse may fail to get the doctor in a timely manner and leave the baby in the birth canal for too long, deprived of oxygen. Nurses may also fail to watch for infant jaundice or fail to place a jaundiced baby under the special lights per the doctor’s orders. The result can be brain damage that can cause an infant many lifelong challenges.

Whether a baby suffered a lack of oxygen or a change in blood flow to his or her brain, trauma to the brain may be the result. Not only is a birth injury frightening, but a birth brain injury can cause a lifetime of challenges and changes for the baby. Some of the problems a brain injury can present can include:

  • Neurological problems. Children who have suffered brain damage often suffer from cognitive problems, such as trouble processing language and information, challenges speaking and communicating, difficulties paying attention, and trouble concentrating. Typically, children who have suffered a brain injury will have trouble learning and will miss their developmental milestones.
  • Physical challenges. Infants who suffer a brain injury at birth often have physical problems such as headaches and extremity weakness as well as coordination and balance issues. Other physical problems associated with brain injuries include difficulties crawling, challenges walking or running, difficulties walking down stairs, and challenges feeding themselves or getting dressed without assistance. Sometimes, babies who experience birth brain injuries will suffer from paralysis, which presents a lifetime of physical impairments.
  • Behavioral issues. Infants with brain injuries are often fussy and irritable, and cry excessively. As the child ages, he or she may suffer some long-term behavior problems as well as emotional problems, such as depression, anxiety, aggression, and angry outbursts.

While some babies who suffered mild oxygen deprivation may make full recoveries, others who were deprived oxygen for a longer period of time may suffer permanent brain damage and damage to other organs. Sadly, a lack of oxygen during childbirth often leads to disabilities such as cerebral palsy (a disorder that affects muscle tone and coordination, causing impaired motor function) as well as other permanent disabilities.

If your baby suffered a birth brain injury at Inova’s birthing center or at another hospital and you want to find out if you have a medical malpractice claim, contact us for a free consultation today at (703) 591-0067. Or if you aren’t feeling up for a conversation just yet, please email us your questions on our Contact Us page or request a free copy of our book, What You Need to Know Before Pursuing a Medical Malpractice Case.