What Should I Do if My Baby Suffered a Brain Injury at Birth?May 17, 2021
The childbirth process should be a joyous time for new parents who have been anticipating their baby’s arrival for months. However, when something goes wrong during the childbirth process that causes the baby to suffer a brain injury, the feelings of joy and anticipation can quickly turn to fear, worry, and heartache. Depending on the nature of the injury, the baby may suffer a range of physical and cognitive impairments that will require extensive medical treatment and long-term care. This can be physically, emotionally, and financially devastating for the new parents who were planning on bringing home a healthy new baby. If the baby’s brain injury was the result of medical negligence rising to the level of medical malpractice, a skilled and dedicated medical malpractice lawyer will assist the parents with the claims process and secure the maximum financial compensation necessary to provide the best care possible for their child.
What are Examples of Birth Injuries?
Although most women deliver their babies without any major complications or health issues, if an unforeseen issue arises or the health care professional fails to provide the medical standard of care, the baby can suffer a serious birth injury. The following are examples of common brain injuries that can occur at birth:
- Bleeding in the brain
- Brain damage
- Cerebral palsy
- Erb’s palsy, or brachial plexus palsy
- Facial paralysis
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which is an injury to the brain cells as a result of oxygen deprivation
- Skull fracture
- Swelling of the brain
What are the Most Common Causes of Brain Injuries at Birth?
In the United States, there are approximately one million people living with some type of brain injury. Unfortunately, the majority of these injuries occur during pregnancy or during the labor and delivery process. When a birth injury causes brain damage, it can have a devastating impact on the health of the child and his or her future. The following are examples of some of the most common causes of infant brain damage:
- Oxygen deprivation: A lack of oxygen, either during pregnancy or childbirth, can lead to brain damage. There are two types of oxygen deprivation, including hypoxia, which occurs when the oxygen supply to the baby’s brain is significantly reduced. Damage to the brain can occur over time but tends to be less severe than injuries caused by a total lack of oxygen, which is called anoxia. A complete lack of oxygen causes the brain cells to die, which results in much more severe injuries. Oxygen deprivation is often caused by the following:
– Umbilical cord issues
– Birth canal delays
– Placental separation
- Jaundice: This is the most common type of brain injury that affects newborns. It occurs when the levels of bilirubin, the yellowish byproduct of red cell replacement in the blood, gets too high. Oftentimes, jaundice goes away on its own, but if left untreated, it can cause a certain type of brain damage. When bilirubin invades brain tissue, it can cause a rare but serious brain injury called kernicterus.
- Maternal infection: If the mother develops an infection and it is not diagnosed in a timely fashion or treated properly, it can interfere with the delivery of oxygen to the baby. Depending on whether the infection is viral or bacterial, and the location of the infection, this can cause the baby to suffer a brain injury. For example, if the health care provider fails to diagnose and promptly treat chorioamnionitis, which is a bacterial infection of the fetal membranes or the amniotic fluid, it can cause damage to the baby’s brain.
- Delivery trauma: In some cases, the delivery process can become complicated and it may be necessary for the health care provider to resort to using forceps or a vacuum extractor. If too much force is used during a vaginal delivery, it can cause trauma to the baby’s head. In addition to swelling and other injuries to the outside of the head, this can also cause damage to the cells and tissue inside the brain.
What are the Common Symptoms of a Brain Injury at Birth?
When a baby is born, the medical team immediately conducts a thorough examination to ensure that the baby is healthy, breathing properly, and reacting to stimuli. If the tests reveal any problems, it could indicate a brain injury. The following are common symptoms of brain injuries that may be present at birth:
- Physical symptoms: Not all babies who are born with a brain injury will display physical symptoms. However, others may have unusually large foreheads, small skulls, deformed spinal cords, distorted facial features, or difficulty focusing their eyes. Examples of physical symptoms include a lack of muscle tone, bruises or swelling of the baby’s face, inability to breathe after delivery, an arm that appears limp, and seizures that develop within 48 hours of delivery.
- Developmental delays: These may not be immediately apparent in a newborn. Signs of developmental delays include being slow to crawl, smile, or walk. Earlier signs can include failing to point at objects, inability to roll over or sit up, failing to copy actions or words, and not waving or using other common gestures to communicate. In most cases, a brain injury will become more apparent as the baby grows and fails to achieve developmental milestones. The following are examples of symptoms that may appear in the within the baby’s first year:
– Inability to raise his or her head independently by six months
– Lack of muscle tone
– Arched back when crying
– Unable to roll over by nine months
– Unable to sit up by six months of age
– Baby cannot bring his or her hands together
– Baby makes involuntary movements
– Baby has difficulty touching his or her face
– Abnormal posture
– Fails to meet other developmental milestones
- Behavioral signs: If a newborn cries excessively, cannot be soothed, is extremely fussy, and refuses to eat, it could indicate a brain injury.
How are Brain Injuries Diagnosed?
Some newborns may not have any immediate symptoms that would warrant a brain injury diagnosis. However, if the injury is not diagnosed early on, it can become more difficult to treat. Therefore, if the delivery was difficult or there were any complications, the doctor should check the baby for any health issues, including a brain injury. These can be diagnosed by ordering imaging scans such as CT scans or MRIs that will show whether the baby suffered any traumatic damage. If the symptoms are not clear, it is crucial that the health care team closely monitors the baby in case any symptoms develop.
Am I Entitled to Financial Compensation for My Child’s Birth Injury?
If the baby’s parents believe that the brain injury was caused by medical negligence, they may seek financial compensation by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the health care provider responsible for the baby’s care. Although not all birth injuries are the result of negligence, too often, a medical mistake or a failure to properly diagnose or treat a condition can lead to serious health complications, including brain injuries. In order to have a successful settlement, the parents must be able to prove the following:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed. This is generally easy to prove by obtaining copies of medical records.
- The health care provider was negligent. This can be more difficult to prove because not all birth injuries are caused by doctor negligence. The baby’s parents must be able to prove that the health care provider failed to provide the standard of care that another reasonably competent doctor would have provided under similar circumstances. A medical expert may be required to testify on how the doctor deviated from the standard of care.
- The health care providers’ negligence caused the injury. The parents must be able to prove that it is more likely than not that the doctor’s negligence was the direct cause of the baby’s brain injury. In most cases, this will require a medical expert to testify that the health care provider’s negligence caused the brain injury.
- The injury led to financial damages. Even if the health care provider failed to provide the standard of care, a patient can sue for medical malpractice only if the negligence caused harm to the patient. The following are examples of damages for which the patient or the patient’s family can sue:
– Medical bills
– Future medical costs associated with the injury
– Lost wages and lost future earning capacity
– Pain and suffering
A skilled and dedicated medical malpractice lawyer will work closely with the parents to determine whether the health care provider responsible for the baby’s care was negligent in any way. The lawyer will address all of the questions and concerns that the parents have and work tirelessly to secure the best possible settlement outcome.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Brain-Related Birth Injuries
If your baby suffered a brain injury during childbirth, you are urged to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. Our experienced legal team has a proven track record reaching successful settlements for victims of birth injuries, including those that result in brain damage. These devastating injuries can require extensive medical treatment, and even long-term care if the injury is severe. We will secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve and will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.