What are some common types of birth injuries that occur during pregnancy and the labor process?

Birth injuries that often occur during pregnancy and labor include:

  • Cerebral palsy – This condition includes a number of neurological problems. Patients can experience difficulty controlling movements, abnormal posture, intellectual problems, hearing or vision problems, seizures and speech problems. Cases range from moderate to severe, and a patient may require lifelong assistance.
  • Erb’s palsy – This is a type of brachial plexus injury. A child with Erb’s palsy sustains nerve damage in the shoulder and may experience weakness, numbness or even complete paralysis of the arm. Erb’s palsy injuries are classified according to their severity. Aversion rupture is the most severe and occurs when the nerves are torn away at the spinal area. Neuroma occurs when the nerves tear and the scar tissue that forms while the nerves are healing disables the arm. Ruptures occur when the nerves tear at other locations not in direct proximity to the spine.
  • Brain injury – Improper vacuum extractions or the improper use of forceps can cause brain injury, as can a lack of oxygen to the brain that occurs during birth. The extent of brain damage varies depending upon both the cause and the areas of the brain affected. Brain injury can result in death or permanent cognitive impairment.
  • Shoulder dystocia – When a baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone, delivery can be impeded and shoulder dystocia can result. If not diagnosed properly during labor, both mother and baby are at risk. The baby can develop Erb’s palsy or break an arm or clavicle, and a mother may experience vaginal tearing and excessive blood loss.
  • Stillbirth – Stillbirth means that a child has been born dead. This can happen for any number of reasons, including deprivation of oxygen to the brain during delivery or improper prenatal care.
  • Meconium aspiration – Meconium is the baby’s first feces, which are normally passed in the womb during pregnancy and in the first few days after birth. A baby can inhale meconium mixed with amniotic fluid before, during or after labor. This can become trapped as the baby breathes out and can partially block the airways, making breathing difficult.
  • Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) – This condition occurs when an infant’s circulatory system doesn’t function properly. Blood pressure can become elevated, and blood can fill the lungs. The condition can be fatal or can cause seizures, neurological problems and chronic lung disease.
  • Untreated jaundice – Severe jaundice can result in bilirubin passing into the brain, which is toxic to the brain. The baby may have difficulty eating and may arch the neck and body backwards. A fever, vomiting, listlessness and high-pitched crying are all symptoms of this condition. When permanent damage to the brain results from untreated jaundice, a syndrome called kernicterus can cause intellectual problems, hearing loss, a permanent upward gaze and difficulty controlling body movements.
  • Retinopathy – Retinopathy is a vision problem that occurs in premature infants if the vessels in their eyes do not properly develop.
  • Cephalohematoma – This condition can result from the excessive use of forceps or from the use of a vacuum. It is characterized by a collection of blood underneath the child’s scalp, which can take several months to heal.
  • Bone fractures – Aggressive pulling and shoulder dystocia can cause bone fractures.
  • Excessive bleeding – This can put the mother at serious risk of death and result in the baby being in peril if not delivered promptly.