What You Should Know About Birth Injuries in the United States

Chicago birth injury lawyers typically see a significant number of cases where a baby suffers significant injury either before or during birth due to the negligence or intentional acts of a health care provider. Sadly, these injuries can be life-altering for both the baby and the parents/family. Some birth injuries can be so severe that they result in the need for continuous medical treatment or extensive home care assistance, and many cause permanent disabilities or even death.

How Common Are Birth Injuries in the United States?

It is estimated that 28,000 infants per year are born with some type of birth injury in the United States. That averages out to approximately 2,333 each month, more than 530 every week, about 76 each day, and around 3 every single hour. In fact, about 1 out of every 9,714 births in the United States involve a birth injury. Certain factors, including the sex of the infant, race, location, and characteristics of the mother appear to have an impact on the prevalence of birth injuries in the U.S.

  • According to the National Healthcare Quality Report, birth injuries are more common among male infants than females. While approximately 6.68/1,000 birth injuries occur to males, only 5.08/1,000 happen to females.
  • Rural births are approximately 33 percent more likely to involve a birth injury than those that occur in urban areas. In general, however, between 24 and 32 percent more birth injuries occur in the Northeastern United States than in the Midwest, Southern or Western states.
  • The type and size of the birthing facility is a factor as well. While approximately 6.11/1,000 birth injuries occur in public hospitals, it is estimated that 7.15/1,000 happen in private, for-profit hospitals and 4.33/1,000 are in nonprofit, private hospitals. Additionally, 5.53 per 1,000 birth traumas occur in hospitals with 100 beds or less, and around 5.45/1,000 happen in hospitals with between 100 and 200 beds.
  • The injury rate for mothers who experience non-tool-assisted vaginal births is 30 percent less than the birth injury rate for those who have vaginal births with the assistance of instruments. While cesarean section deliveries are typically considered to be the safest type of births, the rate of c-section birth injuries increases with the mother’s age.

Common Types of Birth Injuries

While Chicago birth injury lawyers see a variety of types of birth injuries throughout their careers, some are more prevalent than others. The types of birth injuries that are most frequently seen in the United States include:

  • Cerebral Palsy: Cerebral Palsy affects an estimated 800,000 children, and is the leading brain-related injury that is related to birth trauma. It has a significant impact on a person’s ability to move and maintain balance. Cerebral Palsy often develops as a result of oxygen deprivation, maternal or infant infection, or infant stroke. By taking preventative and corrective measures, physicians can eliminate many instances of CP.
  • Muscle-Related and Physical Injuries: Brachial Plexus Injuries (BPI) are injuries that involve the nerves that control muscle movement. Erb’s Palsy, Klumpke’s Palsy, and Brachial Plexus Palsy are all results of BPIs. Symptoms range from weakness and loss of feeling in the affected area to deformities and even complete paralysis. Between 2 and 5 out of every 1,000 involve some level of Brachial Plexus Injury. Shoulder Dystocia is another type of physical injury that can occur during birth. It occurs when a baby’s shoulders and head become stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone. Although shoulder dystocia only occurs in approximately 1 percent of pregnancies, the results can be severe.
  • Injuries Developed Through Pregnancy: In some cases, birth injuries occur when a health care provider fails to detect or treat maternal problems during pregnancy. Some types of infections, for instance, can be passed from the mother to the infant and result in birth injuries. Reports indicate that an estimated 1 out of every 4 mothers carry infections like meningitis or group B strep that can be passed on to their babies without even knowing it. Failing to identify medical conditions or intervene with medications, supplements or other actions are considered negligence on the part of the health care provider.
  • Other Birth Injuries Common During Delivery: It is common for other types of birth injuries to occur during delivery as well. When a health care provider administers the wrong medication, incorrectly uses instruments to assist in the delivery, mishandles an infant, or fails to monitor for signs of distress and act accordingly, babies can suffer severe reactions, broken bones and lacerations, heart or respiratory problems, or even death.

Significant birth injuries often result in extensive medical bills, the need for adaptive equipment, continuous supervision by parents, family members and health care staff, and pain and suffering. Physicians and other health care professionals can be held accountable for negligence or malpractice that results in birth injuries, and families can recover applicable damages.