Types of Birth Injuries

by Thomas Stroble | May 10th, 2023

It is not a stretch to say that the obstetrician who provides prenatal care or delivers the baby has your child’s life in their hands. Their judgment, and the decisions that they make, can mean the difference between a healthy life and one with a permanent disability.

The doctor must be observant during prenatal care, and they may need to make quick decisions if things are not going well during the delivery. Mistakes can have serious long-term consequences for the mother and the baby.

Roughly seven in every 1,000 babies in the United States suffer some form of a birth injury. Many of these injuries are entirely preventable. If the doctor made a mistake that caused the birth injury, they should be legally accountable, along with the hospital and practice that employs them. First, you need to contact an experienced birth injury lawyer to review your case and advise whether you have a legal cause of action against the doctor.

Injuries During Birth

​Types of Birth InjuriesIt does not take long for the child to suffer an irreversible injury. All it takes is a few moments of oxygen disruption or trauma to leave the child with a lifelong injury. Even if your child can recover eventually, they can require extensive medical treatment in the interim. The most common cause of birth injuries is a difficult delivery.

Many factors can lead to a difficult delivery, including:

  • The size of the baby
  • The size of the mother’s pelvis
  • Gestational diabetes
  • The mother’s blood pressure
  • Prolonged labor
  • The mother’s weight
  • Prematurity

Nearly all of these are risk factors that the doctor should be aware of ahead of time. They should continuously monitor both the child and the mother, performing an early surgical delivery if necessary.

Below is more information about some common types of birth injuries that can affect your child for a lifetime and the common causes.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is perhaps the most common type of birth injury. Nationwide, the rate of cerebral palsy in live births is roughly three in every 1,000.

This condition (which is actually a group of disorders) results from damage to the immature and developing brain. Often, the child may develop cerebral palsy after a difficult delivery that causes trauma to the brain. The doctor may be to blame for the cerebral palsy because they should have anticipated the difficulties or opted to perform a cesarean delivery when they realized that the baby was in distress.

There are three different types of cerebral palsy:

  • Ataxic cerebral palsy is when a child struggles with balance and coordination
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is when a child experienced movement that they cannot control
  • Spastic cerebral palsy (which is the most common form of the condition) is when the muscles are overly stiff and jerky

There are instances in which a child may suffer from more than one form of cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy can impact much more than movement. Brain damage can cause a lifetime of learning, social, and emotional issues. The average lifetime cost of care for a child born with cerebral palsy is over $1.5 million in 2023 dollars. However, if your child has suffered a severe injury, they may qualify for more compensation because this figure just represents the economic costs of the injury. There are far more in non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.

Brachial Palsy

Brachial palsy occurs in one or two of every 1,000 births. This condition is when the nerves near the neck that provide movement and feeling to the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers sustain damage during a traumatic delivery.

Erb’s palsy is the most common form of a brachial plexus injury. However, there are even more serious forms of the condition where the upper and lower nerves are affected. Total brachial plexus injuries can result in a near-complete loss of the use of the arm.

The infant will experience weakness in the affected arm, and they may not have the full range of motion. In many cases, the child might recover over an extended period of time after therapy. In some cases, the damage to the nerves is so significant that the child will never recover fully. The most serious forms of injury can result in near-complete paralysis of the arm. The child may need surgery to repair the damage.

Again, doctors should not allow the child to experience a prolonged difficult delivery that can cause a permanent injury. The reasonable doctor should end the natural delivery and opt for a caesarian section before the child suffers a birth injury. Brachial plexus injuries are often the result of medical malpractice.

Fetal Stroke

A fetus or a newborn can suffer a stroke when there is a brief oxygen cut-off to the brain. Fetal stroke can happen after 14 weeks of gestation. All it takes is a momentary interruption in the oxygen supply to cause a stroke.

The newborn can suffer a stroke during a difficult delivery. For example, if the umbilical cord gets wrapped around the child’s neck, it can interrupt breathing and the flow of oxygen.

A prenatal stroke can cause its own brain damage or other conditions such as cerebral palsy. The child can experience a lifetime of neurological issues and may never live a normal life.

Your child may suffer two primary types of perinatal strokes:

  • An arterial ischemic stroke happens when there is a structural abnormality or a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood in the spinal cord.
  • A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when there is bleeding in the brain. The bleeding can occur from abnormalities and underlying conditions or from trauma during delivery.

Although perinatal strokes are not always preventable, doctors should notice many of the risk factors or warning signs that the child can be in distress. They should administer prompt medical treatment to reduce the risk of long-term damage. The failure to diagnose can be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

In addition, a perinatal stroke resulting from a traumatic delivery can also merit a medical malpractice lawsuit. The doctor should not allow a natural delivery when there are risk factors for a perinatal stroke, or they should switch to a c-section delivery if there are signs of distress.

Caput Succedaneum

The baby’s body needs to pass through the birth canal during the delivery. This process can cause trauma to the baby’s head, especially when it is too large to pass. The top of the child’s head can swell when it first enters the cervix during birth. At this point, there is less or no fluid to cushion the baby’s head. This condition often occurs during vacuum extractions.

Caput succedaneum should be detectable during prenatal care. If the doctor notices there is less amniotic fluid, it is a precursor for the condition. At that point, the doctor likely should perform an early delivery or a c-section.

In many cases, the child will recover from the swelling within a few days. However, severe forms of this injury can result in bruising and swelling in the brain. The child may also suffer alopecia (hair loss) in the area of the scalp swelling, and the condition can result in permanent disfiguration.

If your child has not fully recovered from this injury, and it was the result of the doctor’s negligence, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

Maternal Birth Injuries

The mother may also suffer a permanent injury during childbirth that can include:

  • A cardiovascular event
  • A stroke
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Damage to their reproductive system that keeps them from having children in the future

Many of these injuries can result from the baby’s head being too large for the mother’s body. In addition, the mother might have a family history or pre-existing conditions that can make it difficult for them to deliver.

Many of these injuries are preventable. A reasonable doctor may not even allow the mother to deliver naturally in the first place if they have conditions like gestational diabetes or high blood pressure. The decision to proceed with natural childbirth can be negligence on its own.


This condition is an accumulation of blood under the scalp. The trauma of the delivery may cause blood to pool outside the blood vessels. In most cases, cephalohematoma is a harmless condition, and it will go away with treatment.

Cephalohematoma will occur in roughly 2.5 percent of prolonged vaginal deliveries. The chance of this condition occurring increases when a vacuum extraction or the use of forceps is necessary.

Serious cases of this condition can result in more lasting injuries. For example, the child can suffer some form of a skull fracture from cephalohematoma. The baby can also develop a serious infection in the area where the blood is, resulting in a more permanent injury. In addition, the baby may suffer from serious anemia in the short term because blood draws away from the circulatory system.

Since a prolonged delivery is the most common cause of cephalohematoma, it follows that the doctor should not allow the delivery to go on for an extended time if there is a chance that the baby can suffer some type of injury. The doctor should know earlier in the process if there is a risk of a difficult delivery, and they should do what is necessary to avoid it.

Seeking Compensation for a Birth Injury Due to Medical Malpractice

Regardless of the type of birth injury that your child has suffered, they can be entitled to financial compensation when you can prove that it was the result of medical malpractice.

Not single birth injury automatically entitles your family to compensation. Instead, you have the legal obligation to prove a medical professional’s negligence and carelessness caused your child’s injury.

You need the help of an expert witness who can take the jury back to the doctor’s office or the delivery room to compare what the doctor actually did to what they should have done under the circumstances. The most common mistakes are the failure to spot risk factors for a traumatic delivery and allowing the delivery to go on for far too long.

It is not always easy to prove a medical malpractice case, but settlement amounts and jury awards are typically very high when you can show negligence. Your child may need a lifetime of care because of their injury.

You may recover compensation for:

  • Medical care costs relating to the child’s condition
  • The cost of necessary therapies
  • A caregiver to help the child with daily activities
  • Special education for the child
  • Pain and suffering that the child endures (do not underestimate the amount of compensation for future pain and suffering for a serious birth injury – these damages are often the bulk of a large jury award or settlement)
  • Lost income (both for the time that you miss from work to care for the child and that the child might have earned)
  • Embarrassment and humiliation

Depending on the extent of the doctor’s negligence, they may even be liable for punitive damages if the case goes to the jury. If the doctor has been extremely careless, the jury may seek to send the medical professional and their employer a message that gets their attention.

Seek Help From an Experienced Birth Injury Attorney Near You

Thomas L. Stroble

Birth Injury Lawyer, Thomas L. Stroble

Birth injury cases are high-stakes because your child may need extensive care. The doctor and hospital may fight hard because a lot of money is at stake. Thus, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer to fight for your child and your family.

Birth injury lawsuits are critical to your child’s and your family’s future. When your child has suffered an injury, they will be dealing with the effects of the injury for an extended period. Birth injury lawsuits can be worth millions of dollars because of the severity of the lawsuit and the need for significant care.

You do not have to stress about the legal process. You can focus on caring for your child while the right law firm handles your case. Seek a free consultation from a birth injury lawyer today.


Posted In: Medical Malpractice