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Birth Injury Claim For Babies

For a majority of the time, births go smoothly and babies are born free of complications but there are a number of different birth injuries that can happen during pregnancy or the during the birth of your baby, or sometimes in the period immediately after birth (neonatal period). Some injuries are temporary, they resolve very quickly without treatment and have no lasting damage but other injuries can be permanent, causing lifelong disability.

Not all birth injuries are avoidable and can occur even when an appropriate level of care has been given, and are not anybody’s fault. For example, genetic conditions, premature birth, malformations of the brain and infection. It could also be the case that a baby may have suffered a stroke or a bleed on the brain whilst growing in the womb.

But medical mistakes in the handling of your pregnancy or delivery of your baby could be the cause of birth injuries such as Cerebral Palsy.

It is not always possible to predict when a baby may suffer a birth injury, but there are some risk factors that your medical team should be aware of, and if quickly recognised, would allow them to take immediate steps to prevent a potentially catastrophic injury.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects the brain and causes problems with movement and co-ordination, and which occurs as a result of brain damage either before, during, or shortly after birth.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

The brain damage may have been caused by a brain malformation or injury before, during, or shortly after birth such as a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain.

If the brain damage was the result of a medical mistake which could have been avoided, then you may be able to pursue a medical negligence claim for your child.

For example there may have been a failure to:

  • recognise and treat an infection during pregnancy
  • recognise and treat pre-eclamspia
  • recognise ruptured membranes and treat this appropriately with antibiotics
  • diagnose and treat jaundice
  • diagnose and treat low blood sugars

Neonatal Jaundice and Kernicterus 

Kernicterus is a ‘preventable and potentially catastrophic form of permanent brain damage’.

Jaundice is a very common problem and generally not harmful to newborns if treated correctly, but if it is not recognised or treated promptly then excessive jaundice can cause Kernicteus.

What is Jaundice?

Bilirubin occurs when red blood cells break down. Babies produce two or three times more bilirubin than an adult and so they are not able to get rid of the bilirubin easily which means it can build up in their blood and other tissues. This is called hyperbilirubinemia. It is the bilirubin that collects under the skin that causes the classic yellow colouring which is called jaundice.

It is perfectly normal for a baby's bilirubin level to be slightly higher after birth and whilst it can’t be prevented, your medical team are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of hyperbilirubinemia. Failure to do so, and to start immediate treatment to prevent the bilirubin from reaching dangerous levels, would be substandard care.

National guidelines for the treatment of neonatal jaundice has been set out by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Spinal Cord Damage

Sometimes, during delivery a baby's head will need rotating to help it through the birth canal with the help of forceps. These are pulled gently to assist the delivery. If too much force is used during delivery then the spinal cord can be damaged resulting in a lifelong catastrophic injury. Your baby could be at risk if you have:

  • A vaginal breech birth
  • A large baby
  • Experienced an abnormal or excessive traction during delivery
  • A delivery involving instruments, especially forceps
  • Obstetric Brachial Plexus Injuries (OBPI)

Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s Palsy, (also called Brachial Plexus Palsy), usually occurs when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck after the head has been delivered. This is because too much force has been applied to the head stretching or tearing the nerves during attempts to deliver the baby.

The nerves affected run between the neck and the shoulder continuing down into the arm to supply movement and feeling to the arm and hand. For injury to occur, the shoulder and the head/neck must be pulled apart to the point at which the nerves are joined.

The severity of the injury can vary and will depend upon how many of the nerves have been damaged and to what extent. Sometimes the nerve is just bruised and the damage is temporary, recovering full function within weeks or months of birth, but a small percentage of children will continue to have a life-long and permanent disability, requiring specialist treatment including surgery.

The injury is usually caused by inadequate care.

Risk factors include:

  • Mothers who have had a previous baby with shoulder dystocia
  • Mothers who have had their labour induced or speeded up with drugs like Oxytocin
  • Larger babies, predictably, are born to mothers with diabetes, or gestational diabetes, particularly if the blood sugars have not been carefully monitored and managed
  • Mothers with smaller or unusual shaped pelvises or pelvic openings
  • Larger babies (especially those weighing over 8 1/2 pounds at birth)
  • Prolonged labour
  • Precipitous deliveries (when the total time between the beginning of labor and birth is three hours or less)
  • Breech position

How Can We Help You and Your Child?

When medical treatment goes wrong, only lawyers with expert legal knowledge will do. Here at Joseph James Law we recognise the devastating effect that a catastrophic injury can have. We understand that a serious injury can be a severe financial, physical and psychological burden on the whole family and we understand the importance of compensation.

We can help you obtain a settlement that will help provide both financial security and a care package ensuring that your child’s life-long financial and care needs are met.

NHS Resolution Early Notification Scheme

The Early Notification Scheme was introduced in 2017 and aims to speed up investigations into birth injuries in babies to allow any liability to be resolved sooner. Find out more here.

For a free and confidential assessment of your potential claim by our Specialist Clinical Negligence Solicitors please contact us on Freephone 0800 999 1234.

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