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What is a birth injury?

According to the Merck Manual, a birth injury is any type of damage that a child sustains during the birthing process. In most cases, if your child has sustained a birth injury, his or her injuries are likely to heal without treatment. However, there are certain serious birth injuries that require immediate medical care and that may have the potential to cause prolonged and even permanent medical problems.

Birth injuries can be caused by unavoidable circumstances or by the actions of medical professionals present at the time your baby is born. Sometimes the interventions they use are not appropriate for your child’s situation, such as using a vacuum extractor or forceps to forcefully aid in the delivery of a child. These devices can cause skull fractures, damage to the brain and broken bones if not used correctly. In other cases, doctors and nurses may fail to take proper action in time to prevent an injury from occurring, such as failing to perform an emergency cesarean section.

Some of the most common types of birth injuries that could affect your child include brain-related problems, such as oxygen deprivation or cerebral palsy. Muscle damage, broken bones and nerve damage to the arms and shoulders are also among the most common birth-related injuries that regularly occur in the U.S. These often manifest as types of palsy, or a weakness or inability to use parts of the shoulders and arms. Even though the rates of these problems has steadily been decreasing over time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that U.S. infants are among the most likely in the developed world to face these issues.

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