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What Types of Brain Injuries Can Occur During Birth?Your baby’s birth is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. Unfortunately, for many parents, an unexpected birth injury fills the day with uncertainty and fear. Brain injuries during birth can be especially frightening. When an infant suffers brain damage during birth, he or she may develop problems that last the rest of his or her life. If the injury is the result of medical malpractice, the child’s parents may be entitled to compensation for the losses they have suffered because of the brain injury.

Brain Injuries Caused by Problems During Birth

There are numerous medical complications that can arise during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Asphyxia, or lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain, is one of the most concerning birth injuries that a baby can experience. Brain injuries can also be caused by physical trauma during delivery or infections that travel through the bloodstream and enter the baby’s brain.

  • Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) – When a baby’s brain receives too little oxygen before, during, or after birth, brain tissue may start to die. Once oxygenated blood flow returns to normal, a “reperfusion injury” is caused by the toxins that are released by the dying brain cells. HIE can be caused by umbilical cord problems, uterine rupture, placental abruption, feto-maternal hemorrhage, trauma during delivery, shoulder dystocia, and other conditions that reduce blood flow to the baby’s brain.
  • Neonatal Stroke – The most common type of fetal stroke, an arterial ischemic stroke, often occurs when blood flow within a baby's brain or spinal cord is blocked by a blood clot. Fetal strokes are more common when the baby or mother suffers from a cardiac disorder, a genetic condition affecting blood clotting, or sickle cell anemia.
  • Cystic Encephalomalacia Infections, physical trauma, or inflammation may result in the softening or death of brain matter. Cystic encephalomalacia can lead to intellectual disabilities, seizures, coma, and, in some cases, even death.
  • Microcephaly – When a baby is born with a much smaller head than is normal, the baby can develop problems learning to walk and talk, intellectual disabilities, feeding problems, hearing and vision loss, seizures, and other significant symptoms.
  • Skull Fractures – Usually, skull fractures are the result of the use of instruments like forceps and vacuum extractors during birth. Skull fractures can cause bleeding, brain damage, and ruptures in the membranes enveloping the brain.
  • Cerebral Palsy – Injuries to the brain during labor and delivery are some of the most common causes of cerebral palsy. A child with cerebral palsy may suffer from spastic muscles, problems with movement and coordination, difficulty swallowing, and a number of other debilitating symptoms.

Contact an Illinois Birth Injury Lawyer

Brain injuries during birth or pregnancy are sometimes caused by a doctor’s negligence. If a child develops a condition such as cerebral palsy or other health problems after being the victim of medical negligence, the parents may be entitled to compensation. To learn more, contact Schwartz Injury Law at 815-723-7300 and schedule a free consultation with a skilled Joliet personal injury attorney.

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Erb’s Palsy Is Sometimes the Result of Medical NegligenceThe birth of a child is a joyous occasion, but for some parents, this joy is tarnished by a birth injury. Injuries to a baby during pregnancy, labor, or delivery may result in serious health concerns for both the mother and the child. In some cases, birth injuries cause a child to suffer from health concerns for the rest of his or her life. Erb’s Palsy is a condition that most often results from injury to a baby’s brachial plexus nerves during birth. A baby suffering from Erb’s Palsy may experience weakness, loss of feeling, and partial or total paralysis of the arm. He or she may need several surgeries and years of physical therapy to reduce the harm caused by the injury.

Causes of Erb’s Palsy

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that allows movement of the arms, shoulders, and hands. Damage to these nerves can be caused by any type of trauma, however, most brachial plexus injuries are the result of injury during birth. Often, this nerve damage occurs as a result of attempts to move the baby through the birth canal. A condition called shoulder dystocia can occur if the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged on the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. This is a very dangerous condition because it may deprive the baby of oxygen and cause brain damage or death. Consequently, doctors must work quickly to fix the condition and allow the baby to exit the birth canal. Some brachial plexus injuries occur when a doctor uses force to pull the baby through the birth canal and the baby’s neck is stretched to the point of injury. Other times, the use of vacuum extraction or forceps during birth causes an infant to suffer from a brachial plexus injury.

Receiving Compensation for Your Damages

Erb’s Palsy is often preventable. If a doctor acts negligently during an infant’s birth and this negligence causes the child to suffer from Erb’s Palsy, the doctor or the medical facility at which the child was born may be liable for the injury. Medical negligence typically involves the doctor deviating from the accepted medical standard of care. This standard of care refers to the proficiency of care that would be reasonably expected of someone with comparable medical training and experience in a similar situation.  

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What Causes a Baby To Suffer From Hypoxia?The birth of a new child should be one of the happiest moments of a person’s life. Sadly, many babies suffer from birth injuries that cause serious, often permanent problems. One issue that can happen during birth is hypoxia, which is inadequate oxygen. When a baby does not receive enough oxygen to his or her brain, there can be debilitating brain damage that causes severe impairment. In some cases, hypoxia-related injuries are a result of medical malpractice. If you have reason to believe that medical negligence played a role in your child’s birth injury, contact an experienced attorney to learn about your legal options.

Factors That May Increase the Risk of Neonatal Hypoxia

The human brain needs a steady flow of oxygen in order to function properly. When an infant’s brain does not receive enough oxygen before, during, or after delivery, the brain can become severely damaged. Doctors and nurses should be aware of the risk factors for hypoxia and the warning signs that a baby may be suffering from hypoxia so that swift corrective action can be taken to prevent brain damage. Some of the most common risk factors for hypoxia include:

  • Prolonged or traumatic delivery
  • Umbilical cord injuries
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Placental insufficiency and placental abruption
  • Excessive hemorrhaging during pregnancy or delivery
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Infection

Even if an infant is deprived of oxygen, brain damage and other permanent effects may be avoided through medical treatments such as hypo-or-hyperthermia management, cooling therapy, fluid management, and ventilation. If hypoxia progresses into brain injury, the infant may develop cerebral palsy, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, cognitive impairment, and other serious disorders.

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When is a Doctor or Hospital Legally Responsible for a Child Developing Cerebral Palsy?Cerebral palsy is a disorder caused by the atypical development of a child’s brain often stemming from brain injury or infection. Children with cerebral palsy typically experience loss of muscle control, reduced muscle tone, impaired movement, lack of balance and coordination, involuntary movements, eye problems, and other serious symptoms. Research into the many causes of cerebral palsy is still ongoing, but in some cases, cerebral palsy is a direct result of a doctor or other medical professional’s negligence during the child’s birth. If your child has cerebral palsy, you may question whether or not medical malpractice played a role in your child’s development of this disorder.

Understanding the Medical Standard of Care

There are typically four elements needed to establish medical malpractice. Firstly, the doctor must have owned the patient a duty of care. This means that a doctor-patient relationship existed so the doctor had a duty to provide medical care to the patient. Secondly, the doctor deviated from the “medical standard of care.” The standard of care refers to the level of care that a competent doctor of similar experience and training would have provided under similar circumstances. Thirdly, the doctor’s failure to meet the medical standard of care caused the patient’s injury. Lastly, the injury led to damages such as additional medical expenses or pain and suffering.

Examples of Medical Malpractice That Can Cause Cerebral Palsy

There are countless things that can go wrong during a pregnancy or birth. This is why doctors must receive such a great deal of education and training before becoming a certified physician. If a doctor or other medical professional did not appropriately treat a medical condition during pregnancy or birth, he or she may be liable for the harm done to a child. In some situations, the liable party is the hospital as a whole. Examples of medical malpractice that often lead to the development of cerebral palsy include but are not limited to:

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When is a Doctor or Medical Facility Liable for an Infant’s Death?The birth of a child should be one of the greatest days of a person’s life. However, when something goes wrong during the birth and the infant passes away, it can become the worst day of the parents’ lives. Losing a child under any circumstances is heartbreaking, but when that death could have been prevented, the heartbreak is even more excruciating. If medical negligence contributed to the death of an infant, the parents may bring a medical malpractice claim against the medical staff or the facility itself.

Who Is at Fault for the Death?

Sadly, sometimes a baby dies during or shortly after birth and there is nothing that could have been done to save him or her. Not every infant death is the result of medical negligence or wrongdoing. Medical negligence occurs when a doctor or other medical professional does not fulfill his or her “duty of care.” Medical staff members have a legal obligation to provide competent medical attention that meets the “medical standard of care.” This standard of care is defined as the level of care that a reasonably skilled medical professional of similar education and training would have provided in similar circumstances. For example, consider a scenario in which an infant passes away because the delivering doctor failed to address the fact that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. If a reasonably competent doctor of similar training would have noticed the problem with the umbilical cord and taken different steps to save the infant’s life, this may mean medical negligence has occurred.

Collecting Damages in a Medical Malpractice Case Involving Wrongful Death

If medical negligence leads to the death of a baby, a wrongful death lawsuit may help the parents receive compensation. The parents may be able to receive compensation for:

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