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What are birth injuries and why do they occur?

Birth injuries refer to a type of trauma that can cause either temporary or permanent harm to an infant as he or she is being born.

One common reason birth injuries occur is because a baby is abnormally positioned in the womb, such as being born feet first, or a breech birth. Another common reason is because the baby is above-average in size. In terms of the latter, if the mother's pelvis is not large enough or not shaped just right, then she may be deemed to be unable to birth a child vaginally.

Any attempt to deliver a child under these circumstances could result in both mother and child being injured. In a situation such as this, the baby most often risks suffering a shoulder dystocia, a condition in which the child's shoulder is lodged under the mother's pelvic bone.

Birth injuries can also occur if the baby is born prematurely, generally defined as being born before he or she reaches 37 weeks. Mothers who are in labor for an extended period of time put their babies at risk of injuries as well.

Fortunately many birth injuries are temporary and resolve within just a few short days, or at worse a month, after they occur. Some examples of relatively minor injuries include soft tissue swelling or bruising to the scalp, burst blood vessels in the eyes, temporary facial paralysis and even fractures. None of these are believed to cause any lasting impact on the child's life.

One major birth injury is cephalohematomas. Although they generally appear as raised areas along the scalp, underneath, they're spots where blood collects on the underside of the baby's skull. These can take months to heal and if large enough, may even cause the baby to jaundice.

Another serious condition, a brachial plexus injury involves the nerves connecting both the shoulder and arm to the neck being stretched or severed during a shoulder dystocia, as described above. While this can be relatively minor, it requires a surgery to repair damaged nerves. Even then, they might not resolve the condition, leaving behind a lasting effect.

If you or your baby have been injured during childbirth, then you may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering and other damages in your case. A Tucson birth injury attorney can advise you of your rights to sue.

Source: Stanford Children's Health, "Birth injury," accessed Sep. 29, 2017

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