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Several types of birth injury can be caused by medical errors

You may be wondering what could have happened to cause your baby to develop a potentially disabling condition such as shoulder dystocia, Erb's palsy or cerebral palsy.

The more you know about birth injuries and their causes, the better your chance of getting an answer to that urgent question.

Shoulder dystocia can happen when the baby's shoulders get stuck during delivery

When a baby is very large or the mother's pelvic opening is small, the baby's shoulders can become stuck. Depending on how the situation is handled, it can be quite serious. Improper delivery techniques can cause nerve damage to the shoulder, arm or hand, and even a broken collarbone or arm. Long term, it can cause tremors or even paralysis. A baby being stuck for too long can result in an oxygen shortage to the baby's brain.

When there are risk factors, it's extremely important for the delivery team to know how to handle the possibility if it arises. Inexperienced doctors and nurses may not know how to deliver the baby without causing trauma.

For example, the nurse may push on the mother's belly, which merely pushes the child's shoulder into the mother's pubic bone. Or, a doctor may pull on the child's head, which can cause injury to the child's brachial plexus region.

Erb's palsy can result from stretching or tearing of nerves

Another common birth injury that can occur with very large babies is Erb's palsy. Having a baby larger than nine pounds is a risk factor, as is maternal diabetes. First pregnancies are also at higher risk. Erb's palsy is entirely preventable, yet it can cause extremely serious harm.

If the child is too large for vaginal delivery but the delivery team moves forward anyway, they may accidentally stretch or tear the nerves between the baby's neck and arm. This brachial plexus injury may require multiple surgeries, or even result in total paralysis.

Cerebral palsy can be the result of oxygen deprivation or trauma

A set of neurological disorders permanently affecting bodily movement and muscular coordination is known as cerebral palsy, and it can be extremely debilitating. It is sometimes unpreventable, but often medical malpractice is to blame.

Over-sedation of the mother during delivery, obstructed delivery, the use of a vacuum extractor or forceps during delivery, or oxygen deprivation can be responsible for cerebral palsy. In particular, the baby's heart rate needs to be monitored for evidence of fetal distress. If that is detected and the child is lacking sufficient oxygen, an emergency C-section is called for. If the doctor fails to perform the appropriate monitoring or the emergency C-section, it may be medical malpractice.

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