It undoubtedly will come as a shock to expectant mothers in the U.S., but the facts speak for themselves. The rates of both birth injuries and infant mortality are far higher than most people realize.
According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, birth injuries have risen by 75% since the beginning of the 2000s. Today up to eight infants out of every 1,000 born in the U.S. receive an injury while being delivered. The rate of post-delivery complications likewise has risen 50% in the same time period.
Infant mortality rates have likewise been going up in the U.S. for decades. In 1960, for example, the U.S. infant mortality rate stood at 26 out of 1,000 while Singapore’s rate stood at 36 out of 1,000. By 2017, the rates had decreased in both countries, but the proportions had become radically different. Singapore’s rate stood at 2.2 out of 1,000, while the U.S. rate had climbed to 5.7 per 1,000, higher even than those of Antigua or Cuba.
Common Birth Injuries
An Ohio birth injury lawyer recently described some of the common birth injuries in the U.S. and their causes. In alphabetical order, the most common conditions that result from U.S. birth injuries include the following:
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ASHD)
- Brachial plexus palsy
- Caput succedaneum
- Cerebral palsy
- Horner’s syndrome
- Infant metabolic disorder
- Intracranial hemorrhage
- Klumpke’s palsy
- Labor and delivery fractures
- Perinatal asphyxia
- Shoulder dystocia
- Spinal cord injury
- Subconjunctival hemorrage
- Uterine rupture
Birth Injury Causes
Birth injuries generally are grouped into two main categories: anoxic and mechanical. In an anoxic injury, the infant becomes deprived of oxygen. A mechanical birth injury, on the other hand, results from the use of too much force on the infant’s body, such as by forceps, vacuum extraction, etc.
Needless to say, when a fetus’s in utero oxygen supply becomes compromised or disrupted, this constitutes a life-threatening emergency. Common causes of oxygen deprivation include the following:
- In utero trauma
- Overmedication to the mother
- Placental disruption
- Preeclampsia and eclampsia
- Umbilical cord prolapse or entrapment
Mechanical birth injuries generally result from the negligent and/or overzealous use of force to deliver the baby.
Birth Injury Consequences
Depending on the severity of the birth injury, the consequences may be temporary or lifelong. For instance, if a baby suffers bruises, lacerations, and/or abrasions during his or her delivery, these generally heal relatively quickly. Even broken bones eventually heal.
Conversely, should a baby suffer oxygen deprivation, this could cause any number of lifelong conditions and disabilities, including the following:
- Behavioral disorders
- Brain damage
- Cerebral palsy
- Developmental delays
- Mental disability
Per the CDC, the average lifetime costs associated with a baby’s birth injury mental disability alone exceed $1 million.
Preventable Versus Unpreventable Injuries
It should come as no surprise that physicians, nurses, midwives, and hospitals invariably claim that when something goes wrong and a baby suffers a birth injury, it was unpreventable. While it’s true that some birth injuries could not have been prevented, independent third-party investigations prove that many could have been.
Unfortunately, while doctors and other hospital medical staff know how to properly handle the labor and delivery process, often they fail to carry out all the prescribed precautionary measures. For instance, many facilities fail to weigh bloody pads so as to track a woman’s blood loss. Others fail to administer medication within an hour after recognizing a woman’s dangerously high blood pressure that could cause stroke or death. Still others fail to perform a timely C-section when a woman undergoes a protracted or difficult labor.
Such failures result in over 50,000 expectant mothers and/or their babies suffering injuries each year in the United States. This makes America the most unsafe place of any developed country to have a baby.
Medical Malpractice Damages
Often a birth injury or death results in the parents bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible doctor(s), hospital, and medical staff. Most such lawsuits are based on the theory of negligence; i.e., that the health care professionals and facility owed a duty of care to the mother and baby and breached that duty, resulting in the injury or death. Depending on the severity of the injury, damages awarded in these lawsuits often reach into the millions of dollars.