Throughout human history, childbirth has been dangerous to mother and child, and it remains so today, even with modern medicine. According to UNICEF, a pregnant woman or newborn somewhere in the world dies every 11 seconds, mostly due to preventable causes.
And these tragedies are not confined to the developing world. The childbirth mortality rates for both mothers and babies in the United States are worryingly high. Many of these deaths are due to natural causes, such as birth defects, pregnancy complications and preterm births. However, some are due to injury related to pregnancy and childbirth.
You can see this reflected in the statistics for birth injuries. According to some studies, birth trauma — that is, serious injury to the infant due to physical forces during labor and delivery — affect about two babies per 1,000 live births. Other sources put the rates much higher.
Factors related to birth injury
Factors that make birth trauma more common include:
- Preterm birth
- Unusually large babies
- Breech births (the baby is not facing head-first out of the birth canal)
- Long labor
- Maternal obesity
All of these factors can lead to medical personnel using more aggressive means of delivering the baby, such as using forceps or vacuum devices. These can lead to injury to the baby, such as bruises and swelling in the head. In some cases, these more aggressive techniques can injure the baby’s face, shoulders or limbs, sometimes leading to permanent nerve damage. And in some cases, a lack of oxygen to the brain can leave a baby with a condition such as cerebral palsy.
Some of these injuries can require extensive treatment and expensive care for the rest of the baby’s life.
Birth injury and malpractice claims
Some birth injuries come about due to natural causes. Others may have been unavoidable under the circumstances. But some are due to the negligence of medical professionals.
When a parent wishes to file a birth injury claim against a doctor, a hospital or other professionals, they must prove that the injury occurred due to medical malpractice. This means they must show that a reasonable medical professional providing care up to professional standards would not have made the same mistake under the same or similar circumstances.
One way to establish this kind of evidence is through expert testimony. By questioning other medical professionals, they can get their opinions on what actions would be required by professional standards.
None of this is easy, but it can be necessary to make sure an injured child has the resources they need. And it can be important for holding medical professionals accountable when their negligence causes injury.