Expectant parents put trust in doctors and other medical professionals to monitor and care for mother and baby during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. These healthcare providers are responsible for making sure that mother and child are safe throughout and that any complications that arise are treated properly and in a timely manner. However, in some cases, medical professionals do not provide expectant mothers and unborn or newborn babies with the accepted standard of care. In these situations, the potential for birth injuries is significantly increased.
Unfortunately, birth injuries that occur during pregnancy and childbirth can go undetected for days, weeks, months, and even years after a child is born. Parents may not know that their child is suffering from a birth injury until much later in the child’s life. Often, these types of injuries and the subsequent illnesses or medical conditions are presented to parents as natural occurrences or as complications that could not have been prevented. For this reason, if you discover that your child suffers from a condition that may have occurred during pregnancy, labor, or delivery, you should have all medical records reviewed by an experienced birth injury attorney.
Common Birth Injuries that May Go Undetected
Some birth injuries are easily recognized in newborns, either at the time of birth or shortly after. Other birth injuries may take time to be diagnosed. The following are some of the most common birth injuries that may not be diagnosed immediately following birth:
- Cerebral Palsy – Cerebral palsy is a condition that is caused by brain damage, most often during the birthing process. It affects muscle control, body movement, coordination, balance, posture, and sometimes developmental functions. It often goes undetected until a child misses developmental milestones, sometimes as long as three to five years after birth.
- Brachial Plexus Palsy – This is a condition in which the nerves of the brachial plexus bundle (a group of nerves located in the shoulder and under the arm) are damaged. Also known as Erb’s Palsy or Klumpke’s Palsy, depending on which area of the brachial plexus network is affected, the condition results in sensation and movement difficulties in the arm. While most cases of brachial plexus palsy are identifiable shortly after birth, milder cases may not be diagnosed until weeks or months later.
- Intracranial Hemorrhage – Also known as brain bleeds, intracranial hemorrhages are a traumatic birth injury that may be caused by negligence and can vary widely from minor to severe. While some brain bleeds are mild enough that they may resolve themselves without medical intervention, others are vey serious and require immediate treatment. Intracranial hemorrhages that are not treated immediately may cause extensive and even life-threatening brain damage.
- Group B Strep Infections and Meningitis – Meningitis occurs when an infection spreads to the spinal fluid and brain fluid. Babies born to mothers who carry group B streptococcus may develop meningitis as a result of the infection being passed from mother to child during the birthing process. In many cases, mothers do not even know that they have group B strep as it is not always symptomatic. Doctors can test expecting women between weeks 35-37 of pregnancy to determine if the bacteria are present. Babies who develop meningitis and are not quickly diagnosed may suffer from hearing loss, brain damage, and even death.
In addition to those conditions listed above, there are many birth injuries that may go undetected for different reasons. Any type of birth injury that causes oxygen deprivation or bleeding to the baby’s brain can result in brain damage that is not easily detectable until the child begins to miss important developmental milestones. It is important for parents to be aware of these milestones and the symptoms of infant brain damage in order to recognize whether their child is a victim of a birth injury that could have been prevented.
Symptoms of Infant Brain Damage
Some symptoms of infant brain damage are recognizable a short time after birth simply by noting the baby’s appearance. However, these symptoms are not always present, and brain damage may not be identified until much later. Some of the immediately identifiable symptoms are:
- An abnormally shaped spine
- An abnormally large forehead
- An abnormally small head
- Distorted facial features
- Difficulty focusing eyes
- Excessive crying
- Feeding problems
Symptoms that are not immediately detectable include developmental delays that may present with cognitive, perceptual, and physical symptoms. These include:
- Difficulty with attention and concentration
- Difficulty processing information
- Difficulty with controlling impulses
- Difficulty communicating
- Difficulty with spatial orientation
- Changes in hearing or vision
- Increased pain sensitivity
- Increased light sensitivity
- Sleep disorders
- Extreme lethargy
Additionally, some children who suffer from brain damage miss developmental milestones such as:
- Skipping or hopping
- Navigating stairs
- Feeding themselves unassisted
- Sitting up unassisted
- Fine motor skills like tying shoes, coloring, and drawing
- Getting dressed unassisted
- Grasping things without dropping them
Do You Suspect Your Child Suffers from a Birth Injury?
If you suspect that your child suffers from a birth injury, it’s important that you contact a knowledgeable birth injury attorney to review your case. The birth injury may have been caused by the negligence or mistakes of a doctor or other medical professional and you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Ross Feller Casey is among the nation’s foremost litigators of birth injury lawsuits and has an unparalleled record of multimillion-dollar recoveries in such cases. Contact our leading birth injury attorneys today for a free evaluation of your case. We can help you determine whether you have a lawsuit and advise you on how to proceed.