What are the Most Frequent Occurrences of Birth Trauma?


It is tragic when the milestone of childbirth is marred by tragedy. That is the case for some parents and children when a birth trauma occurs. There are many types of birth injuries that occur before or during childbirth. Birth trauma examples usually fall into one of two main categories: brain injury or direct trauma to an external body part. We’ll examine each in turn.

Brain Injury

 The brain, as with all organs, needs oxygen to thrive. When a baby’s brain is denied adequate levels of oxygen (sometimes referred to as “hypoxia” or “hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)”), brain damage can occur. This type of birth trauma can occur in a variety of ways, including:

  •   Pinched umbilical cord
  •    The umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck
  •   Umbilical cord prolapse
  •   Infection that isn’t treated
  •   Ruptured vessel causing a brain bleed
  •   Abruption of the placenta
  •   Uterine rupture
  •   Excessive bleeding from the placenta
  •   Abnormal fetal position, such as the breech position
  •   Prolonged late stages of labor
  •   Unregulated blood pressure increases or decreases in the mother
  •   Failure to perform timely cesarean section

The above examples of brain damage can result in cerebral palsy, which impedes a person’s ability to perform cognitively, control bodily functions, control voluntary movements, maintain balance, and move. The nomenclature derives from cerebral (having to do with the brain) and palsy (weakness or problems with muscles). Brain damage can also result in delayed or stunted physical growth. It can also impede emotional growth and cause mental disabilities.

The length of time the brain was without oxygen usually determines the severity of the damage so, as with many examples of medical trauma, time is of the essence.

Direct Birth Trauma to an External Body Part

Some examples of birth trauma to external body parts include:

  • Brachial Plexus Injury: This occurs when the network of nerves controlling the arm and hand (brachial plexus) is damaged during delivery. It can lead to weakness or paralysis in the affected arm.
  • Erb’s Palsy: This is a type of brachial plexus injury that specifically affects the upper arm’s nerves. It can result in limited movement and weakness in the affected arm.
  • Fractures of bones, including the skull
  • Bone Dislocation

The above injuries can often occur when doctors use excessive force in extracting the baby from the uterus or from the vaginal canal. They could, e.g., twist the baby’s body in a way that causes injury or misuse the various delivery tools (forceps, vacuum extractors, scissors, clamps, specula, etc.).

Not falling in either of the above two main birth trauma categories is nerve damage. Nerves in various parts of the body can be damaged during childbirth (often from excessive pressure) and that can result in sensory or motor deficits.

Anyone whose child experienced birth trauma should feel free to contact the birth injury attorneys at VSCP Law to discuss a potential claim for medical malpractice.

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