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Birth injuries in New York: A primer

Birth injuries occur when there is a complication during the labor and delivery. There are approximately five infants injured for every 1,000 births in the United States. A variety of factors can contribute to a birth injury. One common cause involves the size of the infant or the shape of the mother’s pelvis. These factors can result in difficulty birthing the baby, potentially leading to oxygen deprivation.

Medical professionals providing prenatal care can often diagnose these issues prior to delivery. This can allow for conversations with the parents on the best approach to reduce the risk of injury.

How do I know if there was a birth injury?

It is not always easy to tell if an infant suffered a birth injury. However, some signals that there may be a problem include the need for medical intervention immediately following birth, the presence of a blue tone to the infant’s skin, difficulty with breathing and/or a slow heart rate. Other causes for concern include stiffness, referred to as hypertonic movement, or floppiness, called hypotonic, of the baby’s arms, legs and head.

Other signs may show up after some time has passed. Parents may notice that an infant does not use one arm as much as the other or that their movement is unusual. The infant may appear to have abnormal reflexes or fail to reach developmental milestones. Any of these causes for concern warrant a conversation with a medical professional.

Although there are many types of birth injuries, two of the more common include:

  • Cerebral palsy. A lack of sufficient oxygen to the infant during delivery can cause a form of brain damage the results in cerebral palsy. It is also often referred to as birth asphyxia, perinatal asphyxia or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy.
  • Brachial plexus palsy. This injury is often caused when the infant gets stuck in the birthing canal. Aggressive intervention can result in damage to the infant’s shoulder and arm, causing paralysis of the infant’s arm.

In many cases, the nurses and staff assisting with the delivery should notice a drop in oxygen levels and take action to avoid injuries to the child. Those who are not paying attention or otherwise distracted could miss these signs and fail to intervene when needed.

What should I do if there was a birth injury?

Birth injuries can result in a lifetime of medical care. As such, it is important to realize that there will likely be a large financial impact to your family because of the birth injury. If the birth injury was the result of the negligence of medical professionals, legal remedies may be available. This can include financial compensation through a civil lawsuit.

The civil lawsuit for this type of case would likely move forward as a medical malpractice claim. You will need to gather evidence to support the claim, including medical records and will also often need expert testimony. If successful, you could receive financial compensation to help cover the expenses that result from the doctor’s negligence including medical care, rehabilitative costs and the cost to make modifications to your home to accommodate the child’s medical needs.

It is important to note that there is a time limit to move forward with these claims. In New York, birth injury cases must generally move forward within ten years of the birth of infant.

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