Understanding the risks and avoiding birth trauma in delivery

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

New York parents-to-be may be interested in some information on the prevalence of birth trauma and how it can be avoided. Failure to avoid the obvious risks of injury during birth may open up the physician to legal action.

Birth trauma is defined as an injury caused by a mechanical force during the process of giving birth. This usually includes compression or traction. Out of every thousand live births in the U.S., between six and eight of them involve some kind of birth trauma. Many of these birth injury incidents do not have serious ill effects. However, situations where these injuries are serious make up around 2 percent of birth-related deaths or stillbirths.

Close to half of birth trauma incidents, however, could be avoided with proper anticipation and recognition of the risk factors inherent during the birth. One important risk factor is when the child is larger than normal. Reports indicate that children who are born weighing over 4500g have a higher rate of birth trauma. Another risk is the use of instruments to deliver the child. There are other factors, such as a vaginal breech birth and the need to use excessive traction during delivery. Avoiding these risks requires a comprehensive assessment of the child prior to birth, including a look at their cranial nerves and structural symmetry.

When medical professionals fail to take these risk factors into account and their negligence results in a birth injury or lifelong disorder like cerebal palsy, an attorney might help. Such legal counsel may be able to assess the delivery process and determine if there was fault. They may then be useful in representing the parents of the injured child in a civil lawsuit.

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