There are a lot of worries when you’re expecting a baby. One of the biggest concerns is whether or not the child will be healthy. You take prenatal vitamins, attend the check-ups, and wait nervously for your baby to arrive.

Often, the focus is entirely on what you can do to prevent developmental issues or congenital disabilities, but those aren’t the only worries. In reality, only about 3 out of every 100 babies will be born with a significant birth injury, so the odds are already in your favor in that area.

The more pressing concern is the idea that your baby could be injured during the delivery. 7 out of every 1,000 babies born will sustain a birth injury. That comes out to about three every hour in the United States.

The highest risk is in rural areas, where birth injuries are 33% more likely than in more urban areas, like Chicago.

So what are birth injuries, and what can you do to help prevent them while you’re preparing for motherhood?

Common Causes: What Is A Birth Injury And How Do They Happen

A birth injury is any injury that a baby sustains while being born. These could be caused naturally by several factors, including the baby not being head-first in the birth canal, being large or premature, or when the labor is very long.

Birth injuries can also be caused by other factors, including cesarean delivery, the use of forceps, or the use of a vacuum tool to deliver the baby.

Some birth injuries are just the result of complex labor and will go away over time. Others can cause life-long difficulties like cerebral palsy, facial paralysis, and spinal cord injuries.

Most serious birth injuries result from oxygen being cut off to the baby’s brain, bone fractures caused by the doctor’s equipment, failure to notice fetal distress, strangulation by the umbilical cord, or a c-section being performed late, or not at all.

The Most Common Birth Injuries

Many different kinds of injuries can be sustained during the birthing process, and every case is unique. That being said, here are eight of the most common birthing injuries.

  • Cerebral Palsy. It’s characterized by a lack of motor skill development, weak muscles, and muscle spasms. It’s usually caused by damage to the brain during birth.
  • Facial Paralysis. The baby may have no ability to move the affected side of the face, including closing the eye. This is common when forceps or vacuum extraction is used.      
  • Cephalohematoma. A birth injury marked by bleeding under a cranial bone can occur when forceps are used.
  • Brachial Plexus. These injuries involve damage to the nerves that go from the upper spine to the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands.
  • Fractured Collarbones. This can occur when the baby becomes stuck in the birth canal or when a doctor attempts to remove the baby.
  • Perinatal Asphyxia. This may occur when the baby receives insufficient oxygen, resulting in paleness, seizures, or even coma.
  • Hemorrhages. When bleeding occurs in the skull.
  • Spinal Cord Injuries. These are among the most serious of birth injuries and may occur when forceps are used too aggressively.

Practicing Prevention: What Can You Do To Lower The Risks

Now that you understand more about birth injuries, you’re probably wondering what you can do to help lower the risk to your baby. Here are a few ways you can help everything go smoothly.

Don’t smoke while you’re pregnant. This can lead to a low birth weight, which increases the chance of injury during labor.

Don’t drink alcohol or take drugs. Even prescription drugs can cause issues with brain development in a fetus, so have your doctor carefully monitor the medications you’re on.

Take folic acid throughout your pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. It helps prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

Attend all prenatal doctor’s appointments and take your doctor’s advice if they make suggestions about delivery. Some babies are too small or large to be delivered safely, and a doctor may recommend scheduling a C-section.

Choose a doctor you trust to perform the delivery. Having a medical team you feel you can count on to make the right decisions is one of the most important steps.

Understanding Birth Injuries

If you did all of these things, but your baby was still injured during delivery, it could be due to negligence on the part of the medical staff. You have the right to contact a lawyer to learn about your options regarding a birth injury lawsuit against the doctors or hospital.

Settlements in these cases often reach six or seven figures, which can help ensure the continued medical care of your injured child now, and when they grow up.

Now that you understand more about the causes of birth injuries, you and your medical team can discuss the best ways to prevent them. You and your baby deserve a safe delivery, and making a plan now can help make that happen.

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