Childbirth is a difficult process for both mother and child. There is a reason why we use the word “labor” when describing it. It is hard work for both parties, and natural injuries are common. Babies often sustain small fractures, sometimes with little to no outward symptoms. Luckily, many of those injuries go away on their own. Mothers must also go through a full recovery process. Their injuries can range from torn skin to their pelvic bone structure realigning itself.
In our modern times, we are lucky to have so many medical advances in childbirth. Doctors and nurses can make the whole process smoother and less painful. We have drugs that can numb the pain and equipment that can quicken the labor.
While modern assistance is a blessing, it can also be a curse. Doctors and nurses are only human, and mistakes do occur. Medical devices are meant to protect the mother and child during birth, but when they are used incorrectly they can lead to brain injuries to the baby. Let’s take a look at some ways medical intervention can cause harm.
Vacuums and Forceps
Vacuums and forceps are meant to be used only when absolutely necessary. When there is prolonged labor that is putting both mother and baby at risk, something must be done to complete the labor. When a cesarean section is not an option, doctors may resort to using tools such as a vacuum or forceps. When needed, vacuums and forceps can be lifesavers for mothers, children, or both. The process should be gentle, and any injuries the tools cause should be minimal. At best, the injuries will be far less severe than they would have been without intervention.
Forceps have been in use since the 1600s. At first glance, they look almost medieval. In truth, modern technology has made forceps quite gentle on the baby. They are inserted into the birth canal, where they are placed on either side of the baby’s head, essentially clamping down. Now that the baby is secured, the doctor can ease the child out the rest of the way.
When using a vacuum, doctors apply it to the top of the baby’s skull. A small suction cup locks on to the baby’s skin, and a gentle suction begins. When used properly, the force should not hurt the child. The suction is only meant to keep the baby connected to the device while the doctor guides the baby free. Once the child’s head is exposed, the childbirth should proceed normally. If more help is required, doctors can manually guide the baby the rest of the way.
Used incorrectly, these tools can cause serious injuries. It’s easy to imagine how placing a vacuum directly onto a baby’s head can cause damage. If vacuum suction is too high or misplaced, the baby’s soft, unformed skull can be damaged. With hard, metal forceps cups pressed down on the baby’s face, miscalculations in pressure can be disastrous. The path doctors use to guide the baby free can cause problems even if the tools don’t. Carelessly misguiding the child can bump them up against the mother’s frame or stretch out nerves.
Here are some injuries that can occur from the misuse of vacuums and forceps.
Two membranes surround the brain. Within those membranes exist the subarachnoid space. This space is filled with fluid that houses major blood vessels. A “hemorrhage” occurs when a blood vessel bursts. Therefore, a subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs when blood vessels burst inside the subarachnoid space.
Vacuums can cause this injury. If the suction is too high, it can pull the vessels and cause them to rupture. If the baby is stuck, and the doctor continues to pull, the opposing forces can cause hemorrhaging as well.
Babies stricken with this injury may have trouble breathing or have seizures. Without special treatment, their development can be affected, causing future medical issues.
Hematoma refers to blood collecting outside of a blood vessel. If the walls of a blood vessel are damaged, blood can begin to seep out into surrounding areas. When this happens inside of the head, it is a form of “brain bleeding,” which is a serious concern. An epidural hematoma can be caused by misapplication or misuse of the vacuum.
As blood builds up, it puts pressure on the baby’s brain. Parts of the baby’s skull that are meant to be the soft start to stiffen and protrude. Like any brain bleeding in a newborn, it can cause the baby to breathe abnormally and cause their muscles to seize. The baby will need urgent, immediate, frequent attention to keep this problem from causing lasting damage.
The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain. When we see drawings of a brain or footage of doctors handling a brain, we are usually looking at the cerebrum. It is the round part of the brain with a crease down the middle and folds that tuck up underneath. “Palsy” is a term that isn’t used often these days, but it refers to paralysis. Cerebral palsy is a kind of brain damage that paralyzes the cerebrum.
Not all cerebral palsy is caused by medical intervention, but when it is, it’s usually from forceps. Misapplied, forceps put pressure on the wrong parts of the head, crushing parts of the cerebrum.
Children start to show signs of cerebral palsy at a young age. It presents itself in their movements or sometimes in their lack of movement. People with CP can have stiff muscles, limiting the fluidity of their motion. Oppositely, they can have uncontrollable movements, with limbs constantly shaking or waving. Mobility can be affected, from developing a limp or even needing a wheelchair. Effects can sometimes be seen in the face, with some muscles twitching and some not moving at all. This can affect speech or even cause problems with drooling.
Talk to a Lawyer
If your baby was injured as a result of medical malpractice, you should seek the services of a good attorney. You may be able to recover damages from the hospital or its staff. When a baby’s head injuries cause lasting damage, treatment is a lifelong process. This creates a burden on your time and your resources. Medical bills become a part of your daily reality, as do doctor visits and time spent being a caretaker.
Damages can come in the form of pain and suffering to compensate you for the trauma you and your family have endured. You may be able to recover costs for your medical bills or long-term care your child will now require.
Malpractice doesn’t always take place in the delivery room. If your newborn is injured, they may be able to recover with urgent, immediate, constant treatment. However, when injuries cause lasting damage, it may be the fault of those who treated your baby after the injury occurred. Talk to your attorney about the treatment your baby received, and see if there was negligence is involved.
If you or your baby suffered an injury due to medical malpractice, call (941) 979-9010 today or reach out online. We can give you a free consultation and discuss your options for recovering damages.