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What are the Most Common Birth Injuries?

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Out of every 1,000 infants born in the U.S., approximately six to eight come into this world with a birth injury. The 10 most common include cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, bone fractures, Erb’s Palsy, facial paralysis, subconjunctival hemorrhage, cephalohematoma, perinatal asphyxia, and cephalohematoma.

Several disabilities are the result of birth injuries †just one mistake due to medical malpractice during birth can transform a healthy, normal child into one who is disabled. When medical malpractice occurs, it’s important to seek out a birth injury lawyer, as there are typically very steep expenses involved not only shortly after the child is born but potentially for many years to come.

While the odds are likely that if you have a child, he or she will be a healthy newborn, the most common birth injuries include the following.

Cerebral Palsy

The most common birth injury, two to three out of every 1,000 children have cerebral palsy, which often occurs due to brain damage that happened during the birth. This condition includes muscle spasms, weak muscles, and a lack of motor skill development. Oftentimes, it’s the result of the failure to monitor fetal distress during labor, inadequate birthing techniques, or impropering monitoring of the mother while she’s in labor. Sometimes surgery can help, but there is no cure, and it typically requires a lifetime of treatment. It can also lead to other health problems like speech issues, hearing impairment, and learning disabilities.

Facial Paralysis

When the baby is delivered, if his or her face experiences a lot of pressure, nerves can become damaged. In this common birth injury, it’s often caused by a doctor using vacuum extraction or forceps to get the baby out. It may result in one side of the face being unable to move at all, including an inability to close one eye. This facial paralysis may clear up in a few weeks if the injury isn’t severe, but in a serious case, total paralysis can occur and be long-lasting.

Oxygen Deprivation

If the baby is deprived of oxygen during delivery, that can lead to a brain injury or injuries. In turn, that may cause chronic seizures or cerebral palsy. This can happen if the physician fails to monitor the baby during and after the birth, or if the baby stays in the birth canal for too long. This can have lasting consequences, even if the infant was mildly oxygen-deprived, including autism, behavior problems, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which frequently require long-term specialized care like medications, behavioral and/or physical therapies, specialized learning methods, and home modification.

Bruising and Broken Bones

Bruising and broken bones can occur on a baby’s head, face, and/or other body parts because of physical stress when passing through the birth canal. This can be due to the use of forceps during the delivery which may leave marks on the baby’s face or head if the physician uses too much force. The use of vacuum extraction can sometimes cause bruises or lacerations on the infant’s scalp. 

Like bruising, an infant can suffer from broken bones if birth-assisting tools are used improperly or if the baby is pulled on with too much force. While it rarely happens, a nurse, doctor, or other members of the medical staff can accidentally drop a newborn.


If there is bleeding underneath the cranial bone it’s referred to as a cephalohematoma. In this birth injury, a raised bump may appear several hours after the baby is born and can occur due to the use of forceps during delivery. Sometimes this clears up as the baby grows, usually within a few months, but it also comes with some risks like jaundice, meningitis, hypotension, or anemia.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Generally some of the most serious birth injuries, spinal cord injuries can be caused by the overly forceful use of forceps during delivery that damage the spinal cord or nerves. The result can be severe and long-lasting, such as neurological issues and paralysis. 

Brachial Plexus

This is a birth injury that involves damage to the nerves that lead from the upper spine to the hand, arm, shoulder, and neck. It can be temporary or permanent. In very severe cases, total paralysis can result.