Each year, nearly 30,000 American children are impacted by a birth injury. Some of these are temporary; others are chronic and will require a lifetime of specialized care. With roughly 1-in-130 new families affected by birth injuries each year, it’s crucial for parents to understand birth injury trends and potential risk factors.
The Trend of Birth Injuries in the US
Infant birth injuries have fallen by 25% since 2005. While there are many factors for this, including better medical care overall, some cite a reduction in tool-assisted birth as a major contributing factor.
Forceps have carried a higher risk of birth injury for decades, but lack of use is just as dangerous. A decrease in the use of forceps has seen a decline in overall birth injuries, but the rate of birth injuries for each use of forceps is trending upward. If this trend continues, we could reach a point where forceps carry a higher risk of injury than the alternatives, like C-Section.
That isn’t to say natural births are safer. Over the past 30 years, injuries from vaginal births have significantly increased, often impacting both the mother and child. To better understand what’s driving these injuries, we need to examine some of the most severe birth injury risk factors.
Risk Factors and Injuries
Certain factors could put you and your child at a much higher risk of birth injury. By understanding these factors and attending consistent prenatal treatment, your OB/GYN can help you establish an action plan to reduce the risk of a birth injury. Some of the most common and treatable risk factors include:
High Blood Pressure
An expecting mother’s blood pressure should be monitored frequently, especially if the mother has a medical history of high blood pressure. Extremely high blood pressure can reduce the baby’s oxygen supply, increasing the risk of hypoxia and other brain injuries caused by a lack of oxygen.
Diabetic women who become pregnant should consult their OB/GYN immediately. Without treatment, children of diabetic mothers are more likely to be born prematurely, have infant jaundice, or present developmental issues later in life.
Even mothers who don’t have diabetes could be at risk, as pregnancy can come with a temporary condition called “gestational diabetes.” Because of the risks of this condition, mothers should take care to schedule regular prenatal checkups.
While weight gain during pregnancy is normal, excessive maternal weight can significantly increase the risk of an injury during vaginal birth. This condition is more likely to cause head and neck injuries as the baby passes through the birth canal.
Forceps are more likely to be used in these circumstances and are also more likely to result in a lasting birth injury, such as cerebral palsy. For these reasons, expecting mothers experiencing significant weight gain should establish a care plan and consider opting for C-section to reduce the risk of injury.
Another strong reason to establish prenatal care is to determine the baby’s size relative to the mother’s pelvis. Having a large child dramatically increases the risk of injury from vaginal birth as the baby may struggle to move through the birth canal.
If the baby’s head is too large, it may be unable to fit through the pelvis at all. This is a condition called “cephalopelvic disproportion.” If the baby’s size is not known before the due date, an emergency C-Section may be required.
If your child was diagnosed with a birth injury, we are here for you. If you’d like to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Atlanta medical malpractice attorney from The Mabrey Firm, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (404) 814-5098 or send us an email.