Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Birth Injuries

Have questions about what to do if you have been injured in a car or truck wreck in Tennessee or one of the neighboring states? Don’t know how to proceed if a medical error or birth injury has harmed or killed a loved one in Memphis or another Tennessee location? The experienced trial attorneys at the Holton Law Firm have the answers you need. If you do not see your question answered here, contact our office to learn more about your individual case.

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  • What are APGAR scores, and why are they important?

    You deliver your new baby hoping she is healthy, and the medical staff has a scoring system that can help determine the overall health of your infant. The APGAR scoring system, named in the 1950s after its creator, nurse Virginia Apgar, helps doctors and APGAR scorenurses evaluate a newborn in the following ways:

    • Appearance: skin coloring
    • Pulse: healthy, steady heart rate
    • Grimace: normal facial expressions
    • Activity: normal joint and muscle function
    • Respiration: healthy rate and quality of breathing

    How Does the Scoring Work?

    At 5 minutes and then 10 minutes after birth, a doctor or nurse will use the APGAR scoring system in the delivery room to evaluate a baby’s overall health. A perfect APGAR score is 10, and each component can earn 0 points, 1 point, or 2 points. All five scores are compiled to get the APGAR score. Additionally, the score is recalculated more than once to give a baby a chance to improve with time.

    If Your Baby Has a Low APGAR Score

    A baby with a score of 6 or lower is at a high risk of hypoxia, which occurs when sufficient oxygen does not reach important parts of the infant’s body. If a baby scores low even 10 or 30 minutes after birth, the child will need medical intervention. Often, hypoxia can result in both temporary and permanent injury, including:

    • Brain damage
    • Tissue damage
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Cognitive deficiencies

    If you have questions about the APGAR scoring system, or if your baby was injured during delivery, the experienced lawyers at Holton Law Firm are here to help. Request a FREE copy of our book, Answers to Parents’ Questions About Birth Injuries today.


  • What is placental abruption?

    As an expectant mother, the life and health of your baby is your first concern. However, pregnancy can be a complicated process with many risks. One of the greatest risks is placental abruption. This pregnancy complication occurs when the placenta separates from the uterine wall. When the placenta detaches, the baby is unable to receive any oxygen or nutrients through the umbilical cord or placenta. Because placental abruption is life threatening, it is imperative to deliver the baby as soon as possible—either by cesarean section or, if the baby has made significant progress out of the birth canal, through a vaginal delivery.

    Causes of Placental Abruption

    placental abruption

    Often, a pregnant woman will know placental abruption occurred because she will experience extreme abdominal pain, especially if she is in labor. If she is already at the hospital, the doctor will diagnose the mother with placental abruption because the baby’s heart rate will decelerate with no sign of recovery.

    In general, medical professionals cannot point to a specific cause of placental abruption; however, the Mayo Clinic cites trauma or injury to the abdomen as a possible cause. Car accidents or a trip and fall can cause this pregnancy complication. When trauma to the abdomen occurs, the mother might experience a rapid loss of the amniotic fluid cushioning the baby.

    What Are the Risk Factors?

    Sometimes placental abruption occurs without warning, but some women are at a higher risk. If any of the following factors apply to you, work closely with your doctor to continually monitor the health of your baby:

    • Previous placental abruption. If you’ve experienced placental abruption before, your risk is higher to experience another.
    • High blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, either as a result of pregnancy or as a pre-existing condition, your risk is higher.
    • Blood clotting issues. If you have a history of blood clotting problems, your risk is greater.
    • Older age. Women who become pregnant later in life have a higher risk of this pregnancy complication.

    Placental abruption can happen to any pregnant woman and can threaten the life of both baby and mother. If you have questions about the cause of your placental abruption, contact the experienced attorneys at Holton Law. Give us a call at 888-443-4387, or fill out our contact form to learn more about your legal options.


  • What is prolonged labor?

    prolonged labor

    Having a child is usually an exciting time for parents, and expectations are high that the delivery will be normal and uneventful. However, some women experience complications during child birth—problems that can endanger the life of their child. One type of complication is prolonged labor. This problem—also known as “failure to progress”—occurs when labor for a first-time mother continues for 20 hours or more. If the mother has given birth at least once before, she’s considered to have prolonged labor after 14 hours.

    The Causes and Risks of Prolonged Labor

    Prolonged labor can occur when the baby’s head is bigger than the mother’s birth canal and has difficulty moving through it. Additionally, if the baby is in an abnormal position within the uterus, there are problems with the mother’s contractions, or there are problems with anesthesia, these can cause prolonged labor.

    Signs of a prolonged labor include maternal exhaustion, high pulse rate, a tender uterus, and back pain. The following are risks involved with prolonged labor:

    • Intracranial hemorrhaging
    • Post partum hemorrhaging
    • Fetal distress
    • Hypoxia, ischemia, and asphyxia
    • Intrauterine infection

    A prolonged labor can put your baby at risk. If your child was injured as a result of a prolonged labor, the Holton Law Firm can help. Contact us at 888-443-4387 for a free consultation, and we’ll discuss your specific situation to determine if the hospital or medical staff made mistakes when dealing with your prolonged labor.


  • What is preterm premature rupture of membranes?

    Preparing for a child’s birth should be an exciting time for a parent. However, it’s always possible for complicationsWoman being treated for PPROM and problems to occur during delivery. One type of complication happens when the mother’s water breaks prematurely. This is known as premature rupture of membranes (PROM) and will not normally cause serious issues for either the woman or child. Preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM), however, can present far more serious problems and threaten the health of the unborn child. It’s important to understand the risk factors and complications of PPROM.

    What Is PROM and PPROM?

    When a pregnant woman is ready to deliver her child, usually her water breaks. The membranes, or layers of tissue holding fluid, rupture. However, sometimes her water breaks when there is no sign of labor. This is called premature rupture of membranes (PROM). If the woman is beyond 37 weeks of pregnancy, babies are considered full term, so PROM is not typically a reason for concern.

    If the woman’s water breaks before the 37th week of pregnancy, this is called preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM), and it is a far more serious condition for the mother and child. Basically, the earlier these membranes rupture, the more critical the health issues.

    What Causes PROM and PPROM?

    Each case of PROM and PPROM is different, and it’s not always easy to determine why a woman’s water breaks prematurely. However, there are a few risk factors that have been associated with both PROM and PPROM, including:

    • Uterine infections
    • Stretching of the amniotic sac
    • Smoking while pregnant
    • Lack of adequate prenatal care
    • Sexually transmitted diseases that have gone untreated
    • Vaginal bleeding
    • Previous PROM or PPROM occurrences in past pregnancies

    What Are the Dangers of PPROM?

    When a woman experiences PPROM, it’s possible for the following complications to occur:

    • A serious infection of the placenta known as chorioamnionitis that can be very dangerous to both baby and mother
    • A greater chance of a prolapsed umbilical cord
    • A premature birth, which can lead to an underdeveloped infant
    • An infection in the newborn such as septicemia or pneumonia

    We Can Help

    If your doctor failed to treat an infection, STD, or other problem that caused your PROM or PPROM or failed to diagnose and treat the condition leading to your child’s birth injury, you may want to seek legal help. Contact the Holton Law Firm in Memphis at 888-443-4387 to discuss your case.


  • What is a vacuum extraction?

    With you’re about to give birth, you want to feel sure that, as a parent, you’ve done everything you can to deliver a healthy baby. However, sometimes deliveries don’t go as planned, and the doctor needs to use special equipment to help deliver your child. This is called an “assisted” delivery. Sometimes the doctor will use forceps—an instrument that looks like a long pair of tongs; or, he may use a vacuum extractor to apply gentle suction to the top of the baby’s head to help pull or “vacuum” the baby out of the vaginal canal.

    Approximately 10 percent of births need help with special equipment, and while vacuum extractions have grown in popularity, there are dangers involved with this assisted delivery. It’s important to know how this assisted delivery happens and the dangers it could present to your child.

    When Doctors Use a Vacuum Extraction

    There are situations when a doctor needs assistance to deliver a newborn vaginally. These situations include:

    • The baby is displaying a fatal heart rate.
    • The baby isn’t progressing properly to the second stage of labor.
    • The baby is not positioned properly and/or gets stuck during the process of birth.
    • The mother is in the second stage of labor for too long.
    • The mother isn’t able to finish the vaginal birth because of fatigue.
    • The mother’s pelvis is too small for the birth.
    • The baby is too large.

    The Dangers of a Vacuum Extraction Delivery

    While the use of a vacuum extraction can aid a difficult birth, a vacuum extractor can present the following real dangers to the child:

    • Damage to the baby’s sensitive scalp and skull (mostly cosmetic damage that will heal within a couple of months)
    • Brain hemorrhages or swelling
    • Skull fractures
    • Severe nerve damage

    If your child suffers any of these damages, he is at risk of cerebral palsy as well as intellectual and motor disabilities. If your doctor does not properly use the vacuum extractor because he is inexperienced, the fetus is premature, or there are other labor complications, your child could be at risk for these injuries.

    Seek Legal Action

    If your child has suffered injuries due to a vacuum extraction, don’t hesitate to contact the Holton Law Firm to help you build a case. A birth injury can change the life of a child and your entire family. Contact us for a free consultation.


  • What happens to the baby when there is Hypoxia during labor and delivery?

    Unfortunately,  hypoxia often affects the most sensitive and delicate part of a baby,  their brain.   Hypoxia can cause permanent brain damage when brain cells die because of lack of oxygen.  The longer the hypoxia lasts,  the greater the degree of brain damage.  That is why is it so important to take action when hypoxia is seen on the fetal monitor machine.

  • Can Hypoxia during labor and delivery be Corrected or Prevented?

    If a baby starts to experience hypoxia,  the fetal heart monitor will show evidence of “stress” on the baby.   As soon as that starts to show up,  the nurses should begin assessing why there are signs of stress, and notifying the Ob-Gyn of the situation.   If the stress does not resolve very quickly,  or becomes more severe,  a cesarean section is often the recommended procedure.

  • A doctor told me my child may have suffered from hypoxia during my labor and delivery. What is hypoxia and What causes it?

    Put simply, hypoxia is a lack of oxygen. 

    During labor and delivery,  Hypoxia is usually caused by something which stops or slows down the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the baby through the umbilical cord.  Sometimes the cord can be pinched or knotted.  It can also be wrapped too tightly around the baby’s neck.

    When hypoxia occurs during labor,  it will often show up on the fetal monitor machine which monitors mom and baby during labor.