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 is a breech baby?
If a baby is breech—positioned to exit the birth canal feet or buttocks first—a doctor may have to change his delivery method. Although only 3 – 4 percent of full-term births involve a breech position, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), mistakes or unpreparedness in delivery of a breech baby can lead to brain trauma, bleeding, asphyxia, lifelong disability, and even death.
Types of Breech Positions
As a pregnancy nears its end, a baby naturally shifts to accommodate for a safe vaginal birth—a position in which a baby would exit the birth canal head first. However, when a baby positions itself to exit buttocks or feet first, this is when a breech presentation occurs. Usually, a doctor will suggest a cesarean section (C-section) in the event of a breech baby. There are three types of breech positions:
- Frank breech: The most common type of breech position is a frank breech that occurs when a baby pikes and prepares to exit the birth canal buttocks first.
- Complete breech: When the baby’s body contorts into a cannonball shape—hinged both at the knees and the hips into a tuck—and prepares to exit buttocks first, a complete breech occurs.
- Footling (incomplete) breech: As the name suggests, a footling breech happens when one foot or both feet will exit first. This can often mean a baby’s hips enter into a problematic position, as well.
Why Do Breech Positions Occur?
Ultrasound technology helps the medical staff determine the breech position, and then the doctor will inform the parents-to-be about alternative measures. However, medical professionals can’t usually explain why breech positions occur. Risk factors include previous pregnancies, a small pelvis, and a history of premature delivery, and breech deliveries can lead to serious complications, including:
- Fetal distress. This can occur when there are issues with the umbilical cord. Complications can include the cord becoming compressed or wrapping around the child’s neck.
- Nerve damage. This can occur from excessive compression during attempts to dislodge the baby from the mother’s birth canal.
- Head and spine injury. This can occur when the baby’s head becomes stuck in a small birth canal, sometimes leading to bleeding and permanent disability.
- Low APGAR scoring. This can indicate a traumatic birth.
How an Attorney Can Help Your Family
If your baby suffered a traumatic birth injury because a doctor mishandled a breech position, the attorneys at the Holton Law Firm can help. To speak with an experienced attorney about your case, fill out the online contact form on our website.
Do I have a birth injury case?
For every 1,000 babies born in the U.S., nearly 6 die in their first year, according to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sometimes, babies are born with birth injuries that may be caused by medical negligence—which occurs when a doctor fails to meet accepted standards of practice when caring for patients. If your difficult delivery resulted in injuries to your newborn, you might wonder if you have a negligence case. There are many factors a lawyer will consider when making a determination of medical negligence.
Your First Steps
If you and your delivery staff know something is wrong when your baby is born, the first priority is to ensure the baby is given proper treatment and medical attention. Then, if you have questions about what mistakes may have transpired during labor, speak with a trusted attorney as soon as possible. The best way to determine the validity of your case is to speak with someone who has decades of experience handling birth injury lawsuits.
Building a Birth Injury Case
The cost of caring for an injured child can be expensive, so building a case for fair compensation is essential. However, in order to sue for birth injury, you and your lawyer must work together to prove negligence. To prove your case, your lawyer can gather important evidence by:
- Investigating the circumstances surrounding the delivery
- Examining the quality of neonatal care
- Evaluating the significance of any abnormalities during labor
- Establishing the doctor’s response to any problems with delivery
- Determining the child’s condition right after birth and currently
- Identifying any consequences of the child’s injury
- Examining medical records
- Consulting with other medical experts to identify evidence of negligence
Seek Counsel for Your Case
Again, speaking with a lawyer is the most effective method of determining whether or not a doctor’s mistakes caused your newborn’s injuries. The Holton Law Firm has been trying birth injury lawsuits since the 1980s, and we can assist you with your case, too. Call 888-443-4387 to speak with a member of our team.
What Happens If a Child Is Born With Birth Asphyxia?
Birth asphyxia is a complication that can occur during labor and cause mild to fatal injuries to a baby. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that two-thirds of newborn deaths are preventable if effective treatments are implemented at birth and in the first week of life; however, sometimes doctors and medical staff make mistakes with these treatments. When mistakes cause birth asphyxia, you may want to seek compensation by hiring an attorney to file a birth injury lawsuit.
Birth Asphyxia Defined
The word asphyxia refers to a lack of oxygen. A baby’s brain, muscles, and organs depend on a consistent flow of oxygen, and this is key to a safe and successful delivery. However, complications can arise during labor that cause asphyxia, including:
- Long or difficult delivery
- Blocked airway
- Malformed or underdeveloped airway
- Pinched or kinked umbilical cord
- Insufficient blood oxygenation in the mother
Diagnosing Birth Asphyxia
After a tough delivery, a doctor might suspect birth asphyxia if a baby is weak or not breathing, appears pale or blue, has trouble flexing muscles, or reacts slowly. However, officially diagnosing birth asphyxia to begin treatment often involves:
- APGAR Scoring
- Cord Blood Gasses Measurement
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
After birth asphyxia, a baby can face short- and long-term consequences, including severe brain injury, paralysis, cognitive deficiencies, and even death. Families affected by asphyxia should consult with a lawyer to discuss the possibility of proving:
- A doctor made a mistake during labor, causing asphyxia
- The asphyxia directly led to the baby’s injury or disability
Legal Assistance You Can Rely On
If you believe your baby’s birth asphyxia and resulting injuries were directly caused by the delivering doctor and medical staff, you should speak with an attorney. The Holton Law Firm has been a trusted source of legal help in our community for decades, and we can assist with your birth injury lawsuit, too. Get started by filling out the online contact form on our website.
What is neonatal head cooling?
Nearly four million babies are born each year in the U.S. And while childbirth is a common occurrence, delivering an infant can sometimes be challenging and difficult, causing complications later on. The World Health Organization reports that three-quarters of all newborn deaths occur in the first week of life. And some of these can be attributed to brain damage during the birth process. However, doctors can slow the effects of swelling and injury by using neonatal head cooling.
What You Need to Know About Neonatal Head Cooling
Neonatal head cooling is a somewhat new treatment through which doctors cool a newborn’s head immediately after a traumatic delivery. If a baby experienced a lack of oxygen during birth, otherwise known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) caused by asphyxia, the brain can experience irreversible damage. The treatment, which helps to slow the death of brain cells, includes:
- Placing a thermal cap on the baby’s head or placing the baby on a cooling blanket
- Reducing the temperature to around 33 degrees Fahrenheit
- Monitoring the infant for approximately three days
Babies who have experienced the following are eligible for neonatal head cooling treatment to prevent the progression of brain swelling and cell death, which can lead to long-term damage or death:
- An APGAR score of less than 5 in the 10 minutes following birth
- Delivery in week 36 of pregnancy or later
- Serious abnormal brain functioning
- Significant lack of oxygen during delivery, rendering the infant unconscious
Head Cooling Might Mean Birth Injury
Even though head cooling is a relatively new treatment option supported by positive results from preliminary research, some risks are involved. Additionally, there’s more potential for a birth injury case involving head cooling. For example, a birth injury suit might result from:
- A medical mistake warranting head cooling treatment
- Failure to treat brain damage with head cooling
- Improper administration of head cooling
- Delaying of head cooling treatment
- Missed diagnosis of HIE, causing a failure to treat
Because medical personnel must meet a standard of care when delivering a child, failing to meet that standard in any way can lead to a birth injury lawsuit.
Legal Help Is Available
If you suspect your baby was injured as a result of head cooling or a medical mistake created the need for head cooling treatment, it’s important you seek help from a trusted birth injury attorney. The legal team at Holton Law Firm is ready to advocate for you and your baby, and we invite you to review our free guide, Answers to Parents’ Questions About Birth Injuries.
What Is an Emergency C-Section?
In 2014, 32.2 percent of all births occurred by cesarean section, or C-section, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In some cases, performing an unplanned or emergency C-section can prevent life-threatening complications for both mother and child. However, this type of surgery also comes with some risks.
Why Doctors Perform an Emergency C-Section
An emergency C-section is a method of delivery when doctor’s take the baby through incisions in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. Doctors perform emergency C-sections to avoid life-threatening injuries to the baby and the mother. Here is a brief look at some reasons why doctors may choose this method of delivery:
- Failure to Progress. Sometimes, labor stalls and the baby doesn’t progress down the birth canal. This can pose significant risks to the mother and child.
- Lack of oxygen. During labor, a baby needs sufficient oxygen before there is a risk of brain damage. Sometimes, performing a C-section can get that oxygen to a baby more quickly. Estimates show that a baby has only 15 minutes without adequate oxygen before serious damage occurs.
- Abnormal fetus position. If the fetus is positioned abnormally in the uterus, a vaginal birth might not be a viable option.
- Small or abnormal pelvis. Some women have undersized or abnormally shaped pelvic bones, which can complicate the process by which the baby exits through the birth canal.
- Large infant. If the mother has a small pelvis, and the baby is large in size, a vaginal birth may be impossible without injuries to both.
- Umbilical cord concerns. If the umbilical cord exits through a mother’s cervix before the baby, or if the umbilical cord becomes pinched or compressed, a C-section might be a safer procedure for birth.
- Previous C-section. Women who’ve experienced a C-section can still give birth vaginally, but a doctor may suggest a second to prevent injury to the mother.
Risks Associated With C-Sections
Though a C-section can save the lives of both the mother and her baby, it can be a dangerous procedure. If a baby is experiencing fetal distress, and a doctor is not present and prepared to perform a C-section, or the medical staff delays the procedure, risk of injury might increase. Common injuries associated with C-sections include:
- Breathing problems that develop as the baby grows
- Injury to the baby, usually by surgical tools
- Infection in the mother
- Excessive uterine bleeding after delivery
- Blood clots
- Increased risk of complications during future C-sections
We Can Help
If you believe the medical staff did not handle your emergency C-section properly and you or your child suffered injuries, you need experienced help. The team at the Holton Law Firm provides excellent legal help while also serving each client on a personal level. If you have questions, reach out to us by filling out our online contact form.
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 nurses 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
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?
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 complications 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.