During labor and delivery, it’s possible for there to be complications. The doctor may discover that your baby is breech; the delivery may be taking too long and the doctor needs to use forceps or a vacuum to pull the baby out; or the child has breathing problems or isn’t moving when delivered. Birth injuries can happen under the best of circumstances and be devastating for parents.
One of the most serious birth injuries is a spinal cord injury. It can have long-lasting effects and, in some cases, can even be fatal. Spinal cord birth injuries are exceptionally rare in the United States, but they can happen and, when they do, the attending doctors or members of the nursing staff may be to blame. If your infant was diagnosed with a spinal cord birth injury, there is important information you need to know to move forward.
What Causes a Spinal Cord Injury During Birth?
Some of the most common causes of a spinal cord injury include:
- Physical trauma. As the baby moves through the birth canal, his body may be overly compressed, resulting in a spinal cord injury. Hyperextension of the spine or severe twisting of the neck can also cause spinal cord injuries. It’s possible for these injuries to be caused by doctors who use a vacuum or forceps to speed up the birthing process.
- Breech presentation. Babies who are breech—those who present feet or buttocks first—are more likely to suffer a spinal cord injury than those who are born head first.
- Congenital defects. For some infants, the spinal cord injury occurs before birth, as the result of a genetic defect or malformation.
- Undiagnosed spina bifida. This neural tube defect causes gaps between the vertebrae and, in some cases, may leave portions of the spine and the surrounding nerves exposed. If spina bifida isn't diagnosed via ultrasound before birth, doctors can touch and damage exposed nerves during delivery.
Symptoms Associated With Spinal Cord Birth Injuries
The following symptoms are common in babies with a spinal cord birth injury:
- Inability to feel touch
- Difficulty breathing
- Abnormal reflexes
- Stinging pain caused by nerve damage
- Inability to move
Long-Term Effects of Spinal Cord Birth Injuries
Spinal cord birth injuries can have devastating long-term effects on a child, including paralysis or developmental disability. The severity depends largely on the type of injury. Spinal cord injuries can be “incomplete,” meaning the brain and spinal cord are still able to communicate, or “complete,” indicating a complete disconnect between the spinal cord and brain.
The outlook isn't grim for all infants with spinal cord birth injuries. Those with mild spinal cord injuries can be fitted with an orthopedic brace and given steroids to speed healing.
Did Your Child Suffer a Spinal Cord Injury at Birth?
If your infant was diagnosed with a serious spinal cord birth injury that caused paralysis or an intellectual disability, he may require extensive medical care for the rest of his life. If the injury was caused by doctor error, you and your child may be entitled to compensation. The experienced birth injury attorneys with Holton Law can help you fight for the financial recovery you deserve. Contact our office today to schedule a free initial case consultation, and request a copy of our free eBook, Answers to Parents' Questions About Birth Injuries, for more information.