Birth Injury Causes

There are many causes of birth injuries. In many instances, medical negligence or medical malpractice can lead to permanent disabilities. If you believe a medical error led to your child’s birth injury, get in touch with Sokolove Law today for a free legal case review.

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What Causes Birth Injuries?

There are many different causes and types of birth injuries. Some birth injury causes are natural. The baby may have a large head, resulting in complications during delivery.

But often, birth injuries are caused by errors made by a doctor or other medical professional. Medical negligence or malpractice can occur at any time before or after delivery, leading to debilitating, lifelong health issues.

For instance, a baby’s shoulders could lodge in the birth canal during delivery, and the doctor may pull on the baby’s head, causing the nerves to tear and possibly resulting in a severe problem known as Erb’s palsy.

Sokolove Law has decades of experience representing families of children who have suffered a birth injury due to improper medical care.

If you have any reason to believe your child may have been injured due to an error made by a medical professional, get in touch with our birth injury law firm. We have a team of registered nurses on staff who can answer your questions.

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Medical Negligence or Malpractice

In many instances, a birth injury occurs due to a medical mistake. Medical malpractice or negligence is when a doctor or other health care provider causes harm to a patient by not following accepted standards of care.

Here are a few examples of medical mistakes:

  • The baby didn’t receive enough oxygen during labor and delivery, leading to brain damage.
  • A medical professional incorrectly used an instrument, such as a vacuum or forceps. This can lead to several problems, including skull fracture, brain hemorrhage, or nerve damage.
  • Doctors can make mistakes before a birth occurs, which can lead to major complications. They may not see signs of problems on a fetal heart monitor, or they may fail to interpret ultrasound results correctly.

Medical negligence may also be due to a physician’s improper management of a complicated pregnancy or delivery situation, such as:

  • Abnormal maternal bleeding or fetal bleeding
  • Compressed or prolapsed umbilical cord
  • Prolonged labor
  • Detached placenta (placental abruption)
  • Inadequate pelvis size for vaginal delivery
  • Maternal infections

“My baby had to stay in the NICU. Now, she is almost 3 and isn’t developing like other kids. Sokolove Law helped us fight for justice and get the money we needed to give our child special care and treatments. I can’t thank Sokolove Law enough."
– Mother in Massachusetts & Firm Client

Oxygen Deprivation

Whenever a fetus experiences a lack of oxygen, the consequences can be devastating. Unfortunately, this is one of the more common birth injury causes.

The two main forms of oxygen deprivation are:

  • Anoxia – Also known as pediatric anoxic brain injury, anoxia can lead to the death of brain cells, which can impact mental, physical, and emotional functioning. Causes include low blood pressure in the mother, an abnormality of the uterus or placenta, and extreme blood loss after birth. Consequences include developmental delays, impulsive behavior, and difficulties using words in the correct way.
  • Hypoxia – Hypoxia can happen when the fetus suffers oxygen deprivation due to a lack of blood flow to the brain. One reason this happens is because the fetus becomes entangled in the umbilical cord. It can also happen due to a problem known as umbilical cord prolapse, which is when the cord leaves the uterus, either before the fetus or at the same time as the fetus.

Birth Traumas

There are several different types of trauma that can result in a birth injury. These include skull fractures, fractures of the vertebrae, spinal cord injuries and several others. A birth trauma can be obvious, or it may be subtle, and not be apparent until after delivery has occurred.

Drug-Related Injuries

Medications can also be common causes of birth injuries. For example, many women are prescribed a drug known as Pitocin in order to induce labor. But this medication can result in stronger contractions that are hard for the mother to manage.

This, in turn, can put more stress on the muscles of the uterus, increasing the risk of a rupture that can harm both the mother and the baby. Severe complications, such as brain damage, seizures and even death, have occurred.

Doctors and medical professionals should be aware of medications the mother is taking to monitor any potential side effects. Lack of doing so may be considered medical negligence.

Types of Brain Damage at Birth and the Injuries They Cause

Birth injuries can have severe, long-lasting effects. There are four main types of brain damage caused by childbirth-related trauma. These are hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, periventricular leukomalacia, intracranial hemorrhage and cerebral dysgenesis.

Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

HIE is a form of brain damage that occurs due to a lack of either oxygen or blood flow to the brain. The word “hypoxic” means a lack of oxygen, while “ischemic” means a lack of blood flow. “Encephalopathy” means a disorder of the brain.

HIE can happen during labor as well as delivery, oftentimes resulting in permanent disabilities, including:

Also, any interruption to the brain’s supply of oxygen or blood can increase the risk of birth injury, potentially damaging the kidneys, liver, heart and other organs.

The amount of long-term damage will depend on how long the brain was lacking enough oxygen.

Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL)

This refers to a brain injury that primarily strikes premature babies. Small portions of brain tissue die, leading to the development of so-called “holes” in the brain.

One of the main causes of PVL is a change in the amount of blood flowing through ventricles, which are small areas in the brain filled with fluid.

PVL can lead to major nervous system problems, as well as developmental delays. Babies who experienced PVL may have difficulty crawling or moving their arms, and may also have learning issues.

Intracranial Hemorrhage

Also known as bleeding in the brain, an intracranial hemorrhage can occur due to a head injury, high blood pressure, or for one of several other reasons.

Any sort of bleeding can cause a great deal of tissue damage, leading to neurologic issues such as having trouble with speaking, learning, or even moving.

In some cases, an affected infant will eventually develop epilepsy or seizures.

Cerebral Dysgenesis

Cerebral dysgenesis is a type of malformation in the brain that leads to cerebral palsy. It develops while the baby is still in the womb — it typically doesn’t occur as the result of a birth injury.

Cerebral dysgenesis can take many different forms, in which the brain may:

  • Not develop completely
  • Develop but then not grow normally
  • Develop and grow but not divide into two halves or “hemispheres” like a healthy brain

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Medical Malpractice as a Cause of Birth Injury

Having a child should be a wonderful experience. That experience can quickly turn into a nightmare if medical malpractice occurs and a baby suffers a long-term disability — or worse — as a result.

Medical malpractice can cause birth injuries in many ways, particularly in relation to a medical professional:

  • Failing to spot issues prior to delivery, such as a prolapsed or compressed umbilical cord
  • Improperly using medical equipment during delivery, like the use of forceps or vacuum extractors
  • Not performing a C-section (cesarean section) when the situation calls for such a procedure
  • Not spotting the signs of any type of infection that could lead to complications

“Everything seemed fine during my pregnancy, but after hours of labor, my daughter arrived unresponsive, with severe bruising and swelling on the back of her head. Thankfully, Sokolove Law fought for justice and the best care for my child. The compensation they secured for my daughter has been life-changing.”
– New York City Mother & Firm Client

Sokolove Law: A National Birth Injury Law Firm

Sokolove Law has recovered more than $917 Million for families of children who have experienced birth injuries due to medical negligence or medical malpractice. Our birth injury law firm has a great deal of experience in handling these kinds of claims.

We are keenly aware of the suffering that this type of injury can cause, and we know how to hold accountable those responsible for that suffering.

It can be hard to get the answers you need without the help of a birth injury lawyer. Your legal team will thoroughly examine the actions taken by all medical personnel involved in the delivery of your child. A birth injury lawyer can then help determine the responsibility of anyone who may have made mistakes.

When you turn to us, we will do everything we possibly can to help you secure compensation for the suffering your family has been forced to endure. Fill out the contact form on this page for a free legal review of your case.

Birth Injury Causes FAQs

What are causes of birth injuries?

Birth injuries can be attributed to a number of causes, including medical error or negligence that occurs during the birthing process. Malpractice, or medical negligence, happens when a doctor, or other health care provider, deviates from accepted standards of practice, and causes harm to a patient.

Birth injuries can be caused by malpractice in a variety of scenarios:

  • Failure to accurately interpret fetal ultrasounds
  • Failure to promptly recognize signs of fetal distress seen on the fetal heart monitor and provide the appropriate treatment
  • Failure to expedite delivery of the baby, or to perform a cesarean section (C-section), when the condition of the baby and/or mother requires it
  • Improper use of delivery instruments such as forceps or vacuum
  • Improper use of Pitocin, a drug which is used to induce or facilitate labor
  • Failure to properly resuscitate or care for the newborn after delivery

What causes brain damage at birth?

There are a lot of different causes of brain injuries during birth, including:

  • Medical errors, such as the improper use of forceps or vacuum extraction, which can sometimes result in permanent damage to the brain, nerve injuries, and numerous additional medical conditions
  • Failure to spot problems that appear during an ultrasound before birth
  • A lack of oxygen or blood to the brain due to a medical mistake, either during labor or delivery

Is cerebral palsy caused by birth injuries?

Birth injuries are actually among the leading causes of cerebral palsy. Oxygen deprivation, bleeding in the brain and other problems often result in this debilitating condition.

Medical professionals will sometimes fail to spot abnormal heart patterns on a fetal monitor. When this happens, and they don’t take the action needed to ensure proper oxygen supply, cerebral palsy can eventually develop.

If you have any reason to believe medical errors led to your child’s cerebral palsy, a birth injury lawyer with Sokolove Law may be able to help. Fill out the form on this page for a free legal review.

Is Erb’s palsy caused by birth injuries?

Difficult deliveries can sometimes result in having to use more force than normal to extract the baby from the birth canal. Examples include a baby in breech position (in a feet-first position rather than the normal head-first position in the womb), a large baby, or prolonged labor.

Erb’s palsy is an injury caused by the stretching of a group of nerves in the upper portion of the body, known as the brachial plexus, due to excessive force.

This usually occurs when the baby’s shoulders are caught in the birth canal during the birthing process, and the doctor attempts to free the baby by pulling on its head, potentially causing nerve damage.

A birth injury lawyer with Sokolove Law could help if you have any reason to believe your baby experienced Erb’s palsy due to a medical error. Just fill out the form on this page for a free legal review.


What causes brachial plexus injury at birth?

The brachial plexus is a group of nerves in the upper portion of the body. These nerves send signals from the spinal cord to the hand, shoulders and arms. If these nerves are damaged, that can make it difficult – if not impossible – to use these parts of the body.

One of the most common causes of a brachial plexus injury at birth is a baby’s shoulders becoming lodged in the birth canal.

When this happens, it sometimes takes a great deal of force to deliver the infant. This can lead to brachial plexus damage, which can cause a condition known as Erb’s palsy.

Can medical malpractice cause birth injuries?

Medical malpractice can happen before and during birth, leading to horrible injuries. In fact, medical errors are often causes of birth injuries.

Doctors will sometimes fail to take the correct action or miss the signs that an infant is in distress. Malpractice can harm the mother as well as the child.

Sokolove Law has decades of experience helping those who’ve suffered due to medical malpractice.

Our birth injury law firm has helped recover more than $917 Million on behalf of our clients whose children suffered permanent disabilities due to medical errors that occurred either before delivery or at birth.

Our birth injury lawyers may be able to help you secure compensation as well. Fill out the form on this page for a free legal consultation.

Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: May 10, 2024

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