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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Ohio Birth Injuries Spinal Cord Injury Etiology

Under normal circumstances, childbirth is a safe experience for mother and baby. If something goes wrong during the birthing process, things can suddenly get life-threatening. Birth injuries occur in about 7 of every 1000 births. Of those injuries, spinal injuries can have the most detrimental effect on the child, as well as the family.

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What causes spinal cord injuries during the birth process?

Moving through the birth canal is a stressful process for an infant, but one that the infant is built for. Most of the pressure of a vaginal birth is on a baby’s skull, which is still soft and malleable, allowing it to form and reform as necessary, without injuring the baby. In order for a serious injury to the spinal cord to occur, external intervention by doctors and other medical staff is usually necessary. In other cases, failure to intervene ends up causing injury to the child.

Improper Use of Mechanical Interventions

If the baby gets stuck in the birth canal due to breech or other issue, obstetricians typically resort to the use of vacuum suction or forceps. Both of these mechanisms place extreme pressure on the infant’s body. If used incorrectly, these tools can cause severe spinal trauma. This trauma can be enhanced by:

Elk & Elk
  • hyperextension of the neck
  • traction of the spine
  • compression of the spine
  • improper head rotation

Failure to properly use vacuum suction or forceps can be grounds for a malpractice action.

Failure to Intervene

In some cases, spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are caused not by external mechanical interventions, but by failure to intervene when the baby is in an improper position or is otherwise stressed. If a baby is breech, meaning the feet are coming out first, instead of the head great pressure is placed on the infant’s neck and spine. Additionally, as the infant moves through the birthing canal, it may rotate or turn, causing undue pressure on the spine. If the doctor fails to diagnose the situation and does not intervene in time and injury results, that is also grounds for a malpractice action. The entire birthing staff has a duty to know what position the baby is in and take action early before injury occurs.

Failure to Diagnose Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the spinal column does not completely enclose the spinal cord. The result is small to large gaps between the vertebrae that leave the spinal nerves exposed. If a doctor fails to diagnose spina bifida, significant SCIs can result from a vaginal childbirth or through mishandling of the infant once delivered.

Most birth-related SCIs are preventable, or can at least be minimized with proactive attention and care. Every doctor delivering a child has a duty both to the mother and the child to administer proper care. Failure to do that can give rise to a medical malpractice action. If it is found that a doctor or other medical professional committed malpractice, the child and family may be compensated for the pain, suffering, and expense caused by that malpractice.