Accident Attorney Insights: Birth Injury, Trauma and Defect


Birth Injury v. Birth Trauma v. Birth Defect

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention report, Expanded Data from the New Birth Certificate, lists 1,188 significant birth injuries among 2,073,368 births. A significant birth injury was defined as skeletal fracture(s), peripheral nerve injury, and/or soft tissue/solid organ hemorrhage which requires intervention.
Other studies, such as the Potentially Avoidable Injuries to Mothers and Newborns During Childbirth, 2006 by H-CUP list problems during the birthing process (labor or delivery) to newborns as 1 in every 1000. These problems could be fractures, infections, or head injuries among others.

Many times, the term birth injury and birth trauma are incorrectly used in place of each other. Birth injury encompasses systemic damages suffered during the delivery process. These systemic damages can result from hypoxia, biochemical factors, toxic factors, infections, and a number of other factors including birth trauma.
Birth trauma only encompasses damage of the tissues, organs, brain, or cranium of a birthed child, as well as the side effects/complications that develop from the damage. These damages often are a result of physical pressure or trauma which may occur during the birthing process.
Medical malpractice cases often stem from birth injuries. If a health-care provider hurts a baby during delivery, the law considers it a birth injury.
A birth defect, is quite different from a birth injury or trauma. Congenital disorders (birth defects) are conditions that exist at or before the birth. Teratogens, which can be genetic, environmental or behavioral, cause birth defects.

Common Birth Injuries

Brachial plexus injury

Brachial plexus injury in newborns refers to a loss of movement or weakness of the arm resulting from damage to the brachial plexus – a network of nerves that directs signals from spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand – during birth.
Erb-Duchenne (Erb’s) palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury that affects the C5-C6 nerves of the arm, resulting in temporary or permanent paralysis of the arm. Excessive pulling on the shoulders during a head first delivery or pressure on the raised arms during a feet first delivery, or a clavicle fracture, can all cause Erb’s palsy during the delivery process.
Dejerine-Klumpke (Klumpke’s paralysis) palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury that affects the C8-T1 nerves of the arm, resulting in paralysis of the forearm and hand. Klumpke’s palsy is associated with a birth delivery when an infant is pulled from the birth canal by an extended arm above its head.
Symptoms are generally seen right away or soon after birth such as no movement in the newborn’s upper or lower arm or hand, an arm flexed at the elbow and held against the body, and/or decreased grip on the affected side.

Facial Paralysis

Bells Palsy

Bell’s palsy, a form of facial paralysis, results from damage to the seventh cranial nerve – also known as the facial nerve. No specific cause of Bell’s palsy has been determined, rather a number of different conditions are thought to be responsible. Inflammation of the facial nerve, pressure to the nerve, and viruses have all been pointed to as responsible for causing facial paralysis. Most notably, some scientific literature associates the herpes virus (HSV-1) has been associated with the majority of cases diagnosed as Bell’s palsy.

Brain injuries

Head trauma during birth can lead to a number of conditions including caput succedaneum, cephalohemtoma, normal head deformity due to birth forces, subgaleal hemorrhage, subdural hemorrhage, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and/or epidural hemorrhage.
A brain trauma can be caused by decreased oxygen (hypoxia) and decreased blood flow to a baby’s brain (ischemia). Even mild oxygen deprivation can lead to intellectual disabilities and long-term physical problems such as Cerebral palsy and chronic seizures.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy encompasses a number of permanent movement disorders caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control movement, balance, and posture or due abnormal development of these parts.
The damage can occur during the delivery and pregnancy of a baby resulting from decreased oxygen (hypoxia) and/or decreased blood flow (schemia) to the brain.


The most common injuries associated with birth trauma are fractures, and in particular, clavicle fractures.


Cephlohematoma is bleeding underneath the cranium. Some cehplohematomas will subside within a few weeks or months, and do not require medical attention. However, they run the risks of jaundice, anemia, hypotension and meningitis. Birth assisting tools like vacuums and forceps are known to cause cephlohematomas.

Caput succedaneum

Caput succedaneum is swelling of the scalp shortly after birth, usually resulting from the baby traveling through the birth canal, but can also be the result of vacuum extraction devices.

Accident Attorney Insights

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to another person’s negligence, then you know how frustrating these situations can be. Even minor accidents can lead to expensive health-care bills and time off work. Fortunately, Illinois has laws that protect the rights of the injured.
If you have questions about Illinois injury laws, then a Chicago injury attorney from Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates can help. Call us today at (800) 985-1819 to schedule an initial consultation.