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What are the main causes of birth injuries?

As every Maryland mother knows, delivering a baby is not an easy task, whether it is at home with a midwife or in the hospital under the watchful eye of obstetricians and other medical staff. In both settings, midwives and physicians have to exercise the utmost care to ensure the safety of the infant and the mother. A single error during delivery can result in birth injuries that can lead to temporary or permanent damage to the baby. In some cases, a baby can be deprived of a normal life due to a birth injury. One of the worst injuries is a brachial plexus injury.

How does this type of birth injury occur? Excessive force from a midwife or physician is the main cause of such injuries. If shoulder dystocia starts to develop, the attending physician often tries to correct the problem by pulling the baby's head, which can result in nerve damage in the baby's neck. In shoulder dystocia, the baby's shoulder cannot pass the pubic symphysis, preventing the baby from being delivered. A midwife will often apply traction to remove the baby, which ends up pulling the baby's head away from the shoulder. If not done correctly, the brachial plexus-a major nerve network-can be damaged.

The use of forceps, slow dilation, short maternal stature, gestational diabetes, excessive maternal weight, misshapen pelvis and a large baby are some of the risk factors that can lead to shoulder dystocia. Physicians and midwives should be able to properly assess these risks to prevent birth injuries.

In the event of a birth injury, the midwife or physician can be held responsible if she or he acted recklessly or failed to exercise due caution. The mother of the baby could seek damages for past, present and probable future medical expenses.

Source: Birthinjury.org, "How brachial plexus injuries occur," accessed on Nov. 5, 2014

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