The vast majority of births pass without incident. In some cases, however, things can go wrong and complications do develop. In some instances, midwives and other medical staff may not properly monitor the situation, and as a result, injuries occur. As with other types of medical negligence, this can lead to a successful compensation claim.
What is a birth injury?
Birth injuries are any harm that’s caused to the mother or baby during or around the time of labour. They may arise for a variety of reasons and can range from minor, to more serious and even life-changing.
Minor birth injuries such as swelling and bruising to the mother or child are common. These will generally heal within a few weeks but in the case of more severe birth injury or complications, they may be caused by negligence or mistakes by the medical team.
What are the causes of birth injuries?
Historically, birth has always carried risks. With modern medical care, birth is thankfully much less risky than it used to be. That doesn’t mean that accidents never happen, and when they do they can be painful, distressing and can cause future complications for both the mother and the baby.
To minimise this risk of injury to both the mother and the baby, medical staff should follow well-established procedures. If these procedures aren’t followed or other negligence occurs and it results in birth injury, then it may be possible to make a compensation claim.
Some examples of clinical errors that can potentially lead to birth injury include;
● Poor care throughout the delivery process
● Administering the incorrect medication
● Mishandling the mother or the baby
● A failure to properly identify, treat or prevent infections such as meningitis or septicemia.
In some instances, birth injuries can lead to serious ongoing and lifetime conditions for either the mother or the baby or both.
Common birth injuries
Some of the common and less common types of birth defects include:
● Obstetrics and midwifery negligence. This might include the improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors during the delivery process and incorrect suturing.
● Mistakes made during screening and failure to spot serious conditions such as heart or brain defects, Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida or other developmental issues in a timely manner that might have led to termination.
● Pregnancy complications have been mismanaged. Pre-eclampsia can lead to high blood pressure that might put the mother at risk of stroke, multiple organ failure, fits and HELLP syndrome.
● The failure to properly identify and treat an infection. These can lead to illnesses and can become extremely dangerous to babies. Maternal sepsis can be caused by something as simple as a Urinary Tract Infection, influenza or pneumonia.
● Failure to conduct or monitor a birth, or the condition of the unborn child for signs of distress can lead to severe and ongoing trauma to both the mother and the child.
● Serious injury to the child caused during or after the birth. This can include serious issues such as infant brain damage. A lack of oxygen can result in a stroke or Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy, fractured bones or nerve damage due to bleeding on the brain.
● After birth injuries to the mother such as third and fourth-degree perineal tears, and incorrectly performed episiotomies. Poorly carried out caesarean sections cause damage to organs and other surgical injuries.
● Retained Products of Conception (RPOC) refers to the retention of foetal and/or placental tissues that have been left in the uterus after termination, miscarriage or delivery. This is not uncommon and timely diagnosis and treatment are vital to avoid any further complications.
How long after a birth injury can you sue?
Because of the often serious and ongoing nature of birth injury claims the mother has until the child is 18 to make a claim for a birth injury to the baby. If no claim has been made once the child has reached 18, they themselves have three more years to make a claim. If your baby suffered a birth injury that damaged their mental capacity and will not improve as they get older, there are no time limits.
If you’re a mother who wishes to make a claim for a birth injury to yourself you will usually have three years in which to make it from the time the injury took place or when you found out that the injuries were caused by negligence during and around the labour.
How to make a birth injury claim
If you believe that your or your baby suffered an injury as a result of negligence during the birth process then you may be able to make a successful compensation claim. This can be a complicated process so it’s important not only to act quickly but to seek legal advice.
At Mark Reynolds Solicitors, we have extensive experience in making successful medical negligence claims including those for birth injuries. We can advise about the strength of your claim and how to proceed.