How Common are Birth Injuries?


When errors and mistakes are made by medical providers during pregnancy or during labor and delivery, serious and potentially debilitating birth injuries can result.  

Birth injuries can quickly transform what should be one of the most joyous events in your life into one of the most tragic. While they impact a relatively small number of infants, the consequences can be devastating. Lack of proper care and oversight during pregnancy and errors made by your doctor or others during labor and delivery can result in birth injuries that cause life threatening conditions and long term disabilities in your child. The following are important facts to be aware of regarding birth injuries and how commonly they occur.  

Facts About Birth Injuries

Trauma and injuries that occur during pregnancy or during labor and delivery can have a major impact on the health and development of your baby. Referred to as birth injuries, statistics from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) indicate they are common in undeveloped nations, where maternal and infant care is often lacking. In the United States, which has a significantly higher standard of care, they still occur in as many as 2% of all births. The most common types of birth injuries include:

  • Head injuries, which can include hemorrhages in the scalp or brain and damages caused by a lack of oxygen;
  • Facial nerve injuries, which can impact your infant’s appearance and prevent him or her from feeding properly;
  • Bone injuries, which include fractures and dislocated joints;
  • Nerve damage, which can impact the infant’s senses and motor skills;
  • Spinal cord injuries, which can result in partial or complete paralysis.

Expectant mothers can also be put at risk due to medical mistakes, resulting in serious and potentially life-threatening complications during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and even in the period after delivery and before hospital discharge.

Assessing the Risk for Birth Injuries

AHRQ statistics show that birth injuries can happen in as many as one out of every 500 live births. They are often preventable and occur as a result of mistakes and errors made by obstetricians, midwives, hospital personnel, or other medical providers.

Medical conditions and complications can develop during pregnancy due to a lack of proper testing and medical care. Trauma directly related to the birthing process can occur during long, strenuous labors that are allowed to go on unaided, or as a result of improper fetal monitoring and excessive use of extraction methods, such as forceps or vacuum delivery. Situations in which birth injuries are most common include:

  • Delivery of oversized infants who weigh over eight pounds, 13 ounces (called “macrosomic” infants);
  • When the baby is in the wrong position in the birth canal (sometimes called “malpresentation”);
  • Among women who have pelvic issues related to the shape or size of the uterus and birth canal;
  • When delivery is allowed to occur before the 37th week of pregnancy.

Dealing With the Impact of Birth Injuries

Infants with birth injuries can suffer serious disabilities that require ongoing medical care and support. Medical providers can be held accountable when these injuries are preventable. To determine your rights in filing a claim, consult with an experienced birth injury attorney.