Birth Trauma: What Makes the Case?

May 16, 2023

While pregnant women often anticipate a beautiful and even exciting childbirth experience, they also face the potential of birth trauma. This kind of traumatic event can cause significant harm to the physical and mental health of the mother and child. 

When medical professionals like doctors and nurses make errors that lead to birth trauma, the mother may have a legitimate claim for compensation. However, to determine whether you should file a birth trauma lawsuit, it's important to first examine what birth trauma is and in what situations healthcare providers are at fault.

What Is Birth Trauma?

Birth trauma refers to physical or psychological trauma that occurs during or after childbirth. Although it is common in situations like premature labor, any mother or child can be harmed during birth. 

Mothers may experience physical injuries during cesarean sections (C-sections) or vaginal deliveries: 

  • Perineal tears
  • Pelvic fractures
  • C-section wounds
  • Pelvic floor muscle damage

In addition, six to eight injuries occur to babies for every 1000 live births. These injuries may be minor or severe and can include: 

  • Bone fractures
  • Nerve damage
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Intracranial hemorrhage 
  • Brain damage

Physical injuries, no matter which party experiencing them, often lead to severe emotional distress for the mother. This can lead to various psychological conditions, including postnatal depression and anxiety. 

How To Determine Whether You Have a Case

When evaluating whether you have a valid birth trauma case, you will need to consider two key points. First, you should examine what causes birth trauma. With this knowledge, you can begin to determine whether it was the result of negligence or malpractice on the part of medical professionals. 

You or Someone You Know Experienced a Birth Injury

A person who suffers from a physical or emotional birth injury may be entitled to compensation. Although you do not need to specifically categorize your trauma before contacting an attorney, it is wise to have a general understanding of what you experienced. 

Traumatic Childbirth

Childbirth trauma is typically the result of unexpected changes, injuries, or events during the birthing process. It can occur not only during difficult births but also in those that result in a healthy baby and few or no injuries to the mother.

Many circumstances can cause traumatic childbirth, including: 

  • A sudden change in the birthing plan, such as conducting a C-section when the mother planned for a vaginal delivery
  • The mother or baby suffering a birth injury
  • The baby needs medical attention after birth
  • Stillbirth
  • Insufficient care

Medical staff might offer inadequate care at the time of birth or shortly after. For example, a doctor might neglect to order a brain scan for a baby with apparent damage to the head or fail to provide a blood transfusion to a mother who experienced a hemorrhage. 

After traumatic childbirth, women sometimes experience psychological effects, such as panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They may also be fearful of any subsequent childbirth. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is most frequently associated with military service, but women with traumatic births are at risk of experiencing post-partum PTSD. Just as soldiers can be traumatized by warfare, mothers can experience deep trauma due to the fear and pain associated with childbirth.

Studies have shown that as many as 4% of births lead to PTSD. The symptoms include: 

  • Intrusive memories of the event
  • Flashbacks 
  • Nightmares
  • Isolation
  • Anxiety 
  • Irritability 

These symptoms can cause problems in personal relationships, at work and school, severely inhibiting a person's ability to live a fulfilling and enjoyable life. 

Cranial Nerve Injuries

There are several kinds of nerve damage and injuries that babies experience during childbirth. For example, when the nerves that connect the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm, and hand are excessively stretched, the result is a brachial plexus injury. This causes numbness and difficulty with movement. 

More common, however, are cranial nerve injuries, particularly facial nerve injuries. These usually occur when a doctor uses forceps during a birth. The pressure applied to the nerve causes damage, making it difficult for the child to move the affected side of the face. 

Your Birth Trauma Experience Was at Fault of the Health Care Provider

Not all birth trauma is the result of negligence or malpractice. However, there are cases in which preventable trauma occurred because doctors or nurses failed to provide appropriate care.  

Imagine that a health care provider neglects to properly monitor the mother's condition and does not observe that her heart rate and blood pressure are extremely elevated. The birth proceeds as normal with no additional precautions, and the mother experiences a stroke. 

This is a situation in which better care on the part of the nurses and doctors may have prevented the mother from experiencing a life-altering medical event. Their negligence has affected not only her childbirth experience and well-being in the moment but also her health and financial stability moving forward. She will likely face enormous expenses from the cost of care, rehabilitation, and physical therapy, as well as lost wages due to her limited ability to work. 

Other examples of improper behavior on the part of medical staff during childbirth include: 

  • Using excessive force on the baby during delivery 
  • Failing to prevent or causing unnecessary tearing or bleeding on the part of the mother
  • Misusing birthing tools like forceps or a vacuum 
  • Neglecting to perform an emergency C-section 

While medical professionals cannot be held to a standard of perfection, justice is necessary when their errors cause the mother or child to suffer. 

Contact an Attorney To Get Compensation for Your Traumatic Birth Experience

If you or someone you know has experienced physical or emotional distress due to childbirth, contact an attorney with a winning track record in birth trauma litigation. An experienced birth trauma attorney will advocate for you to receive fair compensation. Contact McEldrew Purtell for a free case evaluation.