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After a lengthy and difficult labour, hearing the words “I can see the head,” bring about an enormous wave of relief. In very little time a physically exhausting and intense delivery will come to an end and you’ll be holding your baby for the first time.
But if there’s a delay, or noticeable concern among the medical practitioners assisting with the delivery, you may start to feel nervous. ‘What’s happening?’ you wonder. The answer, sometimes, is a condition called shoulder dystocia. If the baby’s shoulders become wedged behind the woman’s pelvic bone (often when the head is already delivered), medical providers must act quickly to reduce the risk of a serious birth injury.
Shoulder dystocia may result in brachial plexus injuries. The brachial plexus (a network of nerves between the neck and shoulders) might be stretched or torn as the medical provider attempt to extract the baby with some force. In some cases, the nerve damage results in permanent disability. Shoulder dystocia can also cause cord compression resulting in brain injury or fetal death if the baby is not delivered quickly.
When time is of the essence and every second and every decision is critical, it is essential that medical providers exercise good judgment and follow standards of practice to prevent long-term damage. If these standards of practice are breached due to negligence or incompetence and a mother, her fetus or newborn suffers serious harm, it’s called obstetrical malpractice – and it can change the course of a life forever.
Common Types of Birth Injuries
Obstetrical malpractice may cause or contribute to a preventable birth injury at any stage of pregnancy, labour, delivery or even in the immediate postpartum period. Some common types of birth injuries include:
- Brain injuries and Cerebral Palsy – Maternal or in utero infection, poor management of maternal medications of medical conditions, placental insufficiency (a compromised or damaged placenta prevents the fetus from receiving sufficient oxygen and nutrients) or head trauma may also cause these injuries. Oxygen deprivation or absences (perinatal asphyxia, hypoxia or anoxia) commonly cause the damage.
- Spinal cord injuries, nerve damage, fractures – Delayed or misdiagnosis of conditions such as spina bifida (vertebrae fail to completely close around the spinal cord), untreated infections, and poor technique when performing a forced extraction (vacuum or forceps) can cause serious nerve and soft tissue damage.
- Meconium Aspiration – An overdue birth, lengthy labour or traumatic birth may cause the first fecal matter to be released and mixed with amniotic fluid. If the baby’s lungs ingest meconium, it can block airwaves and lead to infection and illness if not treated promptly.
- Kernicterus – Untreated severe jaundice in the postpartum period can lead to a neurotoxic condition called kernicterus.
There Is Help And Hope For People Who Are Hurt
A serious birth injury can turn a moment that should be filled with joy into a time of sorrow, anger and grief. As you come to terms with what has happened and learn what ongoing care for your loved one with cost and the extent of your pain, suffering and losses, you should know you are not alone.
Howie, Sacks and Henry’s birth injury lawyers have helped many clients navigate through this complex area of law and we are ready to assist you on your journey in Sudbury. Recognized by our peers as one of Canada’s top personal injury firms, HSH birth injury lawyers have developed the knowledge, skill and experience you’ll need when making a claim of obstetrical malpractice.
An HSH birth injury lawyer will gladly arrange to meet with you in your own home in the Sudbury area or at a nearby consultation office to listen to your birth story with great empathy. As we discuss your legal options and provide advice, the HSH team will also help facilitate any evaluations, tests, or rehabilitative therapies you or your loved one will need to support both the case and recovery.
We understand how overwhelming and stressful this period in your life can be and do our utmost to ensure you know that you are always more than just a file to us. Our reputation for compassionate, caring and respectful client-centred service means you will have a trusted supporter and advocate on your side and by your side in Sudbury.
If you or your loved one has suffered harm due to obstetrical malpractice, count on an HSH birth injury lawyer to serve you in your time of need. Together, we’ll work to ensure you have hope there are better days ahead.
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