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Understanding the most common birth injuries

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2023 | Medical Malpractice |

Birth injuries commonly occur due to untreated illnesses or physical trauma after, during, or before birth. Although several of these injuries are considered minor and heal on their own after a while, others can be severe and life-threatening. Below are the most common birth injuries:

Spinal cord injuries

Although extremely rare, spinal cord injuries in newborns can result in permanent paralysis. They occur during delivery when healthcare providers forcefully twist or pull an infant’s neck. Often, spinal cord injuries during birth will lead to life-changing cognitive problems.

Fractured collarbones

Clavicle fractures often occur during delivery and take a few weeks or months to heal. The infant’s shoulder may get struck during birth which leads to fractures. In most instances, the infant has to be immobilized until the broken bones heal.

Cerebral palsy

Commonly abbreviated as CP, cerebral palsy impairs the infant’s balance, motor functions, and posture. They may develop this condition due to head trauma or oxygen deprivation during delivery. Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy, several treatment options help improve the child’s quality of life.


A cephalohematoma happens when there is excess blood beneath the newborn’s scalp. It often results in anemia, hypotension, and jaundice. The leading cause of cephalohematoma is delivery instruments which may rupture the cranial blood vessels.

Caput succedaneum

Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors during delivery can cause swelling in the newborn’s scalp due to excessive pressure on the head. This condition is known as caput succedaneum. In some cases, caput succedaneum can also occur due to extreme pressure from the vaginal walls. It appears as a bump or lump on their head right after delivery and will heal over time.

Oxygen deprivation

Healthcare providers are tasked with monitoring infant oxygen levels during and after birth. A slight deprivation of oxygen will lead to irreversible brain damage. Often, the child will suffer from physical and cognitive disabilities.

Brachial plexus injuries

A brachial plexus is a group of nerves responsible for the transmission of signals between the brain and the arms. Brachial plexus injuries happen when the infant’s shoulder and head are overstretched during delivery, thus leading to nerve damage.

Subgaleal hemorrhage

Subgaleal hemorrhage happens when healthcare providers allow too much blood to accumulate outside the newborn’s skull. Often, it occurs during a vacuum-assisted delivery and is considered life-threatening. However, immediate treatment often provides a good outcome.