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Can C-Sections Lead to Birth Injuries?

Posted on December 14, 2015 by Kelly Wolford
doctors performing a cesarean

An injury to your newborn baby can be one of the scariest things to deal with in life. What can be even more overwhelming is when the birth injury occurs as a result of medical malpractice during a C-section.

If your baby has been harmed during a C-section, our Albany birth injury attorneys can advocate on your behalf. The following provides an overview of what you need to know about C-sections and birth injuries in New York:

Rates of C-Sections in the U.S.

Cesarean section births, or C-sections, are incredibly common in the U.S. This is true for a variety of reasons.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 32.7 percent of babies born in the U.S. are born via C-section. Some of these C-sections are done as emergency procedures when something goes wrong during a vaginal birth. Others are planned by mothers and their doctors weeks in advance.

According to an article published in CNN, the rate of babies born by C-section today is more than 50 percent higher than what it was a decade ago.

The Dangers of C-Sections

While the rate of C-sections has increased in the U.S., it has not been without major risks. In fact, C-sections can be extremely dangerous, and complications and medical mistakes made during the procedure are not uncommon.

The Mayo Clinic lists the risk of C-sections as:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Surgical injuries
  • Anesthesia risks
  • Inflammation and infection of the uterus
  • Risks concerning future pregnancies
  • Surgical injuries to the baby
  • Breathing problems of the baby.

It is important to note that anesthesia can also affect a baby, including the baby’s breathing, heart rate, color, reflexes and muscles. Another common cause of injury is when a C-section is delayed, which we discuss in more detail below.

Birth Injuries Caused by C-Sections

The above list of risks is not totally inclusive. Other injuries may affect a newborn who is delivered via C-section.

According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, 1.1 percent of babies who were born by C-section had an identified fetal injury. The most common injury was a skin laceration. Other injuries reported in the study included:

  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Facial nerve palsy
  • Skull fractures.

A failed forceps or vacuum extractor attempt accounted for the highest rates of injuries. If a mother had a prior C-section, the rate of injury was much lower.

Why Do Injuries During C-Sections Occur?

C-sections are intensive medical procedures that have a lot of room for error. A small detail of the procedure going wrong can cause harm to both a mother and her child and cause C-section complications.

That being said, the vast majority of injuries incurred by either a mother or her baby during a C-section are preventable. They occur as a direct result of medical malpractice and doctor error.

When a baby is in fetal distress or is suffering from fetal hypoxia (not getting enough oxygen), taking action immediately is key. If a lack of oxygen is prolonged, the baby may suffer a permanent and severe brain injury. One way to remedy the situation is to immediately remove the baby from the birth canal. Unfortunately, a doctor may fail to take action quickly enough. A delayed C-section can result in birth injuries as a result.

Birth injuries may also occur because a doctor or anesthesiologist fails to:

  • Give the mother the right dosage of anesthesia
  • Take into account the mother’s medical history or current medication
  • Communicate properly with other hospital staff members and nurses
  • Exercise proper care in performing the surgery.

When a doctor uses force to remove a baby, such as tugging on the baby’s shoulder, a brachial plexus injury — an injury to the collection of nerves located near the shoulder — may occur. In some cases, improperly sanitized operating room conditions or operating tools are used, which can lead to an infection for mother or child.

Some injuries that are sustained during a C-section will heal with time with the proper care and treatment. Sadly, many injuries will never heal. A child may be forced to live with the injuries for the remainder of his or her life. Serious scarring, brain injuries and facial nerve damage may all be permanent.

Who Is Liable for My Baby’s Birth Injury?

As the parent of a baby who was harmed due to C-section errors, you no doubt have questions about who may be liable. While nothing can change what has happened to your baby, seeking to hold the responsible party liable for damages can help you to recover the money your family needs and ensure that your child has the best life possible and receives the best treatment possible.

If the birth injury would not have occurred but for C-section medical mistakes that another professional in the same situation would not have made, then the doctor may be held liable. Nurses, an operating room staff and even the hospital itself may all share liability, too.

When you file a medical malpractice claim, you may be able to recover damages from the liable party or parties for:

  • Costs of medical expenses
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Loss of estimated future wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Future treatment expenses.

Contact an Albany Birth Injury Attorney Today

If you believe that your baby’s harm would not have occurred but for C-section errors during your baby’s delivery and an act of medical malpractice, then you need to take action quickly. The experienced Albany birth injury attorneys at Powers & Santola, LLP, are ready to meet with you to discuss your baby’s injuries and whether you have a case. You can call us to schedule your consultation or contact us online today.