Bringing a new baby into the world should be one of the happiest moments in a woman’s life. However, for all the work that expectant mothers and fathers put into preparing for a new baby, there are always going to be factors beyond their control.

The truth is that giving birth to a baby can involve complex medical procedures and scary complications. That’s why you should always be proactive in:

  • Talking to your doctors about any questions or concerns as you progress in your pregnancy
  • Understanding what to expect during labor and delivery, what complications could arise, and how your care team should react
  • Demanding answers if you or your baby experience problems during the birth or post-partum

No one wants to dwell on the negative when you are preparing yourself for a positive, lifechanging experience. Still, it is important to understand what can happen with your body and your baby’s body as you go through the delivery process. This way, you will be prepared to work with your birth team and make important decisions about your health and the health of your baby.

Understanding Common Birth Injuries

Even with all the advances in modern medicine and improvements made in birthing environments, mothers and babies do still experience injuries during birth. Birth injuries may be attributed to the size of the baby, the position of the child or the mother, underlying medical issues the mother is experiencing, labor complications, premature birth, or a range of other problems.

The good news is that many serious birth injuries can be avoided with proper care from your doctor. Talk to your doctor about what steps your medical team will take to prevent injuries and how they will handle any complications that may arise.

Common Injuries to babies

Common Injuries to babies

Erb's Palsy or Brachial Palsy

Erb's Palsy or Brachial Palsy(Brachial Plexus Injuries)

The group of nerves that goes from the neck to the hands is called the brachial plexus. These nerves can be stretched or torn during delivery if the baby’s head is pulled one way while the arm is being pulled another way. This injury is most typically seen in deliveries involving shoulder dystocia, where there is trouble delivering the shoulder. The injury can result in weakness in the baby’s arm and limited range of motion.

blood under the baby’s scalp

blood under the baby’s scalp(Cephalohematoma)

Cephalohematoma is bleeding that occurs underneath the scalp and presents as a lump on the baby’s head several hours after birth. This injury is most common in deliveries involving vacuum extraction and forceps. The baby may develop jaundice if there is a large area of bleeding.

Femur Fractures

Femur Fractures

Femur fractures, or fractures to the thighbone, are not as common as clavicle fractures. These injuries occur when the baby’s leg is twisted during the delivery. The baby may experience pain when the leg is moved, such as during diaper changes.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

This is a common condition that occurs when the small red blood vessels in the baby’s eyes break. It can affect one or both eyes and appears as a bright red area in the white part of the eye. Although it can look frightening, it does not damage the eyes.

Shoulder injury

Shoulder injury(Clavicle Fractures)

The clavicle, or collarbone, is the bone that connects the shoulder to the chest. When the baby is breech or there is difficulty delivering the baby’s shoulder, the clavicle can break, causing pain and making it difficult for the baby to move the arm on that side of the body.

swelling of the baby’s scalp

swelling of the baby’s scalp(Caput Succedaneum)

Caput succedaneum is serious swelling in the baby’s scalp. This can happen during labor when the baby is moving through the birth canal, particularly in births where vacuum extraction is used. The baby may also develop bruising.

Growth Plate Fractures

Growth Plate Fractures

Babies’ bones include growth plates, or areas of softer cartilage that allow them to grow rapidly, that are more susceptible to injury. Babies who have suffered a growth plate fracture during birth may experience swelling on one end of a long bone, such as a leg or arm.

Facial Paralysis

Facial Paralysis

The baby’s facial nerve can be injured during labor or delivery due to pressure on the face, leading to paralysis. This type of injury is most often seen in cases where forceps were used. The facial paralysis is most obvious when the baby is crying.

Bruising or Forceps Marks

Bruising or Forceps Marks

Babies may experience bruising, lacerations, or marks on the head or face due to the trauma of passing through the birth canal or the use of forceps or vacuum extraction. A cut may also be caused by a scalpel during a C-section.

Common injuries to mothers

Common Injuries to mothers

Vaginal Tears

Vaginal Tears

Vaginal and perineum tears are common for women who have a vaginal birth. These can be simple tears to the skin or deeper tears to the muscle. This injury can be quite painful and cause discomfort for several weeks.

Ruptured Uterus

ruptured uterus

This is a rare but serious condition when there is a tear in the mother’s uterus and the baby moves into the abdomen, where the infant can suffocate.

Post-partum Hemorrhage

post-partum hemorrhage(pph)

This condition involves excessive bleeding after the placenta is delivered. It can lead to a serious drop in blood pressure, shock, and death if not treated properly.

Prolapsed Uterus

Prolapsed Uterus

When pelvic muscles weaken, the uterus can fall out of place, causing pain and discomfort.

Image of stethoscope and heart


Preeclampsia is a serious condition that occurs when a mother is experiencing high blood pressure and protein in the urine once she has passed 20 weeks of pregnancy. It can cause severe problems if not properly diagnosed and treated, including liver or renal failure, as well as cardiovascular problems.

Light Bulb Information Is Power:

15 Questions Expectant Mothers Should Ask

When you tour the hospital where you expect to deliver, you will likely have a range of questions about the accommodations and what to expect. You should not hesitate to ask anything that comes to mind and call with any follow-up questions you think of later.

Some important questions you should ask as you evaluate a facility include:

  • Will I be in the same room for labor and delivery, or will I change rooms when it is time to deliver the baby?
  • Who will be allowed in the room if a C-section is needed?
  • Will there be medical interns or students allowed in the room during delivery?
  • When will you give an epidural?
  • What is the average labor time for the facility?
  • What can I expect if a C-section is needed?
  • What can I expect if my baby needs to go into the NICU?
  • How many people do you allow in the room during labor?
  • How many people are allowed in the delivery room?
  • How will you be monitoring the baby during labor?
  • How often will you be performing pelvic exams during labor?
  • What is the facility’s C-section rate?
  • What is your policy for an episiotomy?
  • Do you take the baby out of the room for cleaning and an exam after birth?
  • How long can I expect to be in the hospital after I give birth?

Need Help After a Birth Injury?

Health care professionals are trained to recognize risk factors and do everything possible to prevent injuries during deliveries. They should also know how to respond to problems during labor and take the proper steps to minimize damage.

Unfortunately, there are instances where doctors and other health care professionals make mistakes, do not follow the accepted standard of care, and cause serious injuries to new mothers and vulnerable infants. When this happens, families have a right to hold these professionals accountable.

At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard, P.C., our medical malpractice attorneys have represented many families coping with devastating birth injuries resulting from medical errors during C-sections, mistakes made during vaginal births, and preventable anesthesia errors. We know the hurt, pain, and devastation these types of injuries cause. That’s why we fight tirelessly for justice on behalf of these mothers and babies.

Please contact us today if you need advice or just have questions about a birth injury case. We are here to help and can meet with you in a free, confidential consultation.

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