Few things match the heartbreak of birth injury. Out of about 4 million children born each year in the U.S., about 28,000 will suffer some kind of birth injury. That’s a rate of 0.7 percent, but it is a very real tragedy for each family affected by a birth injury.
Children born with birth injuries like Cerebral Palsy, a brachial plexus injury like Erb’s Palsy or Klumpke’s Palsy, or spina bifida face a lifetime of medical bills and disabilities that usually translate into higher education costs and lower earnings.
U.S. Birth Injury Statistics
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released data on U.S. birth injury statistics. The data revealed the following:
- 3,745,540 babies were born in 2019, the lowest number of births in the U.S. since 1985
- There were 58.3 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 in 2019, down 2 percent from 2018
- 23 percent of all babies in 2019 were born preterm at less than 37 weeks, an increase from 10.02 percent in 2018
- 7 percent of all babies born in 2019 were delivered via Caesarean section
- 28 percent of all babies in 2018 were born with a low birth weight of less than 5.5 pounds
- There were 21,467 infant deaths in 2018, or 566.2 infant deaths per 100,000 live births in the United States
- In the state of Illinois, 144,828 babies were born in 2018, nearly 5,000 fewer births than the 149,390 births in 2017
- 5 percent of all babies born in Illinois in 2018 were born to teen mothers, the lowest percentage on record since 1959
- 15,448 babies were born preterm, a rate of 10.7 percent
- 45,096 babies were born by Caesarean section, a rate of 31.1 percent of all births
- 12,432 babies were born with a low birth weight of less than 5.5 pounds, and 2,190 were born with a very low birth weight of less than 3 pounds, which equates to 8.6 percent and 1.5 percent of all births, respectively
- The Illinois fertility rate in 2018 was 57.5 births per 1,000 women 15 – 44 years of age and 15.8 births specifically per every 1,000 teenage women 15 – 19 years of age
- The infant mortality rate in Illinois in 2018 was 6.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births
Although birth injuries and birth defects are not precisely the same, they tend to have some overlap. Both birth defects and birth injuries can be caused by a variety of external factors, including the mother’s physical health and habits. According to the CDC:
- One in every 33 babies, or 3 percent of all babies born in the United States each year, is somehow affected by birth defects
- Birth defects represent the number one cause of infant mortality, accounting for one in every five infant deaths
- Some of the most common birth defects include:
- Down Syndrome, which affects 5,568 babies every year, or 1 in every 707 births
- Cleft lip without cleft palate, which affects 1,402 babies every year, or 1 in every 2,807 births
- Cleft palate, which affects 2,333 babies every year, or 1 in every 1,687 births
- Spina bifida, which affects 1,427 babies every year, or 1 in every 2,758 births
- Upper and lower limb defects, which affect 2,026 babies every year, or 1 in every 1,943 births
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a condition that affects an individual’s ability to move and maintain their balance and posture. CP, according to the CDC, is the most common motor disability in childhood. The CDC says:
- About 1 in 345 children in the United States have CP.
- 1 to more than 4 babies per 1,000 children born around the world suffer from a form of CP.
- 9 percent of children with CP have spastic cerebral palsy.
- CP is more common among boys than girls, and also more common among Black children than White children
- Children who are born with a low birth weight are more likely to have CP than children with healthy birth weights
Brachial plexus injury
According to the United Brachial Plexus Network (UBPN), brachial plexus injuries (BPI) are injuries to the intricate set of nerves that control the muscles of the arms, shoulders, hands, and fingers.
BPI is sometimes known as Erb’s Palsy (for injury to the upper trunk), Klumpke’s Palsy (injury to the lower trunk), Brachial Plexus Palsy, Erb-Duchenne Palsy, or Horner’s Syndrome (where facial nerves are also affected). Another term sometimes used in relation to brachial plexus injuries is “Torticollis,” which is when a problem involving the neck muscles causes the head to tilt down.
Most brachial plexus injuries occur during the birthing process as a result of a condition called “shoulder dystocia” (SD). With SD, an infant’s shoulder gets “stuck” against their mother’s pubic bone. Excessive force applied to the baby’s head and neck results in the tearing or stretching of the brachial plexus nerves. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that as many as 2.5 children per 1,000 births suffer brachial plexus injuries.
How Common are Birth Injuries?
Research studies estimate that between 0.2 and 37 birth injuries occur per every 1,000 live births. Additional data about birth injuries in the United States suggest:
- Approximately 1 in every 9,714 people in America are born with a birth injury. This means that an estimated 28,000 infants per year – or three per hour – are born with a birth injury.
- The three most common types of birth trauma include:
- Injuries of the head and scalp
- Injuries to the skeleton
- Fractured clavicle injuries
- Some of the most significant predicting factors for birth injury in the U.S. include:
- Male gender
- Asian or Pacific Islander descent
- Living in urban or wealthy environments
- Western, urban, or teaching hospital births
- High birth weights
- Instrument-assisted deliveries
- Malpresentation or other labor and delivery complications
- Male infants are slightly more likely than female infants to incur birth injuries, with 6.68 of every 1,000 birth injuries occurring in males, as compared to 5.08 of every 1,000 occurring in females.
- Birth injuries are nearly 3 percent more common in private, non-profit hospitals than they are in private, for-profit hospitals.
- Birth injuries tend to be most common among mothers between the ages of 25 and 34 who have birthing tool-assisted deliveries and tend to be least common among mothers between the ages of 40 and 54.
- The injury rate among mothers with non-instrument-assisted vaginal births was approximately 30 percent lower than the rate for mothers who did have instrument-assisted vaginal births.
Most Common Birth Injuries
The most commonly reported birth injuries throughout the United States are:
- Caput succedaneum, a type of bruising or swelling from intracranial hemorrhage
- Cephalohematoma, or internal bleeding underneath cranial bones
- Subconjunctival hemorrhage, or ocular blood vessel breakage
- Facial nerve damage and paralysis
- Brachial plexus injuries and Erb’s Palsy
- Fractured collarbones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Cerebral Palsy
Birth injuries can be unpredictable, but are generally more likely to occur when:
- Babies are smaller or larger than average
- Babies are not in a head-first position in the birth canal
- Babies are born prematurely
- Mothers have irregularly shaped or smaller-than-average pelvises or birth canals
- Labor is prolonged or otherwise difficult
- Mothers are overweight
- Babies are born via Caesarean delivery
- Babies are delivered with the help of tools like vacuums or forceps
According to statistics published by the CDC, the leading causes of infant deaths in the United States include:
- Congenital deformities and genetic abnormalities
- Defects related to low birth weight and preterm births
- Complications related to the mother’s pregnancy
Contact a Chicago birth injury lawyer
If you think your child’s birth injuries were caused by medical error or negligence, our experienced Chicago lawyers can help you. It’s important to act promptly so we can obtain and review the relevant medical records. Once we review your case, we can give you an experience-driven assessment of your legal case.
Contact the Chicago attorneys of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., as soon as possible for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case. We assist families throughout Chicago and Illinois, including residents of Cook and Lake counties. Call us today or use our online contact form for your free case review.