Birth Injury Compensation Claims

If something goes wrong during birth, a mistake by a midwife or doctor can affect both the mother and child. Injuries can cause long-lasting or permanent damage, which can affect the whole family as well as the injured family member.

At YouClaim, the clinical negligence team is dedicated to helping mothers and children who have been injured during birth as a result of errors made by medical professionals. Although making a claim may be the last thing on your mind at this time, doing so can both help you to get the compensation you deserve and help to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen to somebody else.

If you or your child has been injured during labour and it could have been avoided, contact our solicitors today to discuss your case. Simply call us on 0800 10 757 95, fill in our online form at the top of this page or speak to us using the live chat function.

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How a child can be injured during birth

A baby's body is extremely sensitive and vulnerable at birth. The skull develops slowly in small pieces while the baby is still in the womb and is formed by several bones that will eventually meet when it is fully developed.

Some bones meet and fuse before the baby is born, while others do so after birth to allow room for the brain's speedy growth in the first year of the baby’s life. There are often several ‘soft spots’ in the head at birth and these areas are very sensitive. Forceful or incorrect use of forceps by the attending obstetrician can cause serious damage in these areas.

Trauma during a birth to any part of the body, especially the head and neck, can have serious consequences and be extremely distressing for the baby and its parents. Some of the most common complications of birth that can affect the welfare of a baby include:

Brachial plexus injuries

An injury during birth to the brachial plexus network, located in the spine, can affect the mobility and sensory abilities of a baby, with paralysis occurring in the worst cases. Common symptoms include:

  • Lack of muscle control in the arm, hand or wrist
  • Loss of sensation or strength in the arm, hand or wrist
  • Intense pain from the neck to the arm
  • Pins and needles-like sensation

Diagnosis is made through examination and X-rays of the head, neck, shoulder, arm and hand. Many babies recover within four months, depending on the extent of the damage. In most cases, physiotherapy and gentle manipulation is offered as treatment, however, in more serious cases, surgery may be required.

Brain injuries

A brain injury is one of the most serious birth injuries a baby can suffer, as it may have a serious effect on the rest of their life. Injuries of this kind are often caused by hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) and ischemia (inadequate blood supply).

Brain injuries are more prevalent during assisted births and are usually the result of negligence on the part of the doctor or midwife. The most common causes of brain injury sustained during labour include:

  • Caput succedaneum - swelling formed under the scalp
  • Cephalohematoma - bleeding between the skull and the membrane beneath the skin
  • Subgaleal haemorrhage - bleeding in the space between the skull and the scalp
  • Subdural haemorrhage - bleeding in the layers that cover the brain
  • Subarachnoid haemorrhage - bleeding in membrane which surrounds the brain
  • Epidural haemorrhage - blood collecting between the membrane covering the brain, the spine and the skull

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral Palsy is usually caused by oxygen starvation at birth, and is a serious condition that affects each sufferer differently. The most common symptoms associated with cerebral palsy include:

  • Abnormal and insufficient muscle tone
  • Being slow to reach developmental milestones like walking
  • Difficulty using and controlling muscles
  • Difficulty using hands for writing or eating
  • Abnormal posture
  • Problems with balance and/or coordination
  • Visual problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Learning difficulties
  • Epilepsy
  • Seizures or spasms

There are three different forms of cerebral palsy:

  • Spastic cerebral palsy - when some of the muscles are tight, stiff or weak when a baby tries to move their limbs
  • Athetoid cerebral palsy - when muscle control is affected by unwanted sporadic movements
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy - often causes balance issues, shaky movements of hands or feet and speech problems

There is no cure for cerebral palsy. However, there are several different treatments and therapies available that reduce the impact of the condition by improving communication skills or by finding alternative approaches to mobility and functionality issues.

Erb’s palsy

This is a brachial plexus injury that causes damage to the nerves that control muscles in the shoulder, arm or hand. Some babies may recover naturally from the injury, while others are left with a permanent disability that can severely affect mobility in the affected arm. 

The Erb’s Palsy Group contains information for parents with a child suffering from this birth injury. Members of the group have access to various newsletters and articles, and are also able to contact and speak to other parents in the same situation.

Eye infections

Eye infections, such as conjunctivitis, can be contracted soon after birth as a newborn baby is extremely vulnerable and susceptible to germs.

Facial palsy

Read about facial palsy here.

Fractures

Fractures suffered during birth can lead to serious complications further down the line. The most common birth-related fractures happen to the collar bone, skull, arms and ribs. 

A common cause of fractures during birth is medical negligence, such as:

  • Failing to spot problems with the birth
  • Not having sufficient knowledge and training
  • Delaying the delivery due to staffing issues

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is caused as a result of an injury suffered during an awkward birth, such as a breech birth. This can cause mobility issues and often affect sufferers long into adulthood. Although referred to as a congenital condition, it is much more accurate to describe it as a developmental condition, as is it not always present at birth yet may cause serious complications further down the line.

Doctors, nurses and midwives should regularly check an infant’s hip movement, even if the initial postnatal check seems normal. Hip movement should also be checked throughout the continuing health supervision, up until a child is walking. The sooner a case of hip dysplasia is identified, the easier it is to remedy.

Neonatal hypoglycemia

Neonatal hypoglycemia describes an abnormally low level of blood glucose (sugar), which can cause long-term neurological damage. Symptoms include:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Lethargy
  • Thermoregulatory problems

Scarring

Scarring as a result of birth injuries and use of equipment by obstetricians is extremely common. If you or your baby has been affected by scarring and you think a medical professional is to blame, you could be entitled to compensation. 

Shoulder dystocia

Read about shoulder dystocia here.

Skin irritations

Bruising and skin irritations are common, and can take the form of red spots and itchy patches that can aggravate the baby.

Spinal cord injuries

A spinal cord injury can have serious implications for a baby. Damage is caused when trauma is sustained to the nerves in the spinal cord, affecting a baby’s ability to move and register sensations.

Associated symptoms depend upon the type and extent of the injury. A complete injury means there is no sensation and no movement, while an incomplete injury means there is some function. For example, a baby may be able to move one limb more than another and feel parts of the body but be unable to move them.

There is currently no cure for spinal cord injuries. However, research and recent advances in medicine mean that damage can now be reduced at the time of the injury. Steroids can reduce swelling, while other drugs can reduce the loss of function and mobility.

Stillbirth

Read about stillbirth here.

Umbilical cord complications

The umbilical cord is a baby’s lifeline, carrying oxygen and nutrients from the mother until the baby has left the womb. If there are complications during the delivery that affect the umbilical cord’s ability to provide blood and oxygen, this can cause the baby to become distressed.

There are many ways an umbilical cord can cause foetal distress. For example, umbilical prolapse occurs before delivery and describes the umbilical cord slipping through the cervix into the birth canal ahead of the baby, stopping the flow of blood and oxygen to the baby

In addition, umbilical cord compression occurs during delivery and is when the umbilical cord gets wrapped around the baby’s body (often the neck) or is stuck between the baby’s head and the mother’s pelvic bone, reducing the flow of blood and oxygen to the baby.

If there is a failure to observe or respond properly to symptoms of foetal distress and incorrect umbilical positioning, a birth injury is likely to be sustained.

How a mother can be injured during birth

During childbirth, the delivery may not always go as smoothly as everybody hopes, resulting in the mother suffering an injury. Errors are, unfortunately, sometimes caused as a result of negligence by a doctor or midwife, and such mistakes can have serious implications for new mothers. The main birth injuries that can affect a mother’s health include:

Caesarean section infections

Caesarean sections will only be performed if the procedure will help reduce the risk of a birth injury, as many doctors and midwives agree that they should be avoided where possible because of the risk involved. If you have to proceed with a caesarean and a health professional acts negligently, this could leave you with a serious injury caused by an infection.

Infections can be contracted externally as a result of the scarring caused by the operation. Although it’s usual for the scar to feel itchy as nerve endings heal, if it also feels tender, expels pus, is red, swollen or painful, then you should be given antibiotics to counteract the infection. Generally, once the mother has been given drugs for the infection, it should clear up without any further problems.

Internal infections are also a risk to mothers, and are harder to cure. An internal infection is apparent if the wound has started to smell, is red, swollen or painful to touch.

Episiotomy errors

An episiotomy is a procedure used to enlarge the vaginal opening to allow the baby to pass through. Failure to perform corrective surgery accurately after an episiotomy can lead to serious, long-term problems.

Fissures

A fissure is a small tear in the tissue surrounding the anus that can occur during birth and causes pain and bleeding during bowel movements.

Infections

Infections can have a terrible impact on new mothers. They are often caused by unclean wards and negligent medical professionals who miss the symptoms of an infection or epidemic.

Pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a condition suffered by pregnant women who have high blood pressure. The condition can go unnoticed by negligent medical professionals, increasing the chances of developing conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease and lupus later in life.

Vaginal tears

A vaginal tear is a rip in the skin and muscle on or near the vagina, mostly found in the perineum. If this issue is particularly problematic or not addressed quickly enough, mothers can be left facing serious health complications.

FAQs

How do I know if I can make a claim?

If it can be demonstrated that the attending obstetrician or midwife did not perform their duties with due care or diligence, or to the standards expected of them, and a birth injury occurred as a result, then they may be liable for medical negligence.

How long do I have to make a claim?

The time limit for making a medical negligence claim for an injury to the mother is 3 years from the date of the injury. For cases where the mother has unfortunately died during childbirth due to medical negligence, a family member has 3 years from the date of death or the date on which a coroner linked the medical negligence to the death.

Claims for a baby can be made on their behalf up to the age of 18. After that, they have 3 years to make a claim for a birth injury.

How much compensation could I receive for a birth injury?

The amount of compensation you could receive will be calculated based on a number of factors, including the type and severity of your injuries and any expenses incurred as a result of an injury. Compensation awarded could go towards:

  • Medical bills
  • Cost of specialist treatment
  • Equipment and transport costs
  • Loss of earnings

How YouClaim can help

The medical negligence team understands a birth injury to the mother or baby can be incredibly distressing, turning what is supposed to be a joyous occasion into a traumatic experience. Our solicitors will handle your case with the utmost compassion and sensitivity, helping you to establish responsibility for your suffering and giving you the best possible chance of getting the compensation you deserve.

We will also strive to ensure you receive the answers you need to understand why this has happened to you, which can, crucially, help prevent this from happening to other families.

Get started today

If you or your child has been injured during the birthing process, and the injury was caused by medical negligence, we can help you to make a claim for compensation. To discuss your claim with one of our solicitors, either call us today on 0800 10 757 95, speak to us via our online chat function, or fill in our online enquiry form on this page and someone will be in touch with you shortly.