Birth Defects Are More Common In The U.S. Than Many Imagine

Birth defects are more common in the US than many imagine.

When you find out you are going to have a child, it can be one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking times in your life. As the pregnancy progresses and you begin to plan for your new arrival, you likely have many questions about your soon-to-be bundle of joy. Will the baby be a boy or a girl? What should you name him or her?

Sadly, for some parents, the questions they must ask themselves become much more serious once the little one is born. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every 33 births in the United States results in a birth defect. In total, approximately 120,000 newborns suffer from a birth defect every year in this country.

What causes a birth defect?

There are a wide variety of defects and injuries that can affect babies while they are still in the womb, during the birth and thereafter. According to the CDC, most birth defects take place during the first trimester of a pregnancy. During that period, the organs are forming, which is a critical stage for healthy development of the baby.

While some birth defects can take place due to a family's medical history or the mother's behavior during the pregnancy, there are a number of birth injuries that can occur due to the negligence of the physician during the birth.

What is Erb's palsy?

One type of birth injury that is generally preventable is Erb's palsy, a type of obstetric brachial plexus disorder. In other words, Erb's palsy occurs when nerves that affect the movement of the arms and shoulders are damaged, often during the birth.

Erb's palsy is often an injury that occurs after a woman has experienced a complicated labor. For instance, if the baby is delivered in a breech position — feet first — the force of the physician pulling on the baby can cause damage to the brachial plexus nerves.

Another common risk factor that may lead to Erb's palsy is the use of a vacuum or forceps to aid in the delivery of the baby. In addition, if the second stage of labor continues for over an hour, the likelihood of the baby suffering Erb's palsy increases.

When a baby suffers from Erb's palsy, the symptoms can vary from slight discomfort to severe limitations. In the worst cases, the baby's arm may be partially paralyzed.

Parents with a child with Erb's palsy may notice that the baby's arm is limp, bent at the elbow and kept close to the side of the body. They may also notice that the baby appears to have a limited ability to grip with his or her hand on the side of the body that was affected by Erb's palsy. The baby may also suffer from numbness of the arm and may have damaged muscular, circulatory and nervous development as a result of the birth injury.

Treatment for Erb's palsy can range from physical therapy to surgery, depending on the severity of the injury. In some cases, medical intervention can resolve the physical limitations caused by the injury within a number of months. In more serious cases, the injuries suffered during the birth can result in permanent damage, including the loss of function of one arm.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy refers to a group of disorders that influence an individual's motor skills. The type of disabilities experienced by those with cerebral palsy vary greatly, depending on the severity of the case. Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the part of the brain that affects muscle movement. Those with cerebral palsy can suffer from symptoms ranging from stiff muscles to being unable to control their movements.

In some cases, cerebral palsy is caused by trauma that takes place during the delivery. If a baby's brain is deprived of oxygen during the labor and delivery, he or she may suffer from cerebral palsy as a result.

Common symptoms among babies who suffer from cerebral palsy are varied, including babies who seem stiff and those who seem limp, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Newborns who often overextend their backs and necks when being held may also suffer from cerebral palsy.

In some cases, the symptoms of cerebral palsy may not be identified until the baby is older. Babies who are more than six months old may be suffering from cerebral palsy if they do not roll over, cannot bring their hands together, have trouble bringing their hands to their mouth or reach out with one hand while the other remains in a fist. Babies who are older than 10 months who do not crawl on all fours, but tend to crawl in a lopsided fashion or scoot around may also be suffering from cerebral palsy.

Of course, babies develop at different rates, and one or two symptoms do not necessarily mean that a child is suffering from cerebral palsy. The best option for a parent who is uncertain about the health of his or her child is to seek the advice of a medical professional who is familiar with birth injuries.

As a cure has not been identified for cerebral palsy, the consequences for a baby suffering from the disorder can be severe. In many cases, children will require ongoing medical interventions to deal with the symptoms. For instance, those with cerebral palsy may need physical and speech therapy, along with braces, medicine and surgery in some cases.

Medical care following a birth injury

Following a serious birth injury, babies will often require serious medical intervention, possibly lasting for years or even a lifetime. While parents will want to provide the best possible care, such treatment can be expensive, leaving many to wonder how they will afford the care necessary for their child.

When a negligent physician or nurse has caused harm to your child during labor and delivery, the responsible party should be held accountable for the harm caused to your baby. In such cases, you should seek the counsel of a skilled medical malpractice attorney. The lawyers at Thomas J. Ueberschaer, P.A. will work diligently on your behalf to make certain your interests are protected.