The pages listed below offer answers to many common questions BILA members receive about Canadian birth injuries.
Many parents do not know exactly what caused their baby’s injuries. They may know that something went wrong, but no one has explained to them what happened. Or they may only know that their child has disabilities with no explanation of a cause. Even where there has been some disclosure by the doctors about what […]
Birth injuries are a type of complex medical malpractice claim. Virtually anything that goes wrong during pregnancy or labour and delivery can raise questions about the quality of medical care. The only way to know if a malpractice claim exists is to properly investigate the facts and medical-legal issues involved. If you or your family […]
The Birth Injury Lawyers’ Alliance of Canada (“BILA”) consists of lawyers from across all regions of Canada, with the exception of Quebec, who offer their experienced services in handling birth trauma cases. Such cases are particularly challenging in that they present complex issues based on evolving medical science and legal principles. In selecting a birth […]
A Life Care Plan is a report prepared by a suitably qualified expert that identifies and addresses both immediate and long-term needs for a child that has suffered catastrophic injuries. A Life Care Plan will typically set out a comprehensive list all of the various supports, services, therapies, and equipment that will be required to […]
Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) is a condition of newborn brain sickness that can be caused by impaired oxygenation of a baby during labour and delivery. Unfortunately, this can lead to brain injury and profound physical and cognitive disability. Some babies will end up suffering from Cerebral Palsy (which involves motor dysfunction and cognitive challenges) or with […]
What Is the Difference Between a Birth Defect and a Birth Injury?
There is often confusion about whether a medical issue with a newborn is a birth defect or a birth injury. Birth defects are structural changes that are present at birth. They can affect any part of the body, such as the brain, mouth, or the heart. Examples of birth defects include cleft lip or palate, clubfoot, and spina bifida. These defects often occur within the first 3 months of pregnancy, when the organs are developing. While some birth factors have a known cause, such as drinking or smoking during pregnancy, others are caused by a complex mix of factors, including genetics, that we don’t fully understand.
In contrast, birth injuries are caused by medical negligence, either during the labour and delivery process or during pregnancy. For example, oxygen deprivation at birth can lead to a diagnosis of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which is often linked to a failure to appropriately monitor the mother and baby or to intervene in a timely manner. Other common birth injuries include cerebral palsy, jaundice, kernicterus, and hyperbilirubinemia, and hypoglycemia. If a birth injury was caused by negligence, then the family may be able to file a claim against the medical professionals responsible with the help of a BILA lawyer.
Was My Child’s Birth Injury Preventable?
It depends. In many cases, medical professionals can prevent common birth injuries by closely monitoring the health of a mother and baby throughout pregnancy and childbirth, and intervening promptly when necessary. In some situations, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers act appropriately, but cannot prevent a birth injury from occurring.
There are several important steps that should be taken to prevent birth injuries. First, proper prenatal care should be provided throughout pregnancy. This may include extensive testing, treating the mother for certain conditions, and addressing potential complications before labour and delivery.
Second, medical professionals should monitor the mother and baby for signs of fetal distress, both during pregnancy and the birthing process. Signs of fetal distress may include decreased movement, abnormal heart rate, vaginal bleeding and/or cramping, abnormal amniotic fluid volume, and insufficient or excessive maternal weight gain. If a problem is detected, doctors should address it promptly to avoid birth injuries.
Third, obstetricians should recognize when vaginal delivery may be dangerous to the mother and baby. There are a number of circumstances where a Cesarean delivery (C-section) is recommended or necessary, such as prolonged labour, placental abruption, uterine rupture, umbilical cord compression, and abnormal positioning. If a doctor fails to perform either a planned or emergency c-section when necessary, the risk of birth trauma increases.
Healthcare professionals should be aware of the dangers associated with common interventions used to aid in vaginal delivery. Drugs that enhance contractions, such as pitocin and cytotec, can cause uterine hyperstimulation, which may deprive the baby of oxygen. Tools such as forceps and vacuum extractors can be helpful but may lead to birth injuries if not used properly.
Fourth, babies must receive proper care after birth, whether they suffered birth trauma, have other health issues, or had a typical birth. This includes diagnosing and treating conditions that could lead to a birth injury, such as jaundice, hypoglycemia, and neonatal seizures. If a baby has been deprived of oxygen at birth, providing cooling therapy is vital to reducing the likelihood of brain damage.
If a medical professional fails to take any of these steps or otherwise fails to meet the standard of care, they may be liable for any birth injury that results. A legal claim can help your family recover the compensation necessary to take care of your child after this type of injury.
Are Birth Injuries Always Diagnosed Immediately After Birth?
No. While many birth injuries can be diagnosed immediately at birth, particularly after a known adverse event, it may take months or even years for the symptoms of a birth injury to appear. A number of tests and screenings can be used to predict or even explain a birth injury. For example, an APGAR (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration) test should be given shortly after birth. A low APGAR score often indicates a need for treatment.
In other cases, the existence of a birth injury may not be apparent until a baby or child starts to miss developmental milestones, or they develop behavioral problems. It is only then that parents might look back to their child’s birth as they attempt to figure out what may have caused these issues.
Early diagnosis and treatment of birth injuries is critical to helping a child achieve the best possible outcome. Symptoms of birth trauma to watch out for immediately after birth include:
- Low oxygen levels
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty eating
- Low heart rate
- Excessive drooling
- Weak or absent reflexes
- Muscle stiffness or looseness
- Hand curled into a claw-like shape
- Arched back while crying
- A lump on the head
- Excessive fussiness
- Not moving one arm as much as the other
- Head flopping to one side or back
- Muscle spasms or tremors
If your newborn exhibits any of these symptoms after birth, ask their doctor to evaluate them for a birth injury.
The answer is simple – it is about leveling the playing field. Allow us to explain. In the field of birth injury, the playing field is far from level. Physicians in Canada are represented by an organization called the Canadian Medical Protective Association (the “CMPA”). The CMPA is a highly sophisticated and well-funded organization. Its […]